USA Today’s Susan Page recently interviewed Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez. She asked Perez about a paradox in the current economic recovery: unemployment is down with little increase in wages. Perez said that there is still “slack” in the market, which would mean that unemployment would have to go even lower to drive increased wages. He also discussed a White House Summit on Workers, which will take place on October 7, 2015. This sounds like good news, but what results will it bring? Perez captured the general mood of American workers this way: “They’re hard and falling behind.” Page cast this as a “disparity between the wealthy and the middle of the workforce.” I would respectfully disagree. From the Occupy protests to the ongoing Fight for 15, low wage working people are voicing their frustration and demanding justice in a way that the middle class is not. That said, most American (I’d guess 70-80%) are feeling anxiety and a lack of security. President Obama put it best when he said, “America needs a raise.”
The U.S. Department of Labor has a great resource page on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911. 146 workers – most women – died because they were locked in a nine story building that broke out in flames. Doors were locked because their managers wanted to stop petty theft of felt scrap that could be resold.
Two years later, conditions improved at the plant. Why? Because the International Ladies Garment Workers Union went on strike. We need to remember such heroes, especially when we have “leaders” like Governor Scott Walker.