A Bold New Labor Call for a ‘Maximum Wage’
The national leader of one of America’s feistiest unions is aiming to expand the economic fairness debate. He’s proposing a cap on incomes at the top that rises only if incomes at the bottom rise first.
With Labor Day fast approaching, what better time to reflect about those Americans who earn the least for their labor? These Americans — workers paid the federal minimum wage — are now taking home just $7.25 an hour.
On paper, minimum wage workers are making exactly what they made in July 2009, the last time the minimum wage bumped up. In reality, minimum wage workers are making less today than they made last year — and the year before that — since inflation has eaten away at their incomes.
And if we go back a few decades, today’s raw deal on the minimum wage gets even rawer. Back in 1968, minimum wage workers took home $1.60 an hour. To make that much today, adjusting for inflation, a minimum wage worker would have to be earning $10.55 an hour.
In effect, minimum wage workers today are taking home almost $7,000 less over the course of a year than minimum wage workers took home in 1968.
Figures like these don’t particularly discomfort our nation’s most powerful. We live in tough times, their argument goes. The small businesses that drive our economy, we’re informed, can’t possibly afford to pay their help any more than they already do.
But the vast majority of our nation’s minimum wage workers don’t labor for Main Street mom-and-pops. They labor for businesses that no average American would ever call small. Two-thirds of America’s low-wage workers, the National Employment Law Project documented last month, work for companies with over 100 employees on their payrolls.
The 50 largest of these low-wage employers are doing just fine, even with the Great Recession. Over the last five years, these 50 corporations — outfits that range from Wal-Mart to Office Depot — have together returned $175 billion to shareholders in dividends or share buybacks.
And the CEOs at these companies last year averaged $9.4 million in personal compensation. A minimum wage worker would have to labor 623 years bring in that kind of pay.
So what can we do to bring some semblance of fairness back into our workplaces? For starters, we obviously need to raise the minimum wage. But some close observers of America’s economic landscape believe we need to do more. A great deal more.
Count Larry Hanley among these more ambitious change agents. Hanley, the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, sits on the AFL-CIO executive council, the American labor movement’s top decision-making body. Earlier this month, Hanley called for a “maximum wage,” a cap on the compensation that goes to the corporate execs who profit so hugely off low-wage labor.
This maximum, if Hanley had his way, would be defined as a multiple of the pay that goes to a company’s lowest-paid worker. If we had a “maximum wage” set at 100 times that lowest wage, the CEO at a company that paid workers as little as $15,080 — the annual take-home for a minimum wage worker — could waltz off with annual pay no higher than just over $1.5 million.
During World War II, Amalgamated Transit Union president Hanley points out, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called for what amounted to a maximum wage. FDR urged Congress to place a 100 percent tax on income over $25,000 a year, a sum now equal, after inflation, to just over $350,000.
Congress didn’t go along. But FDR did end up winning a 94 percent top tax rate on income over $200,000, a move that would help usher in the greatest years of middle-class prosperity the United States has ever known.
Throughout World War II, FDR enjoyed broad support from within the labor movement — and the general public — for his pay cap notion. Now’s the time, Hanley believes, to put that notion back on the political table. We need, he says, “to start a national discussion about creating a maximum wage law.”
Hanley may just have started that discussion, just in time for Labor Day.
- Full-Time Minimum Wages Still Below Poverty Line (theepochtimes.com)
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Heather Tufts | Peace, Earth & Justice News | February 13, 2010
The climate change debate positions nuclear power as a partial solution to carbon emissions according to some scientists and politicians. Uranium mining speculation lacks comprehensive health and safety regulations while the ethics of Canadian exported uranium, which can lead to depleted uranium used in zones of war, needs greater scrutiny. Abandoned uranium mines and the subsequent hazards experienced in forgotten communities have been virtually ignored in Canada leading to tragic, unmitigated circumstances.
The long-term negative impacts of uranium mining can be witnessed in the small, rural community of Deline (North West Territories) which has a Dene population of 800 people. They are located right on the shore of Sahtu (Great Bear Lake) about 300 miles north of Yellowknife. Great Bear Lake is considered to be one of the last great fresh water lakes in the world. This area on the north shore of Sahtu was the site of radium mining from 1934 to 1939, and then a uranium mine from 1943 to 1962.
During the mining era the Dene of Deline, mostly men worked as labourers and as coolies carrying gunny sacks of radioactive uranium ore and concentrates on the transportation route. Waste from both radium and uranium mines were dumped directly into the lake and used as landfill. Port Radium was owned and operated by a Canadian crown corporation but uranium ore and concentrates were extracted, milled and sold to the US Government for the Manhattan Project to build an atomic bomb during the Second World War. … continue
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This article will examine some of the connections between the US and UK National Security apparatus and the appearance of the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) theory beginning after the accident at Three Mile Island. … continue
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