Archive Hosted by the AFL-CIO

Tuesday Talk: Closing the wage gap Q and A

June 11, 2013 By Joe Sheeran, Communications Director

Overnight, non-unionized janitorial workers at many of the region’s retailers began picketing for fairer wages and better working conditions. These types of stories, where people work harder and longer for a smaller paycheck, are becoming too common. For Minnesota to remain prosperous, we must reverse the increasing wage disparity trend. But how?

This morning between 8:00-9:30, SEIU policy specialist David Zaffrann will be standing by to answer your questions about the best ways to raise standards for low wage jobs and create a path to the middle class.

Weigh in with your questions.

Or tell us what you think is most effective (union organizing, political action, boycotts) in raising the standard of living for workers.  

Thanks for participating! Commenting on this conversation is now closed.


  • Peter Rachleff says:

    June 11, 2013 at 6:29 am

    The first key is to NOT rely on “the market.”  There, the people who enter with the most power will enjoy the most benefits.  ACTION of some sort, many sorts, is necessary—and possible.  In my neighborhood on the East Side of Saint Paul, some of us have formed an “Equity Committee” of the Dayton’s Bluff Community Council, and we have written, put forward, and secured the adoption of a policy statement, a set of standards, that we expect all businesses—new and pre-existing—abide by: the creation of full-time jobs which pay living wages and provide health benefits; the hiring of neighborhood residents and the creation of a workforce which reflects the racial, national, and ethnic diversity of the neighborhood.  We hope to circulate our policy statement to other neighborhood councils in an effort to establish city-wide standards from the bottom up.  It is inspiring to see retail workers themselves, big box cleaners, warehouse workers, retail sales associates, sandwich makers, and more, organizing themselves with the support of unions.  We very much need the support of customers, consumers, and shoppers.  Vote with our dollars, speak up, stand with these workers.  The remarkable thing, the encouraging dynamic, from an organizing rather than a “market” point of view, is that they make their own lives better, our lives will get better, too.  (Unless we are members of the Walton families, the 1%.)

  • KJC says:

    June 11, 2013 at 7:41 am

    This is one of the most crucial issues of our time.  As has been said before in history: “necessitous men, are not free men.”  The American Dream must be revived, and we must transform at least 30 years of “neglect.”  We must build coalitions, and have actions.  I say?  Start anywhere!  Ultimately we need a macro-economic policy that supports our social compact… not gravely undermines it, like it does now.  As the coalition gets built, and gets bigger and stronger… we need to shift public perception and opinion… and then we change our laws to accomplish this, long-term.  Example?  A law that says?  “If you want to sell here, you will employ here.”  Note we don’t have to negotiate with China to do that, and there are no new import duties… so this doesn’t start a trade war.  It will just make Capital need Labor again, and ensure some real economic patriotism, and that unity will restore the “in it together” context that makes our country great (when it really is true.)  We the People.
    P.S. We sure can’t expect the accident that brought about the end of the similar “Gilded Age” one hundred years ago to save us this time.  (Republican) T. Roosevelt want to break-up the trusts/monopolies saying that they’d gotten to powerful.  So?  Moneyed interests thought they could cleverly sideline him by making him V.P.  A position with few actual powers.  Then, mere months into office, McKinley (the President) was shot and died… and T. Roosevelt became President, and did exactly what Big Business feared: break-up the monopolies and place more limits on their power and influence.  We can not count on an accident-of-history like this to happen again, to get us out of this.

  • David Zaffrann says:

    June 11, 2013 at 7:59 am

    Why is it so important that we raise standards for low wage jobs and create a new path to the middle class? It’s worth taking a step back to look at the big picture:

    Last month, the unemployment rate ticked UP again to 7.6%. At our current pace of job growth, it will take more than 6 years for the country to get back down to its pre-recession jobless rate

    What’s more, the unemployment rate does NOT take into account anyone who has given up looking for work and/or anyone on long-term disability. One of the alarming points made in NPR’s Planet Money piece on the startling rise in disability is how many laid-off workers are encouraged to get on disability where they will no longer show up in unemployment statistics.

