Think about that as you contemplate crossing the picket line at King Soopers. But there are other reasons to support the strike. In a report released last December, the Economic Policy Institute showed how unions are not only good for workers but also for communities and democracy.
While the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute estimates the rule will raise wages for up to 390,000 federal contractors, roughly half of whom are women or people of color, some labor market observers said spillover effects could be limited because the bulk of workers on federal contracts are not paid minimum wages.
Schneider said no one has a totally satisfying answer as to why retail stores and restaurants have had such a hard time staffing up in the past six months. After all, he pointed out, many of the people who would usually fill those jobs had no safety net before the pandemic either. But a few theories add up to explain much of the problem. Long-term downward trends in immigration to the United States, and especially low immigration levels in the past two years, might have choked off an important source of low-wage workers. Increased difficulty in finding adequate and affordable child care is another reason, especially for the many families that may have relied on older relatives who have been lost to the pandemic. And some people have simply left the retail and food-service industries altogether, switching to other kinds of work. “A better way to think about the labor-shortage problem is that we have a pay-shortage problem,” Ben Zipperer, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank, told me. Workers who take less-than-ideal jobs after mass layoffs might be more likely to stick with them instead of looking for a better role if the circumstances of many of those jobs weren’t so bad.
Union membership has decreased over the past 40-plus years, and it is no coincidence that the average wage of the American worker has increased only 14% during those same 40-plus years. Read that again. It took more than 40 years for us to get a whopping 14% increase in our wages. And how much did CEO wages increase from 1978 to 2020? According to the Economic Policy Institute, CEO wages increased by 1,322%. I am appalled by this, and you should be, too
Education officials and advocates say the extreme shortages result from a long-term dearth of teachers in the U.S., driven by a weak recruiting pipeline and years of sub-par pay. The so-called teacher wage penalty, which measures the gap between teachers and similarly educated professionals, has grown since the mid-1990s, according to a study by the Economic Policy Institute.
For one, we as a society just seem content with the fact that teachers are underpaid, something that has long been reported by groups like the Economic Policy Institute. In 2020, EPI reported that educators nationally make 81 cents on the dollar, or 19 percent less, compared to other professionals with similar experience and credentials. That gap has increased significantly over the past two decades, going from 6 percent in 1996 to 19 percent in 2019.
The Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank that studies collective bargaining, noted that the share of workers who are represented by a union fell significantly last year but merely returned to its pre-COVID level. The short-lived increase in union representation in 2019 was probably the result of the pandemic economy: Jobs in largely non-union fields like hospitality disappeared quickly, then returned last year, pulling the union membership rate down.
It’s a reality that seems disconnected from those prominent examples of union activity and from polls that show high union favorability among workers across the country. Yet, this disconnect can be explained by the country’s outdated labor laws, which also points to the need for new labor policies, says Heidi Shierholz, president of the nonprofit think tank Economic Policy Institute, who served as the Department of Labor’s chief economist under the Obama administration.
“If policymakers fail to act, the downward trends in unionization will likely continue and the post-pandemic economy will be marked by widespread inequality and wage stagnation for working people,” Heidi Shierholz, president of the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, told reporters Thursday. “So the stakes are really high.”
So despite current workers’ fierce desire for change, the ongoing pandemic’s labor shortage, and period of increased wages likely won’t bring long-lasting positive benefits, said Elise Gould, a senior economist, at the Economic Policy Institute.
The dividend’s popularity is easy to understand in the context of its notable impact on the people of Alaska. Research from the Economic Policy Institute shows that income for the poorest fifth of Alaskans in the last decade has increased 28 percent, 2.5 times more growth than the national average. $2,000 can make all the difference for Alaskans on the verge of poverty. Rural Alaskans use the dividend to survive, buying fuel to heat their homes for the cruel winter ahead. In the case of Native Alaskans, a study conducted by the University of Alaska-Anchorage estimates that without the yearly dividend payments, over 10,000 more Natives would live below the federal poverty line.
Valerie Wilson, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s Program on Race, Ethnicity and the Economy, said that occupational segregation has meant that Black Americans were less likely to be able to work remotely amid lockdown orders. Many Black workers were given the choice of keeping jobs where they faced greater risks or deciding that the risk was not worth it.
Elise Gould and Valerie Wilson, economists with the Economic Policy Institute, noted that Black workers face two of the most “lethal preexisting conditions” for COVID, citing racism and economic inequality.
But there’s evidence that there’s a renewed interest in labor unions. According to the nonprofit think tank Economic Policy Institute, workers covered by unions grew to 12.1% in 2020, up from 11.6% the prior year.
Even before the pandemic “many parents struggled with finding affordable, high quality childcare,” said Elise Gould, senior economist with the Economic Policy Institute, adding that “parents, particularly women, oftentimes left the labor force” because of a lack of childcare. “Omicron has exacerbated that.”
Elise Gould and Valerie Wilson, economists with the Economic Policy Institute, wrote that Black workers face two of “the most lethal preexisting conditions for coronavirus — racism and economic inequality.” Persistent racial disparities in access to health care, wealth, employment, housing, income, among other factors, they said, “all contribute to greater susceptibility to the virus.”
There has been a lot of talk in media outlets about “the great resignation” — a cohort that decided to stop working, thanks to excessive government handouts. Yet the decrease in LFP since, say, the beginning of 2020 — when more generous Covid-related government supports were rolled out — has been around just 2.4 percent, well below the overall decrease of 4 percent since 2000. The Economic Policy Institute reported that as of November 2021, hires in the labor market exceeded quits. That means those who quit tended to move into other, presumably better jobs. (Otherwise, you wouldn’t have quit.)
Remedying this issue is in the interests of manufacturers, local and state governments, and educational institutions alike, as manufacturing is a strong demand multiplier. According to a 2019 analysis conducted by the Economic Policy Institute, the loss of 1,000 jobs from a retail shopping mall could reverberate into 1,221 other job losses up and down the supply chain. However, the loss of 1,000 jobs from a manufacturing operation could result in the indirect loss of 7,441 jobs.
Because pay transparency laws are relatively new in the U.S., measuring the exact economic impact on women and people of color can be difficult. But there are other measures we can look to, said Elise Gould, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute.
Figures from an Economic Policy Institute (EPI) analysis of 2016 Consumer Finance data show that retirement savings are not evenly distributed across demographics or income. EPI found that high-income families are seven times more likely to have retirement account savings than low-income families.
“The substantial level of union activity in 2021 and the polling data on union favorability demonstrate that workers want and value unions,” said Heidi Shierholz, president of the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. “The fact that unionization nevertheless declined in 2021 is just a glaring testament to how easy it is for employers who oppose unions to exploit our weak, outdated labor laws.”
The President was noting that unemployment had fallen below 4% for the first time since the pandemic started. And in talking about better jobs, he was drawing on analyses from economists at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI)and elsewhere.