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Saturday, October 22, 2016

The latest Census data prove that we need to start rebuilding the American middle class, and a new report shows how it can be done.

Yesterday the U.S. Census Bureau reported that family income in the U.S. dropped to its lowest level in 16 years. The key thing in this news is that the drop is not just over the last three years, during the Great Recession. The squeeze on the middle class isn’t new, it wasn’t caused by the recession, and it won’t be fixed as we come out of the recession. If we’re going to rebuild the middle class, we need an agenda aimed at making work pay in the 21st century.

That’s why I worked with more than 20 groups who understand the daily struggles of working families on a new report we’re releasing today, 10 Ways to Rebuild the Middle Class for Hard Working Americans: Making Work Pay in the 21st Century. The report is a road map for addressing the truth that we don’t just have a jobs problem; we have a good jobs problem.

Before we get to what we do about it, we need to confront the fact that even though the proportion of Americans with a college education doubled in the past three decades, the share of working people with a decent job dropped. Six out of ten (58 percent) jobs now emerging from the recession are low-wage. On top of that, the jobs projected to have the most openings between now and 2020 are mostly low-wage and require no more than a high school education. So there is no reason to think things will get better unless we act.

One set of solutions proposed in 10 Ways to Rebuild the Middle Class is to tackle the lack of support and protections for low-wage workers. A first step is to restore the minimum wage, which buys 30 percent less now than it did 40 years ago. The minimum wage for tipped workers is $2.13 an hour, the same as it was in 1991. One in five workers would get a pay raise if the minimum wage were increased. That includes workers who get paid just above today’s minimum wage, who would also benefit as the legal floor got raised.

Remarkably, four out of ten private sector jobs – including the great majority of low-wage jobs – do not give employees any paid time off if they are sick or need to care for an ill family member. In response, Connecticut and several cities have passed paid sick days ordinances. The federal government and states and localities should update basic labor standards to include this essential benefit to working families.

The report recommends tough enforcement, with meaningful penalties, of laws that unscrupulous employers now routinely flout. Many employers of low-wage workers routinely steal wages by not paying the minimum wage, not paying for overtime, or simply not paying workers at all. Other employers misclassify workers as “independent contractors” in order to get out of paying payroll taxes or benefits and hire “permatemps.” Worker safety and health is another area where measly penalties, weak enforcement, and widespread retaliation against workers who dare to speak up allow employers to keep low-wage workers in hazardous work conditions every day.

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Copyright 2012 The National Memo
  • bcarreiro

    get rid of boehner and his followers

  • According to GOP theory, the way forward involves the elimination of regulatory policy, including the minimum wage, overtime pay, paid Holidays and sick leave, paid vacations and all the other gains the working class has made during the last century. So, I suspect that the answer to this question, if you are a Republican, is a return to the good old days of child labor, sweat shops, the company store and managers reminding employees asking for a pay raise that workers are a dime a dozen.

    • Tom_D44

      Not sure of your sources, but I have never heard of this. Could you be stereotyping just a little bit here? Could you be embellishing just a tad bit just to make a point – or maybe a lot? Dominick, you generally post with very specific and intelligent information and ideas and I actually respect a lot of what you say. But this post is just plain GOP bashing with no real substance.

      So I soppose that all republicans really want the sick to just die, right? And they are really going to put grandma, and her wheel chair over the cliff. And we really all want to breath dirty air or pollute our own water sources. Come on man.

      The problem with government regulation is that there is no accountabilty and no common sense used within it. And it is rampant with corruption. We need sensible, intelligent regulation and people who are corrupt need to go to jail not get promoted to congress.

      • SaneJane

        Tom, every one of Dominick’s points have been espoused by the GOP. Any suppositions he may have made about where these policies lead are very reasonable.

        • Ed

          Actually the comments about “where the policies will lead” are history. There are many visual and written documentation to all of them.Child labor? Ask any coal miner is his father or grandfather ever talked about “breaker boys”. The sweat shop was a New York trademark during the years before the garment workers union and the appointment of Ms. Perkins by FDR as Labor Secretary. Also heavily documented. Air poltuion, hundreds were sickened and several died in the Mongohela Valley in PA> (Pittsburgh) from the smog created by discharges from steel mills and coke plants. It was not that long ago, well my be to some of the younger folks, that a river caught fire in OHIO That’s how polluted it was. The minimum wage was a;lso an idea by Ms. Perkins. There was a time when Henry Ford was praised by some, attacked by others (his fellow millionaires) for providing SUCH HIGH WAGES to his workforce. Can you imagine? $5.00 a day! The company store is still found in many mining states. Company housing, where the rent was deducted from your pay before you got your pay, seems to have died out(but one can never be sure) And it was an unwritten law of the Carnegies , Rockefellers, and others that “If you don’t come in on Sunday, don’t come in on Monday.” The world we live in today was not created by the founders, it was brought about by persons who were willing to be called socialist because they thought that employees should have the right to bargain with their employers over working conditions. Of a government who recognised that the average worker needed protection against the millionairres who owned the legislatures and thri lawyers. It was bought by men who died on the picket lines, in many cases by the National Guard, or the Army. The Rockefellers had an incident where the national gaurd rounded the strikers up, herded them into a quarry and gunned them down. Workers compensation came about because the employers previously held all the cards, the worker had to prove that he did not cause his injury or his fellow workers did not cause his injury and then the employer could use the defense that the employee knew the risks when he took the job. Some of this may be unbelievable to you reading this, but with the internet you can check the truth of it. Try searching for the “Homestead Steel Strike”or the “Coal and Iron Police’.

          • You may like to know what Henry Ford said about the high wages he paid. I don’t remember the exact words but he wanted his workers to be able to buy the cars they built. Maybe that is why our economy isn’t moving, we cann’t afford what we build.

      • I believe Republican deregulation efforts encompass a lot more than environmental and banking policies. It also encompasses labor, and since unions are a traditional GOP target, and unions stand for higher wages, better benefits and better working conditions it stands to reason that the GOP is in favor of taking away some of the gains made during the last century away. In fact, some Republican politicians have blamed high labor costs for our inability to compete…without offering a solution. Admittedly, Republicans have not said as much, but barring divine intervention I don’t know how else they are going to achieve their labor cost reduction cost. Process improvements, automation, and increased productivity sound great, but they are not enough to allow us to compete effectively against countries that pay workers $3 a day. As a minimum, a GOP controlled government will freeze the minimum wage and will allow indiscriminate layoffs to reduce labor costs. Not sure what they will do with healthcare costs, which represent a huge burden for most American corporations…

      • Tom, the biggest problem with government regulation in the USA is that it has been weakened to the point that it is no longer effective, and that regulatory agencies have been decimated to the point that there is no oversight. Yes, we need more effective regulation designed to protect workers, the environment, and fraud and abuse by unscrupulous bankers and CEOs, but destroying the little we have is not a solution. Don’t forget ENRON, AIG, Bernie Maddof and all the others who brought our financial institutions and our economy to the verge of collapse.

      • Read the republicain onedonewrong posting that will answer your question about who has no common sense. And what happened to the old conservative lines– My country right or wrong My country– America, love it or leave it.

    • onedonewong

      Or to the barak socialist design where folks aren’t required to work but receive generous welfare payments so thy sit and do nothing. More or less what he has done for the past 20 years

      • Hey sock puppet check the facts and stop repeating lies.

        • onedonewong

          Illiteracy run in the family, must have come from NYC

          • No doubt, you have the mind set of a bigot who won’t let the facts get in the way of your warped thinking. Take a moment and check the facts at a legitimate source and stop echoing Fox’s lies.

          • onedonewong

            Just what I thought

  • chisolm

    Meaningful education is the solution to improving the middles class not government and not unions. There are thousands of open jobs without qualified applicants because of the slow, but certain degradation of our education system. Equal opportunity can’t exist when many students are forced to attend schools that don’t teach while others are able to receive their educations in superior schools. With a drop out rate of nearly 50% in some school systems we should not be surprised that many students have been forced out of the market by government and union operated schools.

    • MRD1056

      chisolm i do agree that education is one of the most important parts of growing a strong middle class. I disagree with the fact that you say unions are not a solution. If you look back through history some of this countries most prosperous economic times is when Unions were at there highest memebership. The old stigmas of greedy corrupt Union bosses is long gone, and as the article states ” Nothing in our nation’s history has done more to bring workers decent pay, benefits, and dignity at work than organized labor.” I have been a union member for many years, and was raised in a union household. I have never seen one instance of union corruption.

    • Judging from personel experience, I have to disagree with you. I have two degrees in electronics from reputable schools aquired during my working years for the sole purpose of improving my wages and position. That plan didn’t work, as a matter of fact at my last job, before I retired, I was doing some of the things that should have been done by my supervisor but he lacked the education. In my opinion, his only qualification was he was the right age and color.

