Shouldn't We All Want To See The Whole Country Getting A Livable Wage?
Too many families cannot make ends meet on that wage. And for a family of four with a minimum wage worker, that's below the poverty line.
The minimum wage in this country should be a livable wage. The last time Congress changed the federal minimum wage was in 2007. It's time we give these people a raise.
Join me in telling Congress: It's time to raise the minimum wage. Sign our open letter today.
Around 30 million people in this country earn minimum wage at their jobs. These are hard working people who bring in the same paycheck year after year, while the prices of the things they need to live-- milk and bread, gas and school tuition-- go up.
Ohio and a few other states already have slightly higher rates, and raising the federal minimum wage is a good, common-sense idea. The more money in peoples' pockets, the more they'll spend. And a recent poll showed that the American people overwhelmingly agree: 71% were found to be in favor.
Raising the minimum wage is fair for workers, fair for families, and good for our economy. And I need your help getting that message across to Congress.
The $20 hourly wage, introduced on a huge scale in the middle of the last century, allowed masses of Americans with no more than a high school education to rise to the middle class. It was a marker, of sorts, but it is becoming extinct.
Americans greeted the loss with anger and protest when it first began to happen in big numbers in the late 1970s, particularly in the steel industry in western Pennsylvania. But as layoffs persisted, in Pennsylvania and across the country, through the ’80s and ’90s and right up to today, the protests subsided and acquiescence set in.
The equivalent of a $20-plus wage in today’s dollars reached around a quarter of the nonmanagerial workforce in 1979. Since then, however, “the percentage of people earning at least $20 an hour has eroded in every sector of the economy,” falling last year to 18 percent of all hourly workers. The Times called it “a gradual unwinding of the post–World War II gains.”
The trend corresponds with the decline of union membership among private sector workers. During World War II, more than a third of U.S. wage earners belonged to labor unions. By 1973, that number had gradually declined to 24 percent. The percentage hovered in the 20s until 1980, when Ronald Reagan came to office and brought about an unprecedented shift in U.S. labor relations. As Viveca Novak, writing in Common Cause magazine a decade later, would put it:
Membership in a labor union carries with it what economists refer to as a “union wage premium”: the persistent gap between what union and nonunion workers earn at the same job. Organized workers make 11.3 percent more than those who aren’t in a union (and it was much higher when labor had more clout; economist George Johnson estimated that union workers in the 1930s earned 38 percent more, on average, than their nonunion counterparts).
The $20 wage, or its equivalent at the time, “blossomed first in the auto industry in 1948 and served, in effect, as a banner in the ideological struggle with the Soviet Union,” according to the Times. “As the news media frequently noted, salt-of-the-earth American workers were earning enough to pay for comforts that their counterparts behind the Iron Curtain could not afford.”
Skip forward to today, and it’s pretty clear that the decline is continuing. In 2007, the Big Three automakers bought out eighty-thousand employees earning more than $20 an hour, “replacing many with new hires tied to a ‘second tier’ wage scale that never quite reaches $20.” A year later, they bought out another twenty-five thousand.
As we’ll see in the next chapter, only organized workers negotiating from strength can bring a decent, livable wage back for the majority of Americans who lack a college degree.
If you'd like to help beat Boehner and elect Andy Hounshell to represent western Ohio, you can do that here.
Meanwhile, I just wanted to say one more thing tonight about the Congressional Progressive Caucus budget-- the Back to Work Budget-- which isn't getting the kind of attention the ridiculous, purely ideological Ryan budget is getting from the media. Why people take that silly thing seriously is beyond me but... that's the Beltway Media herd. I often hear people say that Ezra Klein is just an Obamabot spouting the company line. But that isn't how I see it. He frequently surprises me with a willingness to see beyond the White House's twisted talking point. And today he was one of the few "serious" Beltway journalists to recognize that the Back to Work Budget is the budget the country should be talking about, rather than the silly, partisan, "fantasyland" efforts by Ryan or the Senate Democrats. Ezra:
The “Back to Work” budget is about exactly what the name implies: Putting Americans back to work. The first sentence lays it out clearly: “We’re in a jobs crisis that isn’t going away.” So that’s the budget’s top priority: fixing the jobs crisis.
It begins with a stimulus program that makes the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act look tepid: $2.1 trillion in stimulus and investment from 2013-2015, including a $425 billion infrastructure program, a $340 billion middle-class tax cut, a $450 billion public-works initiative, and $179 billion in state and local aid.
That’s…a lot of stimulus. More than Congress passed in 2009, in fact. The liberal Economic Policy Institute estimates that would be sufficient to “boost gross domestic product (GDP) by 5.7 percent and employment by 6.9 million jobs at its peak level of effectiveness (within one year of implementation).
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