The U.S. economy can afford a $15 minimum wage

From the Economic Policy Institute

The federal minimum wage was established in 1938 to help ensure that regular employment provided a decent quality of life. By making periodic increases in the minimum wage, Congress also guaranteed that the country’s lowest-paid workers would share in the benefits of broader improvements in the economy. For the first 30 years of the minimum wage’s existence, regular raises allowed the minimum wage to keep pace with growth in economy-wide productivity. But, as the graph shows, since the 1970s Congress has failed to adjust the minimum wage to match the economy’s capacity for higher wages—leaving low-wage workers behind.

The bottom line shows how inflation has eroded the buying power of a minimum wage income even as the economy grew and was able to afford a higher minimum wage. If you were paid the $7.25 minimum wage in 2017, you made 27 percent less—in inflation-adjusted terms—than someone who earned the minimum wage in 1968 (when the value of the federal minimum wage peaked, at $9.90 in 2017 dollars). The middle line shows that if the minimum wage had kept up with average wage growth for typical U.S. workers (specifically, production and nonsupervisory workers, who constitute essentially the bottom 80 percent of the workforce) since 1968, it would be $11.62 an hour. But even that would not have been sufficient to distribute the fruits of economic growth equitably. If the minimum wage had kept pace with rising productivity since 1968, someone earning the minimum wage in 2017 would have received $19.33 an hour—and millions of people earning above the minimum wage today would also be getting higher wages than they currently do.

The expectation that the minimum wage rise in step with broader trends in the economy would not have been unreasonable for previous generations—that was the trend throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Today’s minimum wage workers have been harmed both by the failure to raise the minimum wage in step with pay for typical workers and by the huge and growing gap between these nonsupervisory wages and economy-wide productivity. The Raise the Wage Act of 2017 would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2024. Such a raise would certainly bring the pay of minimum wage workers closer to providing a decent quality of life, even though it would still fall short of what the economy could have delivered for low-wage workers over the past 50 years.

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Reposted from EPI

Posted In: Allied Approaches

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