Amy Traub

Amy Traub is associate director of policy and research at Demos. She is the author of "The Plastic Safety Net: Findings from the 2012 National Survey on Credit Card Debt of Low- And Middle-Income Households," and "Discrediting America: The Urgent Need To Reform The Nation's Credit Reporting Industry," among other reports and research. 

Recent Articles

Colbert Calls Out Wal-Mart Wages, Here's a Fix

Walmart Corporate
As usual, comedian Stephen Colbert hit the nail on the head . “Wal-Mart is taking care of its employees... Not living wage care, but can of peas care.” The late-night satirist was responding to a Cleveland Plain Dealer article finding that Wal-Mart set up a Thanksgiving food drive to benefit its own needy employees . “Critics say Wal-Mart isn't doing enough,” Colbert continued, “but they are wrong… because Wal-Mart isn't doing anything .” In fact, the company was not providing food, but requesting that cash-strapped employees help each other out. Satire is one thing, but it’s worth asking what Wal-Mart could do to improve wages for the estimated 825,000 employees that the company’s CEO recently suggested are currently paid less than $25,000 a year. In a research brief released this week, my colleague Catherine Ruetschlin and I explore one way that Wal-Mart could provide its low-wage workforce with a substantial raise without having to raise prices to consumers at all. We find that Wal...

How Multi-Billion Dollar Corporations Rely on the Public to Feed their Workforce

(Flickr/Robert Banh)
Dunkin Donuts is getting a sweet deal. The company enjoyed $108.3 million in profits last year and compensated its CEO, Nigel Travis, to the tune of $1.9 million. Meanwhile, the public paid an estimated $274 million to feed, provide medical care, and subsidize the wages of their workforce. And Dunkin Donuts is not alone or even the worst offender: New studies out today from the University of California, Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, the University of Illinois, and the National Employment Law Project detail just some of the vast scope of public subsidies for fast food workers. The Berkeley/Illinois study finds that, overall, public assistance to workers in the fast food industry and their families costs nearly $7 billion a year. That includes public spending on Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, food stamps, the Earned Income Tax Credit and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families—but doesn't account for free school lunches, housing assistance, or...

Capitol Workers Strike to Protest Federally Subsidized Inequality

It’s their fifth strike in five months, but the workers of Good Jobs Nation didn’t seem the least bit tired this morning. Low-paid employees from the food courts of federal buildings, the gift shops of the Smithsonian, and others employed under federal contracts, concessions, and lease agreements donned matching t-shirts, picked up signs and marched to the White House. Congress might be locked in endless, dismal debates about defunding health care and cutting food stamps, but President Obama—the man who recently said reversing rising inequality was his highest priority ,—could sign an executive order with the potential to raise wages for 560,000 low-paid contract employees. The workers delivered a petition with 250,000 signatures calling on the President to take action. Fifteen U.S. Senators submitted their own letter , urging President Obama to use his executive authority to “require federal agencies to give major preference in awarding contracts to companies that… pay their workers...

Ten Reasons Fast Food Workers Deserve A Raise

There is a growing, industry-wide movement to push the fast food economy to work for all involved. Today, workers have called for a national strike that is expected to cross company lines and reach dozens of cities. The fast food labor force has never been protected by collective bargaining power or labor scarcity, making their demands for higher wages and the right to organize a unique historical event. It is also a bold stance from workers made vulnerable by a frail economy, asking for benefits that reach well beyond their own household budgets to the economy as a whole. Right now, fast food companies keep employees at poverty-level wages while reaping billions of dollars in profits for their shareholders every year. Across the economy this practice drives increasing inequality, slow growth, and declining living standards. It is holding back our economic recovery and contributing to our high poverty rates and rates of working poor. Americans deserve better. The fast food workers’...

How Vast Error-Prone Databases Are Trashing Our Economic Lives

Our personal information is compiled, traded, analyzed, and sold off as never before. Not only do business and government track us online, but retailers trace our cell phones through stores , and vast, little-known databases can keep us from getting jobs, qualifying for loans, and opening bank accounts. Three news reports this week highlight the growing impact of these databases on our daily lives—and the critical need for oversight to ensure that information is compiled accurately, that errors can be fixed, and that the resulting data is used fairly rather than becoming a new means of discrimination against already-disadvantaged citizens. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, whose director was finally confirmed by Congress after more than two years of delay, will have its work cut out for it. Consider the report in today’s New York Times finding that more than a million low-income Americans have been denied the opportunity to open bank accounts because of little-known databases...