    So our economy is not even recovering as well as we think it is. And the jobs that HAVE been created since the recovery began? Half of them are low-wage.

    • Joe says:

      June 11, 2013 at 8:03 am

      Dave, what is the first step forward for low wage workers, strikes, political action, civil disobedience?

      • David Zaffrann says:

        June 11, 2013 at 8:13 am

        I think there are two key ways in which low wage workers and those who support them can make progress, the most important of which is direct action, as you suggest. (The other is policy and politics, which I will get into later).

        As the top of the page mentions, retail janitors in Minneapolis went on strike overnight over unfair labor practices and unpaid overtime wages

        This follows on the heels of fast food strikes in six cities and in the midst of a strike by Wal-Mart workers. What is remarkable about ALL of these strikes as that none of these workers are union members and as such, have very little legal protection.

        While retail janitors have clearly stated that they want the right to form a union, fast food workers have made no such demand but are instead striking for better wages directly.

  • Dan Conner says:

    June 11, 2013 at 8:11 am

    While the widening wealth and earnings in the US is well documented and published, it seems glaringly obvious the abnormally low minimum wage is adding to the accelerating divide between the haves and have nots.  The minimum wage needs to be boosted to the $22.00/hr that would have occurred if it had kept up with inflation.  This will not only lift many people from poverty, but it will also reduced the earnings and wealth gap in the country. 

    An additional benefit of the minimum wage boost would be a significant and profound boost in our economy, with its ensuing growth of the middle-class and the number of jobs.  I think it is time to test the “patriotism” of the wealthy and see if their can actually do the selfLESS act to grow our economy, while doing the right thing.  My bet is they will continue their selfish and greedy ways.

    It’s time the Federal Government order what the rich selfishly refuse to do…serve all the people, instead of the few.

    • David Zaffrann says:

      June 11, 2013 at 8:21 am

      You hit the nail on the head when it comes to the economic policies in our country that reinforce our income and wealth disparities.

      Our national minimum wage is a poverty wage. Our state minimum wage in Minnesota is even lower.

      But it goes beyond that. We have no universal health care coverage akin to other industrialized nations. We also have no vacation policy, Or paid parental leave.

      And, for as wealthy of a country as we are, we stand out for how many of our citizens cannot afford food

      But what to do about it? Our national political system currently seems incapable of addressing any of these problems due to partisan gridlock and the supermajority rules of our Senate.

      Things won’t change on a national level unless and until there is the political demand for it. That is why more and more low-wage workers are taking direct action to call attention to the unlivable standards of their jobs. They have reached a breaking point.

      • Dan Conner says:

        June 11, 2013 at 12:37 pm

        Well, we obviously have to deal with the problem politically.  We have to elect progressives and get the corruption out of our political system.  Right now, it’s not one person one vote.  It’s one dollar one vote.  The ignorant have to be informed.

    • David Zaffrann says:

      June 11, 2013 at 9:08 am

      Also, before anyone sees $22/hr for the minimum wage and thinks that that’s crazy, consider this: if the minimum wage had kept pace with worker productivity since the ‘70s, it would currently $21.72.

      $21.72. Yet the federal minimum wage is $7.25, almost exactly 1/3 what it should be.

      So where has all that increased worker productivity gone? Straight into corporate profits and CEO pay. Minimum wage workers aren’t employed by small “mom & pop” employers but by large, profitable corporations.

      CEO pay, meanwhile, is now “more out of whack than ever”

      The ratio of CEO-to-worker-pay has increased 1000% since 1950, and averages somewhere between 200x to 350x. Wal-Mart’s CEO, Mike Duke, makes over 1,000 times more than the average Wal-Mart store employee.

  • Samuel Wilmes says:

    June 11, 2013 at 8:22 am

    While it’s important to move people into the middle, how do we also stop people in the middle from sliding into poverty?

    • David Zaffrann says:

      June 11, 2013 at 8:33 am

      Much of our middle class has already been hollowed out over the last 30 years as manufacturing jobs have been shipped overseas and our economy has transitioned increasingly to service sector jobs. That is why it is so important that those jobs - the jobs that are here to stay in service sectors like retail or home care - become strong, middle class jobs that can support a family.

