As the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) points out, nearly a third of state and local government workers are paid less than $20 an hour, and more than 15% of them are paid less than $15 an hour. These low wages impact workers who were considered “essential” during the pandemic and include child care workers and home care providers, workers in cleaning and maintenance occupations, office and administrative support workers, teaching assistants and more.
“This is the one tax that may be salient enough for corporations to change their pricing behavior,” said Josh Bivens, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank. “If you had excess profits tax, firms would say, ‘I could raise prices a ton, but those profits will be taxed away, so I’ll just keep prices low.’ ”
“There are some people who are doing OK through all of this. I’m doing OK — I don’t need a tax break on my groceries,” Josh Bivens, director of research at the Economic Policy Institute, tells Axios. “That’s money that can be better directed to people who are suffering.
“When inflation is not a problem, then it’s much easier to say, ‘We’re going to maximize employment and see how far we can take this,’ ” said Valerie Wilson, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s program on race, ethnicity and the economy. “But with inflation in the mix, they’re in a position now where they can’t really ignore that.”
“Overall employment is now just 1% from its pre-pandemic level,” Elise Gould, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, tweeted. “Private-sector jobs record strong gains rising 426,000 in March with notable jobs added in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, and retail trade. Public-sector employment still slow to return.”
Harris was former acting and deputy labor secretary during the Obama administration, and in a 2015 paper on the gig economy, he called for a new “independent worker” classification for on-demand app workers. These “independent workers” wouldn’t be independent contractors or employees, and would qualify for collective bargaining rights but not hours-based benefits, including overtime or minimum wages—a proposal that drew criticism from the AFL-CIO and the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute.
But few observers would dispute the assessment of Celine McNicholas, a former NLRB special counsel who is now the general counsel and director of policy and government affairs at the Economic Policy Institute, who tells me, “Installing Jennifer Abruzzo as the NLRB’s general counsel will be the most impactful action that the Biden administration took in its first term for working people.”
In such private tribunals, workers win far less often and the median damages awarded are just $36,500, compared with $86,000 in state courts and $176,000 in federal court, an Economic Policy Institute analysis found.
A 2020 analysis by the Economic Policy Institute found only a few employers have spent more than $1 million on anti-union consultants, and it’s typically taken several years to rack up such a bill. Any spending in the hundreds of thousands of dollars is on the high end. None of the companies in EPI’s analysis came close to spending as much as Amazon in such a short period of time.
But some think that a punitive tax on windfall taxes could be effective in reducing big price hikes. “If you had excess profits tax, firms would say, ‘I could raise prices a ton, but those profits will be taxed away, so I’ll just keep prices low,’” economist Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute said.
Black workers saw the greatest percentage-point drop in unemployment rates, falling from 6.6% in February to 6.2% in March.
“Those series tend to be volatile, so you have to kind of look at it over a longer period of time. In the last three months, there has been a consistent decline in the Black unemployment rate, and the labor force participation rate has been fairly stable,” said Valerie Wilson, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s program on race, ethnicity and the economy.
“That does point to things moving in the right direction,” Wilson added.
Over the past year, wage growth has actually been historic, but that’s because the labor shortage is forcing companies to attract employees back to work. It was historically slow between 1979 and 2017, however, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).
Even before the pandemic, the cost of child care in New York had soared: The average cost of child care is $15,394, more than both the cost of in-state college tuition and average rent, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
Staff shortages are an issue districts have been dealing with across Minnesota and the rest of the country. A recent report from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute found state and local public education employment down nearly 5 percent since the start of the pandemic.
But not all of these workers are leaving the labor market. There is evidence that many are “reshuffling” — that is, moving among different jobs in the same sector, or even between sectors. According to an analysis of BLS data conducted by the Economic Policy Institute in November of 2021, hiring rates are exceeding quit rates across many sectors, which suggests that high wage growth is attracting new applicants to open positions — and that many workers are both able and willing to accept jobs that are sufficiently attractive.
Earning $15 an hour is the equivalent of $31,200 annually, if you assume the worker is scheduled 40 full hours a week for the entire year (which isn’t true for many low-wage workers). That is below what anyone needs to maintain a “modest yet adequate standard of living” in Nevada, according to a separate analysis done recently by the Economic Policy Institute.
According to findings from the Economic Policy Institute, the growth in worker productivity over the past seventy years hasn’t been mirrored by anything like a commensurate increase in wages. In recent decades, however, compensation for those now at the commanding heights of financial activity has ballooned — average Wall Street bonuses growing by an astonishing 1,743 percent since 1985 when adjusted for inflation (had the minimum wage grown at the same rate, it would currently be $61.75 rather than a meager $7.25).
According to the Economic Policy Institute, women earn 22 percent less than men, but grocery stores don’t charge women 22 percent less for groceries. Utilities don’t give us a break on our telephone, water or electricity bills because we are women and earn less. The pay gap contributes to women’s economic insecurity. When the pay gap is combined with the effects of COVID-19 on women’s employment, the result is a precarious existence for too many women.
“There is sometimes a perception that the workers who would benefit from a higher minimum wage are mostly teenagers in their first jobs,” the authors of an Economic Policy Institute report wrote. “In fact, the data show that most of the workers who would benefit from a federal increase to $15 are older and full-time workers.”
In recent years, forced arbitration clauses have become standard in many employment and consumer contracts. How many? In 2019, a study by the Economic Policy Institute, the National Employment Law Project, and the Center for Popular Democracy documented that more than half of American workers were already bound to such contracts, and projected that if the trend continued, fully 80 percent of U.S. workers would be bound by those terms by 2024.
In Massachusetts, the state where Marx worked at the time, employers are now no longer allowed to present employees with non-competes agreements after they have already accepted a job offer. But states have wildly different levels of regulation around non-competes and across the country as a whole they are quite common. Around 50 percent of employers ask their employees to sign non-competes, with some variation across different industries and wage levels, according to a 2019 Economic Policy Institute report.
But already, the $15 minimum wage is soon to be less than what most workers need to sustain themselves. According to a new family budget calculator by the Economic Policy Institute, a progressive think tank, a full-time worker in the U.S. county with the lowest cost of living, Orangeburg in South Carolina, would need to earn $14.50 an hour.
Monique Morrissey, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) who has closely studied the USPS for years, shared with me in a recent interview that she too was initially suspicious of the reform bill. Usually broad support “signals something that’s weak or ineffectual, or even bad,” she said. “Not in this case.”
According to an Economic Policy Institute report, preemption is a policy tactic more prevalent in the South and rooted in racist policymaking that prevents people of color and low-income families from expressing their needs. It’s been particularly effective in its use against workers, stopping a raise in the minimum wage in Birmingham; paid sick leave in Dallas; and fair scheduling for retail and foodservice workers in Atlanta.
According to the Economic Policy Institute’s Minimum Wage Tracker, only 12 states currently have a minimum wage above $12.50. And as the price of goods and services keeps climbing, even $15 an hour isn’t good enough. EPI says a worker needs to earn at least $14.50 an hour to cover the cost of living in America’s most affordable county (Orangeburg, South Carolina). For cities like San Francisco, New York, and even Seattle, it goes as high as $23.