fresh voices from the front lines of change







The Economic Policy Institute released a report today titled, The Legislative Attack on American Wages and Labor Standards, 2011–2012. The report was written by Gordon Lafer, EPI research associate and associate professor at the University of Oregon. According to the report state legislators across the country have launched an unprecedented series of initiatives aimed at lowering labor standards, weakening unions, and eroding workplace protections.

Similar Legislation In Many States

The report shows how “similarities in how analogous bills have been advanced in multiple states … establishes the extent to which legislation emanates not from state officials responding to local economic conditions, but from an economic and policy agenda fueled by national corporate lobbies that aim to lower wages and labor standards across the country.”

The report “establishes that their agenda is driven by political strategies rather than fiscal necessities.”


EPI also held an event to announce the report. Here are a few of the notable comments from this event:

EPI VP Ross Eisenbrey:

“Wages have stagnated even through national economic growth.”

“The top 1% takes 22% of the national income.”

“The bottom 60% is poorer than 20 years ago.

“Wage stagnation causes include: bad trade agreements, bad policy, deregulation… leading to steep declines in wages for unionized workers and workers outside of unions.”

Gorden Lafer:

“The most powerful corporations have been pushing to lower wages and benefits.”

“1 out of 5 people in the private sector make less comparatively to 1965 (regarding minimum wage).”

“New Hampshire, South Dakota, and Indiana all passed laws undermining minimum wage in 2011-2012.”

“Four states have passed laws in the past two years expanding the use of child labor. (Including Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota).”

“There is more than two times the amount of money stolen out of workers’ paychecks than money lost in bank, gas station, and convenience store robberies combined.”

“64% of low wage workers have had some amount of money not paid to them.” (from expected paychecks)

“40 million American workers do not have paid sick leave.”

“Even 57% of Republicans support at least some paid sick leave.”

“10 states have laws prohibiting people to vote on bills regarding the right to sick leave.” (2011-2013)

“16 states have cut unemployment insurance.” (2011-2013)

Virginia Assembly General Delegate Patrick Hope:

“Privatization tends to lower the wages of those who do the services.”

“When the public sector gets cut down there is negative spillover in the economy.”

If you want to look at people’s tweets from the event click here.

This is a video of the event:


Key Findings

Some of the report’s key findings include:

  • Four states have passed laws restricting the minimum wage, four lifted restrictions on child labor, and 16 imposed new limits on benefits for the unemployed.
  • States also passed laws stripping workers of overtime rights, repealing or restricting rights to sick leave, undermining workplace safety protections, and making it harder to sue one’s employer for race or sex discrimination.
  • Legislation has been pursued making it harder for employees to recover unpaid wages (i.e., wage theft) and banning local cities and counties from establishing minimum wages or rights to sick leave.

(Emily Foster attend the event and contributed research and notes for this post.)

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