Through sweat, sacrifice, fun times and hard times, along with innovation, workers built Arizona and the nation. And we continue to make it work every day.
Our hard work and the pride we take in it shows. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the productivity of the U.S. economy grew 80 percent from 1979 to 2016.
Unfortunately though, the hourly wage for the typical worker grew by only 10.1 percent. In the past several decades the gap between economic productivity and compensation for the typical worker has grown – much different than the 1950's - 1990's.
Meanwhile, the top 1 percent has grabbed nearly 60 percent of all income gains in the last 30 years. I don't have an argument with people earning through their labor and ideas, as much as possible. But, today, most of America’s workers are working longer hours, taking on multiple jobs, and producing more goods and services. Yet their wages have not kept pace, despite record-setting corporate profits.
To make matters worse, stagnant wages have impacted middle-class families’ buying power further impeding our nation’s economic growth. Not surprisingly, this impacts children and women most.
This isn't happening due to uncontrollable changes. It's being driven by policy. Our minimum wage has been permitted to languish to ever lower levels of buying power. The last time it was raised was 10 years ago. The cost of living goes up about 2% each year. That means the same dollar has diminished its buying power by conservatively speaking about 15%.
And as we know all too well, the union movement – a primary mover of making work pay for the workers - has been under assault.
Millions of working families in Arizona struggle to get by on flat wages and disappearing benefits. Many express frustration that low-wage jobs make up the fastest-growing sectors. Others remain out of the workforce or underemployed, victims of a financial crisis they did not cause. Arizona is not funding the recovery of our economy because we are not funding education – the one door that can open up the way to higher paying jobs, new training and more employable citizens in today’s economy.
On this Labor Day, we must demand a respect for the humanity of all who labor. Arizonans can and should stand united in our belief that everyone deserves a voice on the job, a living wage and a workplace safe from harassment and abuse.