      And despite the dominant narrative about the American middle class, it didn’t happen on accident or because of a set of proactive policies put in place by benevolent politicians. Our middle class was created by a burgeoning labor movement early in the last century - one that forced our national political system to react and catch up.

    • Dan Conner says:

      June 11, 2013 at 12:43 pm

      I think the solution for moving more people into the middle-class and preventing people in the middle class from sliding down are the same.  Redistributing income down will cause more and more consumption and more and more employment.  Then the completion for employees will increase wages.  Our problem with shrinking wages, fewer middle-class people are due to a redistribution of income upward, where consumers spend an ever decreasing percentage of their disposable income.  Give money tot the poor and middle-class and there will be an economic boom.

      • Dan Cooner says:

        June 11, 2013 at 1:08 pm

        The trouble with iPads is that they change words to completely irrelevant words at times.  In the third sentence I meant “competition” instead of “completion”.

  • David Zaffrann says:

    June 11, 2013 at 8:24 am

    While we are chatting this morning, retail janitors are on strike in Minneapolis. You can follow updates on Facebook here or directly on their website here.

    Want to support the striking janitors? Join them on their picket line in downtown Minneapolis at 9th & Nicollet until 10AM today, or this afternoon from 4-7PM. Or donate to their strike fund here.

  • Ron Goldser says:

    June 11, 2013 at 8:31 am

    Several problems are present here. First, the disparity between earnings of top corporate executives compared to employees must be better controlled. Having shareholders vote on pay packages is a nice start, but does not get far enough. Second, if employers treated their employees better, there would be no need for unions. But they don’t, so unions are essential. Right to work laws interfere with union rights. Third, it would be nice to raise the minimum wage, but IMHO, it is hard to raise wages in some jobs without raising prices. Fourth, and perhaps most important, improving educational opportunities for all will raise skill levels, and therefor income. There will always be segments of the economy who are best suited to lower wage levels, based on skills, abilities, or other factors. And there will always be some jobs where wages cannot be raised. But educating those who have the ability to be elevated will enhance wages for a large segment of the population.

    • David Zaffrann says:

      June 11, 2013 at 8:38 am

      We must make our education system the best it can possibly be, and make college affordable again for low- and middle-income families after a decade or more of skyrocketing tuition.

      But higher education is not the silver bullet it once was, in part due to its lack of affordability. Alarmingly, 1/3 of millennials recently polled said they would have been better off working rather than going to college and taking out loans:

      ALL working people - regardless of educational level - deserve the right to make a living for their work.

      • Joe says:

        June 11, 2013 at 8:46 am

        Yes, education is important to improving one’s options in life. However, jobs that pay low wages will still be around and in need of doing. Part of the solution involves making sure these jobs provide a living wage, to help boost people out of poverty.

    • Joan Bindner says:

      June 11, 2013 at 9:52 am

      There are scores of educated people who still cannot find jobs commensurate with their abilities, and are forced to take lower wage jobs.

    • Dan Conner says:

      June 11, 2013 at 1:01 pm

      I would propose a further step be taken to control executive pay.  The boards of directors are an ineffective and largely patronizing way of dealing with executive pay.  Directors are screened off from the physical operation of the business and are at the mercy of the CEO for information.  This creates a co-dependency and disconnect from the business.  In fact, many of the major corporations have quarterly board meetings in exotic places, far removed from production.  Much of the time is recreation and doting over board members.

      It would be far more productive, efficient, and beneficial to the bottom-line and economy if employees had a collective say in executive performance.  After all, this is where the “rubber meets the road.”  Employee feedback, together with traditional statistical feedback will better inform and connect board members with the business.  Also, it will improve employee treatment.  There will be more of an incentive to better take care of employees when the executive knows the board will be apprised of employee ratings of executives.  Who knows, they might even sacrifice some of their own ridiculous compensation to better take care of employee.  I think the Costco business model is an outstanding example.

      • Joan Bindner says:

        June 11, 2013 at 3:43 pm

        I totally agree, Dan!

