What is a middle-class wage? Evidently, the United Automobile Workers (UAW) have taken a significant step towards defining it in their latest contract agreement with Fiat Chrysler.
The deal would raise the salaries of both veteran workers and newer workers up towards $30 an hour over a four- and eight-year period, respectively. Those salaries, in turn, will set a standard that even non-union foreign carmakers in the U.S. will feel pressured to follow, as The New York Times stated. In short, the effort shows the power organized labor. But it also shows the importance of efforts like the Teamsters' "Let's Get America Working" campaign. As the Times points out:
Clearly, unions can lift middle-class wages to a point, but more needs to be done. Higher federal spending on necessary public projects would lift pay by creating jobs; stricter laws on worker classification would ensure that employees are not wrongly denied overtime and benefits.
Of course, there are others in the private sector who also realize more has to be done to combat income inequality in this country. Earlier this year, for example, Seattle-based Gravity Payments announced it would pay all of its 120 workers at least $70,000 a year. The move by founder Dan Price didn't bankrupt the company; in fact, profits soared.
Even some franchisers, like one who owns a handful of Qdoba Mexican Grill restaurants in northern Colorado, is raises wages. Steve Laurer told the Greeley Tribune the move will not only help his workers, but his businesses as well.
It is good to see that some employers are getting the message. But there is still a long ways to go for most workers. Misclassification, as the Times mentioned, is a huge problem for port truck drivers and workers in other industries like construction as well. Too many companies are still interested in pocketing all the profits at the expense of their employees.
As we enter the 2016 political campaign season, candidates and elected officials need to listen to the voices of everyday Americans. They are being treated unfairly and have had enough. Those who choose to oppose them do so at their own peril.