Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.
You are viewing the most recent posts on this topic.
September 13, 2013 at 7:05 AM
Labor’s declining share of U.S. income is cited in political discussion as if its meaning were obvious: that specific policies, such as the “neoliberalism” of the Reagan administration of 30 years ago, or favoritism toward corporate interests, had tilted the balance in favor of capital, and that this is part of the growing inequality of American life.
First off, the share of national income to “labor” includes the work of all people in paid work, including corporate CEOs. It includes not only their salaries but their benefits, including stock options. For the statisticians, everyone who works is doing “labor.” The inequality within labor is a different question.
The declining share to labor is about all wages and salaries, high and low, as a share of all income. Most national income still goes to labor, but the share has been drifting downward for several decades.
Taylor says the trend is not exclusive to the United States. It’s happening around the world. Writes Taylor: “Looking for a ‘cause’ based on some policy of Republicans or Democrats in the U.S. almost certainly misses the point.”
One possible explainer, Taylor says, is globalization, which he says has reduced the bargaining power of labor. (I’m not so sure of this. Globalization has reduced the bargaining power of less-skilled labor in wealthier countries. I think it has increased the bargaining power of labor in poorer countries. It has certainly been good for workers in China.)
As labor’s share (still the largest) contracts in America, other, smaller components of national income have risen: more company money spent on “short-lived capital” such as computers and software; increasing dividends to stockholders and rising profit levels generally. Some of that (the dividends?) may be accounted for by the increasing percentage of retired Americans living on pensions and investments.
(Hat tip: Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution.)
September 9, 2013 at 7:39 AM
What is today’s minimum wage worth compared to wages 50 years ago?
Should the lowest-paid workers in America share more of corporate America’s profits? Seattle has become the epicenter of the national minimum-wage debate.
SeaTac voters will decide in the general election whether to raise the minimum wage for some workers in and around the airport. Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn recently turned a West Seattle Whole Foods zoning permit into a referendum on how much it pays its workers.
Unions are already pressuring the city to advance labor interests in a proposed hotel development that would replace the Greyhound bus terminal in downtown Seattle.
The argument championed by many is that the minimum wage has not kept up with inflation. U.S. Rep. Denny Heck, D-Wash., said in a recent editorial board meeting that when Martin Luther King Jr. made his “I Have a Dream” speech 50 years ago, the minimum wage was $2 per hour, and that in today’s dollars that would be worth $15.
The same argument has been made by many advocates, and even in a recent editorial board meeting discussing the issue, different numbers were thrown back and forth.
So here are the facts: The federal minimum wage was $1.25 per hour in 1963, according to U.S. Department of Labor records. If we plug that number into the department’s inflation calculator, that $1.25 would be worth $9.54 in 2013 dollars.
Not $15. Today’s equivalent is $9.54 per hour. That number is higher than the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. But it’s not that far from Washington state’s minimum wage: $9.19 per hour.
This is a worthy debate. It’s obscene how much many chief executives make compared to the median worker in the same company. It’s fair game to ask whether $1.25 was even a livable wage back in 1963. But the inflation argument does not hold water. Let’s stick with verified facts. Otherwise I could go debate climate change with the deniers.
Check out out our recent opinion essays about the minimum-wage debate:
A guest column by David Rolf, president of SEIU Healthcare 775NW, and venture capitalist Nick Hanauer, “Seattle’s on the vanguard of movement to raise minimum wage.”
A blog post by editorial writer Thanh Tan, “Raising minimum wage to an arbitrary $15 is not practical.”
A blog post by our opinion intern Osa Hale, “Why college grads also want the minimum wage to rise.”
A guest column by Interim CDA executive director Hyeok Kim, “Arguing over the wrong thing in Mike McGinn, Whole Foods debate.”
A guest column by fast-food worker Fernando Cruz, “Show respect for fast-food workers with sufficient pay.”
September 4, 2013 at 1:08 PM
I was among the tens of thousands of Seattle parents breathing a sign of relief this morning as the first bell rang and schoolhouse doors opened. My daughter, a 2nd-grader, gave me a hug and high-five, oblivious that, a day before, the Seattle Education Association was voting on deadline to accept or reject a new two-year contract with Seattle Public Schools.
From a parent’s perspective, it is beyond frustrating that something as vital as the start of the school year was uncertain until yesterday. If the contract, say, expired on July 31, rather than Aug. 31, a teachers union and district could do deadline negotiations without impacting kids, or parents. A vote the day before school may be good for leverage at the bargaining table. But it alienates parents, forced to wait until the last minute to learn if we’d need emergency back-up plans for our kids.
This dispute was also frustrating because it didn’t appear to involve strikeable issues. The final contract reflects reasonable concessions: a 6.3 percent total increase in pay over two years backfilled recent sacrifices by educators, while the school district got back 30 minutes cut from the elementary school day in the 1970s after levy failures.
The dispute also hung on the Seattle Schools’ teacher-evaluation system, which had been bargained for in the previous contract. Last spring, I heard from union officials that this ground-breaking system was a reason for the Legislature to not pass the so-called “mutual consent” bill, which would have given school principals power to block transfers of supposedly poor-performing teacher. But it re-emerged as a key issue in negotiations, with the union seeking to limit use of some standardized test scores in evaluations. The final deal, again, found a middle ground, reflecting that it wasn’t really a make-or-break issue.
Earlier this summer, I heard an education reform advocate suggest that it was impossible for a student to get a consistently high-quality education in the Seattle Schools district. Maybe a great elementary experience, or middle school or high school, but sooner or later a parent would have to turn to private schooling.
July 5, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Our Independence Day editorial doesn’t mince words. Now is the time for the U.S. House to give full consideration to the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform package, S. 744.
Remember how Latinos overwhelmingly supported Democrats during the 2012 elections? Afterward, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., called on the GOP to “modernize” and be more inclusive of minorities. Now is her party’s chance to do something substantive, and it’s stalling…
Some politicians might be too caught up in their own self-interests to take timely action. The Wall Street Journal reports only 38 of 234 House Republicans nationwide represent districts where Latinos represent 20 percent or more of the population. Those representatives have nothing to lose by stalling.
An overhaul of the system is long overdue and should include a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million people living and working in the shadows, including roughly 230,000 undocumented immigrants in Washington state.
Here’s a link to that Wall Street Journal report cited in the editorial. If you’re looking for an easy-to-read, concise breakdown of what’s in the Senate’s bill, I suggest reading this summary by the Migration Policy Institute.
Here’s an Associated Press interactive on U.S. immigration policy, including a searchable listing by state showing how senators voted. Washington senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell both voted for passage.
The bill isn’t perfect, but it’s a start. The process of becoming a full-fledged American will be anything but easy. (more…)