  • Andrea Cecconi says:

    June 11, 2013 at 8:34 am

    How far do living wage ordinances go towards helping the problem? Clearly, workers ae taking action themselves to require more of employers. But with the employment system reliant on (often unaccountable) third-party vendors, is there a viable policy or legal mechanism to support workers who demand a living wage? In short, in addition to employers, are there steps we should take to make sure policy makers have to confront the economic realities of low wage workers?

    • David Zaffrann says:

      June 11, 2013 at 8:46 am

      Living wage ordinances are an important tool to help raise the floor for many workers, but they typically only apply to jobs funded in whole or in part by public dollars in that municipality, so their impact is limited. That is why minimum wage laws and other job standards (e.g. sick days in some cities) are so important.

      These ordinances also create a patchwork effect, where standards vary from one city to the next, which creates a whole new set of incentives and loopholes for employers to exploit.

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    June 11, 2013 at 8:41 am

    I think we need to un-elect anti-worker right-wing politicians at every election and replace them with leaders who support right of workers to organize and to receive a living wage.

    SEIU and other unions (perhaps especially the Communications Workers) do much to support workers’ rights.  The AFL/CIO, however, has recently taken a giant step backward by supporting the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement—the agreement that Public Citizen has rightly called “NAFTA on Steroids.”  It will make it easier for corporations to offshore jobs and will allow corporations to, for instance, sue our country for the loss of “anticipated profits” if we insist they obey our labor and environmental laws.

    Might SEIU take on the job of educating the AFL/CIO and help publicize the injury this agreement will do?  Our government has been negotiating it in secret with proposed member countries and 600 corporate representatives, but has kept the Congress and the public in the dark except for one set of documents leaked to Public Citizen in May 2012.  As I read their Trade blog, all member countries will cede to corporations the right to set world trade policy for their advantage only.

    • Bernice Vetsch says:

      June 12, 2013 at 8:29 am

      Excuse me!! 

      I recalled this morning that it was not the TPP that the AFL-CIO membership endorsed but increased pipeline construction (in general, not specific projects).  President Trunka, however, said that the Keystone pipeline did not pose an environmental threat in the U.S. and that what environmentalists opposed was the damage done by its extraction in Canada.

      • Dan Conner says:

        June 14, 2013 at 12:41 pm

        Trumpka is a union executive with a vested interest.  He views Keystone XL in terms of union jobs.  He feels that offsets pipeline risks.  I don’t.  Besides, there will be very very few permanent jobs created.

        There will be pipeline leaks.  It is transmitted under enormous pressure (3000 PSI) contains extremely corrosive chemicals and abrasive sand.  That will quickly wear out the pipeline.

        Also, the bitumin transmitted in the pipeline is not suitable to refining to gasoline.  Infact, the Houston area Koch refinery where that oil is destined o nlt refines the oil into #4 diesel fuel.  That fuel can’t even be sold in the US because of its polluting qualities.  I understand the #4 diesel is destined for China.  So, where is the beneift for the US?

        In addition, to not increasing oil supply into the US, the Keystone XL pipeline will cause gasoline prices to increase in the Midwest.  That’s because segments of pipelines supplying oil to Midwest refineries will be diverted and used for Canadia Tar Sands oil.  In that respect, the pipeline is a lose, lose, lose, lose for the American people, but a big win for the Koch brothers.  As a sidenote, The Koch brothers want Keystone XL so they can dump Venezuelan crude, which is $16/barrel more.  So, Kocks ask the Americfan public to underwrite thei8r profit with all the risk to be assumed by the taxpayers.

  • Jen says:

    June 11, 2013 at 8:46 am

    What are the chances that we pass a decent minimum wage bill next session?

    • David Zaffrann says:

      June 11, 2013 at 9:15 am

      I always think that the chances we pass anything are dependent on how much we put into making that happen. None of the progress made in this year’s legislative session happened on accident - there were lots of people working actively on almost every single important piece of legislation passed this year, from the Freedom to Marry bill to the “ban the box” bill, to the Homeowners Bill of Rights, to All Day Kindergarten, to closing corporate tax loopholes.

      By most accounts a minimum wage bill came close to happening, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a lot of work to do. The House bill as it stands (all unpassed bills remain active for next year’s legislative session) is much stronger than the Senate bill, $9.50 per hour compared to $7.75.

