By Richard Trumka and Christine Owens
CNN, December 2, 2013
Editor’s note: Richard Trumka is president of the AFL-CIO. Christine Owens is executive director of the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group for lower-wage workers.
(CNN) — For the first time since the Great Depression, the U.S. Census Bureau tells us, middle-class family incomes have lost ground for more than a decade.
The sad truth is that the rewards for productivity and hard work such as health care coverage, retirement security, opportunity — rewards that used to make America’s workers “middle class” — are on the rocks.
All the wage increases over the past 15 years have gone to the wealthiest 10%, according to the Economic Policy Institute. All of them. And almost all, 95%, of the income gains from 2009 to 2012, the first three years of recovery from the Great Recession, went to the very richest 1%.
Something else has happened, too. The bottom has fallen out of America’s wage floor. And the erosion of the minimum wage has lowered pay and working standards for all of us.