Changes are needed to rebuild middle class

Today, the inequality of wages between the working class and the elite is approaching levels only seen prior to the Great Depression. From post-World War II through the mid 1970s hourly compensation kept up with increases in productivity. Productivity increases are achieved primarily by technology and management innovations.

From 1948 to 1973 productivity increased 96 percent while compensation increased 91 percent. From 1973 to 2017 productivity increased by 77 percent while compensation increased by only 12 percent. Productivity increased over six times more than hourly compensation! This compensation stagnation is largely caused by policy changes implemented by those with wealth and/or power. Direct causes include the erosion of the federal minimum wage and the decrease in worker bargaining rights. The minimum wage in 1968 (in 2014 dollars) was $10.75 and is now $7.68. Union membership was 33 percent and is now 11 percent.

Here are some things we can/should do:

• Raise the federal minimum wage.

• Update overtime rules.

• Strengthen collective bargaining rights.

• Provide federal earned sick leave and paid family leave.

• End discriminating practices that contribute to race, gender and LGBTQ inequalities.

It is noted the last two years has shown a slight increase in wages.

Richard Metayer

Mystic

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