      We should all make this a top priority for next year as we talk to our State Representatives and State Senators!

  • David Zaffrann says:

    June 11, 2013 at 8:58 am

    I want to take a minute to call attention to another low-wage job sector that is a burgeoning sector of our state and national economy: home care. We recently worked on a bill that was passed by the legislature that extends collective bargaining rights to many home care workers, and in doing so we asked PHI to take a look at Minnesota’s home care workforce.

    Their report found that the Personal Care Aide and Home Health Aide occupations will account for 13% of all job growth in MN over the current decade (2010-2020). They are the two fastest growing occupations in the state, dwarfing all others. (Retail workers are #4).

    These are jobs that typically pay about $10 per hour with little or no appreciable benefits.

    The report states that “Like other historically important workforces—such as textile workers, miners, railroad laborers, and steel and automotive workers —the size of today’s direct-care workforce is such that it will help shape the 21st century economy. The enormity of this workforce, and its importance for Minnesota’s economy, cannot be overstated.”

    As retail workers take action across the country at Wal-Mart and fast food restaurants, home care workers in Minnesota now have the right that many of those workers are fighting for: the right to form a union and improve their jobs.

    • Joan Bindner says:

      June 11, 2013 at 10:05 am

      I’m a retail worker….started out at $7.45 an hour, and got a raise after a whole year to $7.67 an hour.  I wanted to point out that the only full time workers are management and “Department Leaders”, and wage raises are not contingent on how well you do….that doesn’t matter.  The hours given are a roller coaster ride and the cycle of poverty continues.  Also, the county where I live gives out a notoriously low amount of food stamps so I’m dependent on the food shelves, which gives out expired food.  I got diarrhea from expired Ocean Spray juice.  And the cycle of poverty continues.

  • Tom Hayes says:

    June 11, 2013 at 9:01 am

    States with Stronger Unions Have Stronger Middle Classes 

    The well-documented correlation is long-established.  There are employers who treat their employees with respect, but those focused on the bottom line to bolster their quarterly reports or their annual bonuses are all too often guilty of taking advantage of the people they pay and offering them “deals” they’d never accept for themselves.

    Unions provide the best leverage their is, although if more employers showed genuine concern for their entire workforce unions - which wouldn’t exist in an ideal world - would atrophy.

  • David Zaffrann says:

    June 11, 2013 at 9:27 am

    Why are retail janitors with CTUL on strike today in Minneapolis? Many reasons: unpaid overtime, OSHA violations like locking workers inside stores and refusing to allow them to leave, denial of breaks, and now retaliation against their efforts to form a union.

    What makes these abuses particularly egregious and unfair is the fact that janitors who clean the office buildings next door make an average of $13.92 per hour with health insurance, vacation, and sick days as members of SEIU Local 26. “They’ve got decent wages and benefits, and we deserve the same thing,” said Bonifacio Salinas. “We should all be making that.”

    But retail giants have long successfully used cleaning subcontractors to drive down standards and cut costs while escaping any accountability for their decisions.

  • David Zaffrann says:

    June 11, 2013 at 9:32 am

    I am signing off. Thank you for all of your comments and questions, and keep the discussion going throughout the day! You can also reach me on Twitter @dzaffrann

  • Mike Downing says:

    June 11, 2013 at 9:53 am

    The most effective way of raising the standard of living and decreasing the wage gap is through education in STEM classes. We can only maintain our high standard of living through being more efficient and productive than the rest of the world.

    We cannot accomplish this with more social workers,  English,Political Science, Sociology, Psychology, Geography majors, government workers and lawyers. We desperately need students graduating in STEM disciplines to maintain our society and standard of living.

    • Joan Bindner says:

      June 11, 2013 at 10:09 am

      Can you please explain what STEM is?

      • Micahel Peterson says:

        June 11, 2013 at 10:32 am

        Math and science fields, the typical “hard sciences.” As far as needing to move toward those, I’m not sure I agree. Forcing students into those fields may help us compete with the rest of the world, but is that really all we’re after? Or should we be re-evaluating what it is we’re placing value on? All of this does nothing for the low-wage earners though, where all the knowledge in the world won’t move you up to a living wage.

