Study: NYC Retail Workers Underpaid, Too Few Have Steady Hours

New York City retail wagesNew York City is many things to many people. But if there's one feature that most agree on, it's that Gotham is an expensive place to live. The average rent for a Manhattan apartment is nearly $3,000 a month, roughly three times that of the average rent paid nationwide, so it can tough making a living in the Big Apple.

That's especially true for legions of workers toiling in the city's many retail establishments; they earn a mean wage of $9.50 an hour, a recent study of non-union workers found.

The paltry wages aren't the only challenge these workers face, according to the report, The New York Times says. The study also found that less than 20 percent of retail workers had a set schedule, making it difficult to schedule child care or classes, since many learn their schedules a week or less before the workweek begins.

The study, "Discounted Jobs: How Retailers Sell Workers Short," was led by a City University of New York professor and was based on face-to-face interviews with 436 non-union employees of retail businesses, ranging from high-end boutiques on Fifth Avenue to discount outlets on Fordham Road in the Bronx.

Funding for the report was provided by the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union; the Murphy Institute at City University; and the Retail Action Project, a retail workers' adovocacy organization funded by unions and foundations, which posted a copy of the report at its website.

The report also found that those working in retail jobs aren't all young and single. About a third of those surveyed support a family on their wages. And though the average wage is $9.50 an hour, half of retail workers actually earn less than $8 an hour and 80 percent earned less than $15 an hour.

Further, the report showed that race and gender "matter a great deal" in determining wages and promotions, and whether workers have access to benefits such as health insurance or paid sick days.

The report also uncovered substantial evidence of labor-law violations. Those included workers who had performed duties off the clock at least occasionally, while more than a third said that they sometimes worked in excess of 10 hours a day and weren't paid overtime, as required by state law.

Retail is one of the fastest growing sectors in the U.S. and a core part of the New York City economy, the report notes. Though the survey focused on New York City workers, the study authors say the findings offer insight into practices and conditions of retail workers across the nation, since a majority of respondents worked in stores with "a national presence."

Next:Retail Group Forecasts 3.4 Percent Growth For 2012

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