The American Labor Reform Movement

November 19, 2012

Wages Continue to Stagnate for the Middle Class;
Is Globalization Creating a 'Race to the Bottom'?

Family Income Dropped 8% Compared to a Decade Ago

For the past decade, the wages of Middle Class workers have stagnated or been reduced, with AFL-CIO unions unable to reverse the downward trend.

Meanwhile, globalization and automation have cut deeply into the jobs that will be available in the 21st century. The use of computer and digital technology has allowed machines to replace many forms of human labor and has cut down production costs for employers.

Also, the modern wave of globalization has permitted millions of low-wage workers around the world to begin competing with Americans, threatening our long-established Middle Class wage standards.

For the first time since the Great Depression, median family income has fallen substantially over an entire decade. By last year (2011), family income was 8 percent lower than it had been 11 years earlier (2000), at its peak, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

How Can the Decline in Wages Be Reversed?

Economists differ on the causes of the decline in wages and they have as many different opinions on what it will take to remedy the job and wage crises. One hopeful sign is the creation of new technologies that will enable the economy and the labor market to keep growing.

Millions of middle-aged workers will probably not have the innovative skills to hold down the new jobs. We will have to face strong competition from workers abroad. We will need a more educated labor force to compete. And what will we do with the millions of undocumented immigrants in the U.S.? Lots of problems and few certain solutions.

The truth is that a newly elected U.S. government will be unprepared to tackle the twin crises — decent jobs at good wages, but it must recognize them as vital priorities.

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We've come a long way from the days before the Industrial Revolution. We survived the hardships of the Great Depression. In the past century, our country created the electric bulb, the telephone, the camera, the automobile, the computer, cell phones, the nuclear bomb and modular systems — and we've managed to survive. by working not only harder but smarter.

What do our AFL-CIO leaders propose to do about wage stagnation and the plight of those who still have to live on a $7.50 hourly minimum wage? Why won't they support raising the minimums to $10 an hour?