Thousands of North Carolinians enjoyed a welcome reprieve from work during the long Labor Day weekend, but many of them are returning to work today, making less money than they need to pay their basic bills.The minimum wage in North Carolina is $7.25 an hour, about $5 short of what some consider a living wage in the state.Marybe McMillan, secretary-treasurer of North Carolina AFL-CIO, says low wages trap workers in a cycle difficult to escape.“Unfortunately, far too many working people are struggling because they are stuck in these jobs that pay wages that don’t enable people to provide for their families,” she states.The AFL-CIO is among the groups behind the Fight for 15 campaign, aiming to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.New York and California recently raised their minimum wage to that amount.The issue of raising the minimum wage is among those being discussed in the presidential campaign, with Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton supporting a raise, and Republican Donald Trump at times opposing it and at other times supporting it.McMillan says studies show that entire communities benefit when everyone is paid a fair wage.“Working people are what drive our economy,” she stresses. “We are consumers, so when we earn a living wage, when we have more money in our pockets, we spend more at businesses.“We also are taxpayers, so we pay more in tax revenue which provides more revenue for our local government.”New research from the Economic Policy Institute and the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that the decline of unions in the U.S. is impacting the income of all workers.In addition, union workers earn 30 percent more on average than non-union workers.
Transitioning from Active Duty to a Civilian career can be a struggle for many of our Military and Veterans, but with the right cultural fit built into organizations, efforts can seem effortless. As a Public Affairs Officer in the Navy Reserves, I am personally and passionately engaged in supporting our United States Military and Veteran community, and I am proud to serve as ManTech International’s Military Ambassador. As a government contractor with about 8,000 employees, of which are 47 percent Veterans – we strongly advocate for those who have served and continue to serve our country. The 2018 SHRM Diversity & Inclusion Conference highlights this topic during a session you will not want to miss – “Five Steps To Attracting, Hiring and Retaining Veterans in Your Workplace”.One of the session panelists, Carol Eggert, Senior Vice President of Military and Veteran Affairs at Comcast NBCUniversal, shares her insightful counsel to support Veterans, Guard and Reserve members, and military spouses experience and success in the civilian workforce.What vital resources would you recommend to a transitioning military member? Any employer not engaging the military community as a whole – not just Veterans, but Guard and Reserve members and military spouses – is making a business mistake by failing to tap into a vast and under-utilized talent pool. I’m a huge proponent of presenting “the business case” for the military community and how their inclusion in the general workforce helps to improve all aspects of a company’s operations.The Comcast NBCUniversal Employer School offers a collection of free, animated courses developed by leading subject matter experts. The Employer School has something for any employer, regardless of their level of experience with the military community. The military community landscape is constantly shifting, and having these courses available for employers helps keep them on top of their game in terms of understanding this strong and ready source of talent. My favorite courses are the two that help employers get the ball rolling on their military community engagement – “15 Things Veterans Want You to Know” and “Creating a Veteran Hiring Program.” There is a wide gap of knowledge between the employers that are engaged in this space and those that are not. For the latter, these two courses are a perfect starting point to understand what the military community and veterans have to offer as a talent pool. All employers, regardless of their level of knowledge or existing engagement with the military community, should take the time to read the Center for a New American Security’s recent study on the civilian-military divide, titled “Lost in Translation.” It uncovers a lot of the core reasons this gap has slowly widened over the last several generations, and provides concrete and actionable items that all parties – employers, military members, etc. – can take now to ensure we close that gap.What challenges do you see in today’s workforce that Veterans face? One challenge that stands out is the civilian-military divide that exists across the country, where both sides don’t have enough information to understand each other’s perspective as potential employee and future employer. On the military side, often those who transition from active duty do not go to the National Guard and Reserve because of the perception that it’s impossible to balance simultaneous civilian and military careers, or they are concerned that civilian employers will not hire them due to their participation in the National Guard or Reserve components. And on the civilian side, some employers struggle to understand what being a military community members means; for example, with National Guard and Reserve duty, employers may have concerns that those employees will constantly deploy and may place a burden on the workforce.We also need to gain a common understanding that having a military career and a private sector career does not mean sacrificing one for the other in terms of time dedicated or commitment needed; in fact, most find that each enhances the other. We must widen the aperture and understand that a specific military skill should not limit choices for employment.We also need to understand that military members have skills that go beyond the operational military career fields they work in. All military members face leadership challenges from the moment they begin their careers, giving them an innate ability to work effectively on a team. These are skills that are in high demand in the private sector. Additionally, this broad spectrum of leadership allows military employees to quickly learn their strengths and how to work in a team setting to accentuate everyone’s strengths, which is vital to success in the private sector. Currently Military Spouse unemployment is between 20-24 percent, what advice would you provide to companies, both large and small, to assure we are all doing what we can to see those Military Spouse unemployment numbers decline significantly?I believe it is primarily about casting aside misconceptions. Military spouses are highly educated and possess diverse skill sets, yet the military spouse community faces unemployment rates of up to four times the rate of veterans. Military spouse employment is not only an economic issue, but a matter of national security. Statistics show that retention of service members is highly dependent upon opportunities for military spouses. Military families are no different from other American families in depending on two incomes, and in order to maintain the best fighting force possible, we must ensure that military spouses have equal opportunity to contribute to our economy. Part of that goes back to all citizens working together to bridge the civilian-military divide by understanding all of the elements of the military community and how they all work together to support national security.Thank you, Ms. Eggert, for graciously providing your advice and thank you to all organizations who take a leading role in supporting members of the Armed Forces and their families during their transitional phase from serving our country to joining the civilian workforce. To learn more invaluable guidance, attend “Five Steps To Attracting, Hiring and Retaining Veterans in Your Workplace” on Monday, October 22, 2018 from 10:15am – 11:45am EDT. Omari Faulkner, Business Strategist and Employee Brand Ambassador, ManTech InternationalTwitter: @OmariFaulkner