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Working-Class Economics

Tamara Draut

In last Wednesday's Republican debate, not one candidate offered a tangible plan to raise wages, which have been stagnant for most workers since the 1990s. This wasn’t surprising—discussion about the working class, who make up the majority of American families and would benefit most from such a raise, has all but disappeared from popular conversation.

We know better. The working class is the foundation of our economy and any conversation around improving it must include their concerns. That’s why Demos has partnered with the Economic Policy Institute to demand a substantive policy conversation at the next Democratic debate, which will be hosted by MSNBC on November 6th, around raising American wages.

We entrust these workers—our home health aides, child care workers, janitors, fast food cashiers, and retail salespeople—with our most essential and personal needs. Yet most political conversations render them invisible and voiceless.

But as we’ve seen over the past several years, the sleeping giant is beginning to stir. A growing movement of retail, fast food, and other low-wage workers has elevated this conversation. Demos has supported this movement with research showing how a raise for the working class would lift up everyone—including the companies themselves.

As we discuss ways to improve the lives of American families, presidential candidates must pay attention to the needs and concerns of America’s working class, which include enacting a paid family leave policyincreasing wagesstrengthening labor standards, and making college affordable.

Many of the 2016 presidential candidates have called out economic inequality. Now it’s time for them to propose a specific agenda to address it, and raise up the working class again.