New Study Finds Startling Rate of Poverty among Working-Class Families

A new study prepared by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has found that the federal minimum wage is too low to keep working families out of poverty.

Twenty percent of working families earning the $7.25 minimum wage or below live in poverty, according to the report, which has prompted 30 Senate Democrats to sign onto a bill introduced by Sens. Sanders and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), which would raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2024.

"As this new report shows, $7.25 minimum wage is a starvation wage that is not enough to keep working families out of poverty." Sanders said. "The United States Congress must raise the minimum wage to a living wage.”

The GAO also found, not surprisingly, that higher wages were associated with lower poverty rates. Unfortunately, low-wage workers – those earning $16 per hour or less – comprise about 40 percent of the U.S. workforce aged 25 to 64. Millions of them are living in poverty and relying on government programs such as Medicaid and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The GAO report noted that the growing divide between the top 1 percent and everyone else is not only due to wage stagnation among low-wage workers, but in fact attributable to skyrocketing wealth among high earners.

“Recent studies have found that while average wages experienced little or no change from 1973 through 2011 (when held in constant 2011 dollars), income inequality increased as a direct result of income growth among high-wage workers,” the GAO wrote.

For the full report, click here.

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Posted In: Union Matters

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work