The labor movement has a new driving message for its legislative, educational and political work that should resonate with most American workers, especially those who have the least: Your pay is too damn low!
AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka
put it less colloquially this week than the New York gubernatorial
candidate who once ran on a single message: "Rent is too damn
high." Organized labor will put “a laser focus on raising wages,” Trumka
told reporters in Houston at the start of the winter quarterly meeting
of the federation’s executive council.
Whatever the words, the case for action is strong. Wages have stagnated for all but the rich for more than a decade and fallen for low-wage workers, according to the Economic Policy Institute,
a leading research institution on labor markets. Adjusting for
inflation over the past four years, hourly wages for workers in the
bottom 30 percent have fallen an average of 68 cents an hour.
Those trends, mirrored by the top 1 percent capturing 95 percent of all the new income growth
following the end of the Great Recession, explain why inequality is
growing, according to University of California, Berkeley economist
However, as Trumka notes, the general public, as well as leaders from
“the Pope to the president,” have begun to express outrage over
inequality. A minimum-wage boost has been increasingly on the U.S.
agenda, with a $10.10 federal minimum proposed by Congressional
Democrats and supported by Obama. Although the AFL-CIO is promoting the
$10.10 minimum, Trumka says he favors a “living wage” standard set
around $17 an hour, indexed to inflation.
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