It’s Time for Lawmakers to Acknowledge Workers are Struggling

There rightfully has been a lot of focus recently on the need for good-paying jobs. We wrote about it last week in this space and will again right now. Why? Because it is important to counter the narrative being pushed by some that everything is going just great for workers.

Interest in the topic certainly goes beyond the Teamster Nation Blog. In fact, a report released last week by the Brookings Institute painted a bleak picture of the state of working America, noting that 44 percent of workers – 53 million workers overall – earn barely enough to live on. Their median earnings come out to about $18,000 a year.

Many of these low-wage workers are in what should be their prime earning years of 25 to 54 (64 percent) and are the primary earners or contribute substantially to their family living expenses (51 percent). About 37 percent have children, and 23 percent live below the poverty line.

This is all happening, mind you, while $10 billion in cuts are made to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, widely known as food stamps). SNAP feeds 42 million lower-income Americans.

Brookings notes that improved education, given that 77 percent of low-wage workers don’t have a college degree, could improve the lot of such hardworking Americans. But as it notes, “The jobs that pay low wages would not disappear. Hospitals would still need nursing assistants, hotels would still need housekeepers, day care centers would still need child care workers.”

It comes down to a simple fact – the economy in its current state just isn’t working for millions of U.S. workers.

So how do lawmakers fix it? By acknowledging that the system is broken and needs to be fixed. Workers should be able to earn a wage that allows them to support their families and keep a roof over their heads. In too many cases, that isn’t happening. Greater union membership could help.

The median union worker makes nearly $10,000 more a year than the median non-union worker. That is real money that would go a long way to raising the standard of living for many American families, and doesn’t even address the better benefits and working conditions those who work in union jobs often receive.

Those with the power to effectuate change must do so in a way that will help working people. After all, these are their constituents! Their interests must not continue to take a back seat to those who write the biggest checks to elected officials.