Today, the Economic Policy Institute launched Raising America’s Pay, a research and public education initiative that seeks to make wage growth an urgent national priority. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez spoke at the launch event, along with Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen, EPI economists, and activists working to raise wages for workers nationwide. Video from the event is available on the EPI website.
While income inequality has taken center stage among economists and policymakers, the discussion around too often sidesteps a crucial component: wage growth for most workers has been stagnant for the past three-and-a-half decades. Raising wages for the majority of Americans who rely on their paychecks to make ends meet is essential to ameliorating income inequality, boosting living standards for the broad middle-class, reducing poverty, and sustaining economic growth. However, wage stagnation is too often credited to forces beyond our control, such as globalization and technological change—instead of deliberate policy choices that have held down wages even as economic growth and productivity continue to rise.
“The president and I believe that if America stands for anything, it’s that no one who works full time should have to raise their family in poverty. You shouldn’t have to make a choice between the family that you love and the job you need,” said Perez. “EPI today is laying out what is really the central economic challenge of our time. But we are up to the challenge. The American people are up to the challenge.”
Perez noted the critical importance of raising wages, pointing to the administration’s effort to raise the minimum wage, extend protections for overtime pay, and increase the wages paid by contractors, and affirming the importance of restoring workers’ rights to collective bargaining.
A three-year project, Raising America’s Pay will:
- Highlight our failure to provide broad-based wage growth
- Research and explain the role of labor market policies and practices in depressing wage growth
- Identify policies that will boost wages for the broad-middle class
“With this project, EPI will do more than just release research papers,” said EPI President Lawrence Mishel. “Our work will be the start of an important debate among policymakers and economists, and serve as the intellectual backdrop for organizing campaigns and efforts to raise wages nationwide.”
Raising America’s Pay will rely on EPI research but will also incorporate the work of researchers and policy analysts at other research organizations, and will commission work by university-based economists, lawyers, sociologists, and other social scientists.