    • nanc35

      I am more than tired of reading this claim that jobs are open because there are no qualified applicants. Over and over again I have seen employers pass up prospects who were very qualified for open positions, claiming that they “couldn’t pay what qualified applicants expected”, often without even asking what the applicant expected. The “over-qualified” excuse is as phoney as the “un-qualified” excuse.
      And don’t blame our public schools. You can blame the students and their parents, up to a point, but until you make college and technical education and training available at a cost most anyone can meet, there will be no equal opportunity.
      Many employers who are quick to complain that they can’t get “American” workers are very poor employers, usually for multiple reasons.

      • There are a lot of vacancies, some require degrees in the medical field, engineering, computer science, mathematics, physics, chemistry and other hard science disciplines; but there are also many for semi-skilled workers willing to make sacrifices. According to the Labor Department there are vacancies for one million truck drivers in the USA. I mentioned that fact to a relative by marriage who has been unemployed for years. His answer is that driving rigs was too hard for his back. There are plenty of vacancies in North Dakota as a result of the oil boom in the Bakken and Three Forks fields. Opportunities are available not only for oil workers, but for entrepreneurs and people looking for a job in just about every field imaginable. The problem is that when you mention that to someone in places like Florida, where I live, the only thing you get back is an incredulous look. BTW, the Labor Department has re-training programs available in almost every major city in the USA. The training is free, but few people are taking advantage of it.
        What you said about employers rejecting applicants who they believe are over qualified is true. I was a division manager before I retired and when degreed engineers applied for technician positions I usually turned them down because I knew they were not going to last and I would waste the training expenses, not to mention problems associated with attrition and having to start over again. It is unfair, but most managers look at the bottom line, try to minimize turnover and keep cost under control.

        • nanc35

          If these vacancies exist then why is more not being done to bring the vacancies and the unemployed together? Yes, I can understand why a middle-aged man (or woman) would not consider taking on driving a truck. This is hard work and many older workers do have physical limitations. Also, it is often nearly impossible for workers to relocate from one end of the country to another, especially if they have families. Many do so at tremendous sacrifices that don’t always turn out very well. The “over-qualified” bit has been done to death. It is most often now regarded as a joke. I was told once when applying for a job that I was perfect for the job, had the right qualifications and could probably do the job very well but he (the employer was a man, of course) wasn’t going to hire me because he could get some student’s wife to do the job for less than I would need (I was single and self-supporting). Salary hadn’t even been discussed! My experience has been repeated over and over with differing details by men and women I have known. I ended up taking a dead-end job that didn’t even begin to utilize my skills because I had to have a job. I wasn’t independently wealthy and my savings were depleted very fast when there was nothing coming in. Even getting to North Dakota might be impossible for many. It is the reason people didn’t get out of New Orleans…they didn’t have a way to go!
          Most “re-training” is questionable. Too often it is for jobs that do not exist. And not everyone is in a major city where you say this free training is available.

    • Sand_Cat

      So your solution is to screw the teachers and cut funding for education and those evil unions, right? Great way to improve education. Why do you think so many students are “forced” to attend lousy schools? Couldn’t possibly be that people like you cut education budgets – particularly in poor and minority areas – to the bone.

      And – as some one else points out here – education does not guarantee a good job, anyway.

      • NutCutter

        Great way to improve education?

        Prove to me that there is a direct correlation between funding levels per student vs. outcomes. I don’t care if you use state level, national level or international level numbers.

  • They are lucky they got a Job!!

  • wcritter

    You go on about all the things that are wrong/different about jobs now vs 30 years ago, but you don’t actually offer solutions. Mandating higher wages isn’t good enough, we have to be producing goods or ideas that other people are willing to pay for.

  • onedonewong

    Unions are what has caused the good paying jobs to be sent overseas coupled with Govt over regulation. Until the Fed gubement can be dramatically reduced in size there is 0 hope of aiding the middle class

  • amen

  • Consumer demand is the engine that drives economic expansion. The lack of demand is the main problem the economy face. If people feel better off because their 401(k) is doing better, or if their house is worth more, then they’ll be more willing to spend. It boosts confidence and spending through the wealth effect. That will provide the demand businesses need to hire and to expand.

  • chisolm

    We spend more on education than most other countries with steadily declining results. Chicago teachers are the highest paid among the major cities with half the students dropping out. What we need is more charter schools with a voucher system so parents can send their children to the school of their choice instead of being forced to send them to obviously failing schools. One union boss was quoted as something like; when students start paying dues I will represent their interests. You are correct when you say education does not guarantee a good job, however the unemployment rate among college graduates is about 4%.