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

The Big Drip

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities. 

A rash of water main breaks in West Berkeley, Calif., and neighboring cities last month flooded streets and left at least 300 residents without water. Routine pressure adjustments in response to water demand likely caused more than a dozen pipes, some made of clay and more than 100 years old, to rupture.

West Berkeley’s brittle mains are not unique. Decades of neglect left aging pipes susceptible to breaks in communities across the U.S., wasting two trillion gallons of treated water each year as these systems near collapse.

Comprehensive upgrades to the nation’s crumbling water systems would stanch the flow and ensure all Americans have reliable access to clean water.

Nationwide, water main breaks increased 27 percent between 2012 and 2018, according to a Utah State University study.  

These breaks not only lead to service disruptions  but also flood out roads, topple trees and cause illness when drinking water becomes contaminated with bacteria.

The American Water Works Association estimated it will cost at least $1 trillion over the next 25 years to upgrade and expand water infrastructure.

Some local water utilities raised their rates to pay for system improvements, but that just hurts poor consumers who can’t pay the higher bills.

And while Congress allocates money for loans that utilities can use to fix portions of their deteriorating systems, that’s merely a drop in the bucket—a fraction of what agencies need for lasting improvements.

America can no longer afford a piecemeal approach to a systemic nationwide crisis. A major, sustained federal commitment to fixing aging pipes and treatment plants would create millions of construction-related jobs while ensuring all Americans have safe, affordable drinking water.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work