I believe in the dignity of work and a worker’s right to a fair wage. Income inequality, the collapse of the American middle class, the decoupling of increased productivity and growth in wages pose a destabilizing risk to our democracy and the security of our citizens. Wages have remained stagnant for decades while corporate profits and the cost of living have soared. In 1980, the top 1% of Americans earned on average 27 times more than the bottom 50%, while today they earn 81 times more.[1] The average income for Americans in the bottom 50% has stagnated at $16,000 for over 35 years. In Indiana, the entire bottom 99% earn on average 16.5 times less than those in the top 1%.[2] From 1979 to 2007, the top 1% of Hoosiers experienced income growth at 115.3%, while the bottom 99% only experienced it at 12.6%. The top 1% of Hoosiers have captured almost half of the income growth across the last three decades. We must change this trajectory by advocating for a higher minimum wage, writing laws that empower workers, and recognizing the dignity and importance of work. We must make the American Dream accessible for all.

In order to advance a pro-worker agenda, we must promote policies that strengthen organized labor. Some key goals of a pro-worker agenda include:

  • A secure retirement: Workers pay into Social Security and set aside money for their pensions every single day. These are critical hallmarks of helping Americans enjoy dignity in their retirement. We must protect and expand Social Security and defend pensions from proposed spending cuts.
  • Fair tax and trade policies: all trade deals should seek to increase wages, improve working conditions, and protect workplace rights. Tariffs should be only be employed strategically to support America’s workers, farmers and manufacturers. Trade deals and tax policies should not benefit corporations at the expense of workers.
  • Serious investment in our nation’s infrastructure: invest in technology for our public schools, fix our bridges and roads, improve and grow rail and public transit systems, expand broadband internet access, bring America’s electrical grid into the 21st century.
  • Ending wage theft: We must conduct proper oversight and take appropriate action to stop employers from intentionally misclassifying their employees in order to reduce labor costs and avoid paying state and federal taxes. All employees should receive the benefits they earn through the Fair Labor Standards Act. Independent contractors are not protected by the National Labor Relations Act, so when workers are misclassified as contractors, they become victims of corporate greed.

When people can join unions and collectively organize and bargain for better wages and benefits, it leads to a more prosperous and equitable society.

[1] Piketty et al. 2016, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) Working Paper No. 22945, http://www.nber.org/papers/w22945

[2] Sommeiller et al. 2016, Economic Policy Institute (EPI), Income inequality in the US by state, metropolitan area, and county, http://www.epi.org/publication/income-inequality-in-the-us/