        • Joan Bindner says:

          June 11, 2013 at 10:48 am

          That is so true, Micahel (it’s not Michael?) and it may be better to take “salesmanship” classes so you can learn what will really get you a job….bs’ing your way into one!  Of course, you still need to have the ability to actually perform.

          • KJC says:

            June 11, 2013 at 11:15 am

            Great to see a lively discussion, on such a crucial topic.  The WSJ has a great op-ed piece today: “Fiscal Fixes for the Jobless Recovery,” which I’d recommend.  It’s written by Alan Blinder who is an economics professor and a former Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve.
            In addition to taking a stand with our actions, we need to find ways to get our macroeconomic policies to support our social contract… not undermine it, as it does now.
            I am reminded of 100 years ago, January 1914.  Henry Ford…with thousands at the gates looking for work…does what?  He doubles wages to $5/day and cuts an hour off.  He says that for our system to work that people need to be able to buy what they make and have the time to do so.  He’s saying?  That prosperity comes from increased productivity….AND if that prosperity isn’t shared with those who produced it (the workers) that it isn’t sustainable.  How big a move was this for him with Ford?  He took $10M of the previous year’s $26M profit and made it wages.  Yes, nearly 40%.  He was no liberal in anyway, this was just a hard-nosed good-for-business in-the-long-run decision on his part.
            Do I have to point out what % of their productivity improvement American workers have gotten the last 30 years?  If you want the productivity vs. wages graph (1964-2008) just ask, I’ll post it.  I can tell what it shows:  wages nearly stagnant since 1970 while productivity climbs and climbs… and just as Henry Ford would have predicted… our national prosperity has consequently stagnated. 

            • Joan Bindner says:

              June 11, 2013 at 3:45 pm

              I would LOVE for you to post that graph, KJC!  If it’s not too much trouble…

          • Michael Peterson says:

            June 11, 2013 at 11:16 am

            Whoops, caught me on a typo there. And really, in most jobs it is the people skills that matter, as well as being able to learn new skills that school isn’t necessarily going to teach you. The answer isn’t simply increasing efficiency and output, we already do that.

        • Mike Downing says:

          June 12, 2013 at 9:19 am

          Once again I need to remind readers that the title of this topic is “closing-the-wage-gap”. One cannot close the wage gap with more English, Poli Sci, Sociology, etc. majors.

      • Mike Downing says:

        June 12, 2013 at 9:21 am

        STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering & Math

    • Dan Conner says:

      June 11, 2013 at 1:22 pm

      I am surprised at the intrusive answer about increasing wages are by using the government/educational system to increase the science, math, technology, and engineering.  I thought the free-enterprise resolves all?  I think this illustrates that laissez-faire free enterprise is not the answer to everything and a little socialism isn’t so bad.,

  • Mike Downing says:

    June 11, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    I wonder what were the majors of the “highly educated” unemployed? Were they in English, Social Studies, Political Science, Sociology, Psychology, Geography, Pre-Law, etc.?

  • Mike Downing says:

    June 11, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    STEM stands for the disciplines that the U.S. desperately needs to compete in the world: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

    We are falling behind China, India, Japan, Korea and even Europe. Our students became lazy expecting jobs from training in non-STEM disciplines.

  • Mike Downing says:

    June 11, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    Please explain your justification for taking from those who studied hard, worked hard and sacrificed to get degrees in STEM disciplines (B.S. & M.S. in Chem E for myself) and give it to those who wasted their educational opportunities?

    • Agata Miszczyk says:

      June 11, 2013 at 3:23 pm

      As important as the hard sciences are, we cannot live and function in a world filled with chemists, biologists, doctors, and engineers alone. The degrees that you deem worthless (English, Poli Sci, Sociology, etc.) are also important in maintaining balance and in providing services to the population.

      Students studying non-STEM subjects are not wasting their educational opportunities and are by no means working less hard than STEM students. Additionally, there are high-level, high-paying jobs based on social science degrees.

      With that being said, I think your bashing of the social sciences strayed very far from the original post regarding unions, minimum wage, and the wage disparity.

