At a summit today hosted by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and The Century Foundation (TCF), Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) will underscore the urgent need to raise wages, strengthen the middle class, and rebuild American manufacturing communities. Remarks from both Sen. Gillibrand (at 9:45 a.m. ET) and Vice President Biden (at 1:00 p.m. ET) will be live-streamed here: bit.ly/HWASummit.
Two of the nation’s leading fighters for working families, Sen. Gillibrand and Vice President Biden will join hundreds of economic experts and labor, business, and community leaders, including many traveling from the Great Lakes region. The event coincides with the release of two new research reports: a federal policy agenda to revitalize manufacturing by The Century Foundation and a new survey of national and regional wage trends in recent decades by EPI.
The summit caps off TCF’s yearlong tour through Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Illinois, during which national experts met with local and state leaders to discuss strategies to help heartland communities still recovering from years of deindustrialization and disinvestment. The policy report launched today combines the lessons learned on that campaign with a 12-point, $2 billion action plan that federal lawmakers can take to help create good-paying manufacturing jobs and strengthen the region’ economy. The agenda includes policies to increase the pipeline of qualified workers, prevent layoffs and mitigate the effects of job displacement, foster high-tech manufacturing, and unlock new sources of capital directed at the Midwest.
“Neither the phenomenon of low wages, nor America’s manufacturing struggles, is the result of economic forces of nature. Rather, they are the result of conscious policy choices made by our elected leaders,” said Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at TCF’s Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative. “Fortunately, there is no shortage of responsible, proven ideas to reverse course: policies that help grow high-paying manufacturing jobs, strengthen the middle class, and expand opportunities for all Americans.”
Additionally, research today from EPI, “America’s slow-motion wage crisis,” presents new data on wage growth in recent decades, extending into the recovery from the Great Recession. The report documents the slow growth in real wages for the majority of workers since 1979, as well as the increasingly unequal nature of the wage structure across dimensions of class, race, gender, and geography. The study highlights that this slow wage growth has occurred despite significant increases in education and experience of the U.S. workforce, and points to the decline in manufacturing employment and union membership as two key forces behind stagnating wages and rising inequality.
“The vast majority of American families rely on the labor market to get the vast majority of their income,” said EPI Research Director Josh Bivens. “This means it’s crucial to understand when and how this market fails. The widespread wage crisis can be seen clearly in these data, which shed light on the fundamental nature of policy change that will be necessary to solve this crisis and restore broad-based wage growth.”
Additional speakers at the summit included American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten, former Chief Economist at the U.S. Department of Commerce Susan Helper, and chief economist at the AFL-CIO William E. Spriggs, as well as academic, think tank, labor, and business leaders. The event is presented bye the Economic Policy Institute and The Century Foundation’s Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative, with additional support provided by The Joyce Foundation, Heartland Capital Strategies, PNC Bank, and the AFL-CIO- Industrial Union Council.