War on Workers I: Victories and hope for labor movement


Washington Post Opinions: “Labor rides a building backlash”

I don’t expect to gain much personally from rejoining the union faithful, because I’m in the top decile of American wage earners who have prospered in recent years. I signed up because income inequality, after years of worsening, has reached a crisis — and the decline in union membership is partly to blame. Rejoining the labor movement is my small, symbolic protest. …

There are many causes of growing inequality — globalization, education disparities, tax policy — but an International Monetary Fund study released in March found that the decline in union membership has been responsible for half of the rise in the share of income going to the top 10 percent of earners in advanced economies between 1980 and 2010. Declining union membership, by weakening the bargaining power of low- and middle-income workers at both union and nonunion businesses, has increased the share of wealth going to corporate higher-ups and shareholders.


Capital & Main: “The Wage War’s Two Fronts”

Activists in an increasing number of cities — including Seattle, Chicago, Oakland, San Francisco and now Los Angeles — have pushed their local governments to pass municipal minimum wage laws.

Today, 22 cities and counties set their minimum wages above the federal threshold of $7.25 an hour. Twenty-nine states also set their minimum wages above the federal level. Fifteen states index their minimum wages to rise automatically with the cost of living. In just the past two years, thirteen states and the District of Columbia have enacted minimum wage increases. Even voters in so-called conservative “red” states have expressed their frustration with stagnating wages. Last November, in Arkansas, Alaska, South Dakota and Nebraska, voters by very wide margins approved ballot initiatives to raise their state minimum wages.

Washington State’s $9.47 minimum wage is currently the highest among the 50 states, but it will soon be overtaken by California, whose statewide minimum wage will jump to $10 next year.


Washington Post: “Going bold in Los Angeles: A city-wide, $15 minimum wage by 2020”

It’s also a big deal because it’s the result of a national movement (the “Fight for $15”) that is gaining traction in ways that say something important about America today. Many of us, myself included, walk around pretty worried about the fact that our federal government is to no small degree shut down to the business of democracy. …

And yet, here at the sub-national level, we see a grass-roots movement persuading local officials to take bold steps in the interest of addressing a critical national problem: low-wage work in an increasingly unequal economy. That’s democracy at work, and it provides a huge breath of fresh air against the fetid oxygen of dysfunction.