      • Joan Bindner says:

        June 11, 2013 at 5:15 pm

        Very well said, Agata!

      • Mike Downing says:

        June 12, 2013 at 9:17 am

        Once again I need to remind readers that the title of this topic is “closing-the-wage-gap”. One cannot close the wage gap with more English, Poli Sci, Sociology, etc. majors. In fact, these majors have a very difficult time paying off their student loans.

        • Agata Miszczyk says:

          June 12, 2013 at 11:45 am

          So you are saying there is enough demand for all 155 million people in the US Labor Force to be employed in four fields? All 155 million people would be working in the science or tech industries and getting paid a high salary?

          Where would you get your news from? (remember no more journalists or reporters) What would you live in? (Not a house since there would be no architects and contractors) Who would be in charge of local, state, and national governments and agencies? (No more policy makers) etc…

          • Mike Downing says:

            June 12, 2013 at 2:24 pm

            I understand your need to exaggerate to make a silly point. Did I ever say anything like 100% of students be in STEM?

            Yes, we need to dramatically increase the number of students in STEM and dramatically reduce the number of students in English, psychology, sociology, poll sci, etc. in order to maintain our high standard of living.

            • Agata Miszczyk says:

              June 12, 2013 at 5:06 pm

              I agree that the US is falling behind in terms of science and math education. US students’ test scores continuously lag behind Asian and European nations.

              My point was that social science degrees are not worthless or a “wasted educational opportunity”. I hope you learn to appreciate and value this type of education, as it is vital to our society.

              • Mike Downing says:

                June 13, 2013 at 8:15 am

                Oh, I appreciate social studies. They were the easiest classes that I ever took in undergraduate & graduate school.

    • Michael Peterson says:

      June 12, 2013 at 8:29 am

      I really hope you understand just how much of a slap in the face a statement like that is to every student not involved in STEM majors. Suggesting that social sciences, arts, education and other disciplines are wastes of education is frankly insulting, and probably not a great argument to continue around here.

      • Mike Downing says:

        June 12, 2013 at 9:24 am

        Then you must simply accept the “wage gap”, the high unemployment of non STEM students and the inability to pay off student loans from non STEM studies.

        • Michael Peterson says:

          June 12, 2013 at 9:57 am

          Some wage gap is fine, but high unemployment is not something I need to accept, or the consequences thereof. As we covered in hindsight, this unemployment is not structural, less than 3% of vacancies are unfilled. What we have is cyclical unemployment that is subject to the policies of companies, and no amount of education is going to fix that. We need to change what we’re investing in, rather than forcing subjects on students.

    • Dan Conner says:

      June 24, 2013 at 1:19 pm

      Redistributing wealth to lower earning people is to benefit ALL PEOPLE, including the rich.  As consumption increases, so does the wealth for the rich.  It’s just that the rich start doing their share to to see that our economy.  Redistributing money to the poor means the rich turn from takers to makers/givers.  Right now they do not contribute their share to society.  And I thought Republicans admire makers/givers?

      As far as sacrifice is concerned.  I think the rich can jump off their self-styled cross and become more connected to realize most everyone sacrifices in our country.  In fact, many of the poorer people work harder than the rich everyday.  Generally speaking, people who have been raised in difficult circumstances, and had to work really hard, have empathy for those in a similar plight.  They know what a difficult plight the poor have.

  • Mike Downing says:

    June 11, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    Where do people get their warped and delusional views of corporate executives and board of directors? As a former executive and a former board member, I can attest to the fact that 99+% of people have no idea of the training, hard work, travel schedules, etc. of executives. Ignorance is bliss!

