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Spring 2015
Posted On: May 12, 2015

Building an Economy for All of Us

America’s economy is strong again. At least this is what the economists are telling us. All those jobs we lost in the Great Recession have returned, they say. Some people are making a lot of money.

But when we take a closer look at the facts, we see those new jobs aren’t as good as the ones we lost, and the people who are making all the money are the same people who were already making a lot of money.

As each day passes, more Americans are concluding something must be done to give the rest of us a chance. Here are some ideas being raised across the nation in city halls, in state legislatures and in the halls of Congress:

Raising the minimum wage — Frustrated by inaction in Congress, lawmakers in some of America’s leading cities are moving toward substantially higher standards for basic wages.

Seattle started the trend by enacting a minimum wage increase to $15 an hour over the next seven years. Citizens in San Francisco are considering a referendum setting the minimum standard at $15 within four years. In Davis, Calif., a group of community activists is fighting for a $15 minimum wage, and residents of Los Angeles and New York are expected to vote on their own minimum-wage measures in 2016.

Limiting executive pay — Some labor advocates propose limiting executive compensation to 50 times the median salary paid to the company’s workers. This simple rule would encourage CEOs to raise their employees’ pay in order to justify higher pay for themselves.

Paid leaves — Legislation proposed in Congress would require medium and large-size companies to provide paid family leaves. Another bill would require employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers. Both of these measures were adopted decades ago in other industrialized countries.

Empowering workers — As important as these other measures are, the real change we need won’t happen until working people have the power to improve their own lives. This means removing the barriers keeping millions of workers from joining Unions.

In 2009, Congress fell short when it failed to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. This law would have simplified the organizing process and instituted penalties for employers who harass and intimidate their employees who want to form Unions.

With anti-worker elements currently in control of the House of Representatives and the Senate, it’s unlikely Congress will pass EFCA soon. Our job, then, is to change Congress by electing pro-worker candidates from both political parties.

It may take a while, but we can do it if we work hard and keep ourselves focused on the big picture.

In the meantime, please get involved by supporting pro-worker legislation at all levels of government.

Working together, we can build an American economy that works for all of us, not just a few.

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