Family-supporting wages for all workers and broadly shared prosperity have long been core goals of America’s union movement. In Congress and in statehouses across the county, the labor movement continues to lead the way in enacting minimum wage laws, overtime protections, prevailing wage laws and pay equity for women and people of color. Workers and their unions have also pursued these same goals of economic justice when bargaining collectively with their employers.
Yet in contrast to the three decades after World War II when more workers enjoyed union representation and the middle class grew stronger, working people today are no longer receiving their fair share of their growing economic productivity. Between 2000 and 2007, median family income actually went down—the first time this has happened during an era of economic recovery since before World War II. Wages continued to fall in the recession from 2007 to 2009, and have continued to lag behind productivity now that the recession is officially over.
Something is fundamentally wrong with the economy when workers are no longer sharing in the fruits of their labor. If we want to repair the engine that drives U.S. economic growth and prosperity, we must first restore the link between the growth of wages and the growth of economic productivity. The best way to do this is to achieve full employment, which has long been a key demand of unions everywhere. Other key steps include: