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Low-Wage Employers Have Fought Hard to Keep Their Workers Poor — Now Workers are Fighting Back

Moyers & Company

After decades of seeing their incomes shrink, those at the bottom of the economic ladder are starting to band together and fight back — and it’s one of the most important economic stories of our time.

Between 1973 and 2011, the top 10 percent of American households saw their inflation-adjusted incomes rise by almost $100,000, while the bottom 90 percent – the vast majority of us –actually saw their incomes drop by $4,425 per year, according to economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty (XLS). During that time, pensions largely disappeared, and the costs of health care and education shot through the roof.

Today, we’re seeing those at the bottom of the economic pile — the 35 million Americans who make $10.55 per hour or less, representing more than a quarter of our workforce – starting to band together and fight back. [...]

But it’s not just companies like Wal-mart and McDonald’s paying their employees too little. According to a study by Demos, the federal government, indirectly, is the nation’s largest low-wage employer.  A coalition called Good Jobs Nation began a campaign earlier this year urging President Obama to sign an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay their employees a living wage. With the stroke of a pen, Obama could lift the living standards of two million American workers.

Read the full reportUnderwriting Bad Jobs: How Our Tax Dollars Are Funding Low-Wage Work and Fueling Inequality