    • tony says:

      June 11, 2013 at 6:17 pm

      I see Mike is thumbing his nose at all the non-stem people. My son who has 4 degrees in English & Writing worked every bit as hard as the average STEM grad. He now teaches English Lit. & his average work schedule is about 65-70 hours a week. I now a number of STEM trained people who worked hard & lost their jobs to STEM grads from India who will work their job for $30000 a year or the job is shipped to India. STEM isnt the only answer. It also answers nothing for the carpenters, road builders, tool & die makers who have watched their salaries stay flat since Reagan. Unions are the way our parents leveled the playing field & we must return to those days. That and a government that is interested in employing Americans in American factories again. Germnay is very successful, is at the top of the list in exports, salaries are good & every board has employees on it to hold CEO salaries in check. We need to learn from their example

    • Dan Conner says:

      June 14, 2013 at 12:27 pm

      The [edit] response to “executives work hard too” is childish.  First, their hypocritical assault on the working poor about work ethic and that they want the Government to take care of them is dead wrong along with their “dish it out, but not able to take it” mentality.  I think a group of self-annointed elites need to be able to take criticism, when they are so willing to give it.  They want to evaluate, but not want to be evaluated.

      When I read a sychophant response from someone who childishly touts the work ethic of the CEO, when they are paid nearly 500 times as much as the workers their company employees, I interpret it as a childish and baseless self-congratulations.

      Now, what have the American people, or stockholders for that matter, received for their exorbitant executive pay.  Let’[s see, there was an entire banking system that needed to be bailed out by taxpayers, an automobile industry bailed out by the taxpayer, along with the largest insurnace company in the world who was bankrupted.  This doesn’t even include the hundreds of companies who gave enormous bonuses to executives destite tanking companies.  Executives seem to be far more representative of the “good ‘ol boy” syndrome than successful leadership.

      Now, how have executives returned their good fortunes?  Usually by hiding money in illegal foreign bank accounts and using quasi-legal loopholes they exploited to avoid taxes.  This certainly isn’t patriotism.

      Then, to assert that “STEM” is the end all in economic prosperity is silly.  The ignorance of history enables the political right’s tendency to repeat it.  English/grammar is what enabled those STEM graduates to be literate.  Political science and civics is what would have enabled Tea Party better understand government and the Constitution.  There are many many others.  To engage in a self-congratulatory puffery about one’s self-importance and superiority because of an education perception is arrogant and ignorant.

      Inflated self-importance because one has been an executive who has served on boards is foolish.  I too have served on boards.  I have served as a executive.  While the vast majority of them to be modest, I find an ever increasing minority who view themselves as “special” and superior to others.  Nothing is further from the truth.  Frankly, it is a prime reason for the decline of business in the US.  They spend so much time with self-congratulations, finding scapegoats for their failures and policizing board meetings, they spend little meaningful time running the company.  Instead, they insolate themselves from company operations with innumerable aids, assistants, vice presidents, financial officers, operations officers, etc. they have little connection with production.  Ask the owner and recently retired of Costco.

      I generally find CEO’s grossly overpaid and underworked.  It is an overworked rationale that they even work when they are playing.  And there is a lot of time for playing.  Executive humility and appreciation would be a truly appreciated and underused executive quality.

      • Mike Downing says:

        June 14, 2013 at 2:05 pm

        My generation looked up to successful individuals. We used them as mentors & coaches and were grateful that they taught us the way to be successful. Gratitude was a virtue and we were thankful for our many blessings.

        Why are you so bitter, angry and jealous of executives? What is your underlying issue since it is emotion based and clearly not experiential & fact based?

        • tony says:

          June 14, 2013 at 3:30 pm

          We are not jealous of executives. we recognize & appreciate their accomplishments but our parents recognized that they had all the money & had no plans to share. So they organized & thru the power of unions created the middle class. We set high tax rates on top earners by electing sympathetic congressman & that forced CEO’s to invest profits in their employees instead of their own pockets. Ceo’s used to earn 30 times more than their lowest paid. After Reagan cut those tax rates, CEO pay is now as much as 600 times the average employee. Ask a history or poli/sci major & they can educate you of these facts. Yes, we need more STEM students(unless we get them from India) but the social science students write your proposals, handle your legal affairs, run your government & the high school grads tune your BMW. all we are asking is a fair share of the pot. Like our parents got.

          • Mike Downing says:

            June 14, 2013 at 4:30 pm

            My parents EARNED their share of the pot. I EARNED my fair share of the pot. You too can EARN your fair share of the pot.

            You are entitled an opportunity to do so; you are not entitled to an outcome.

        • Dan Conner says:

          June 14, 2013 at 5:06 pm

          Oh ye of little understanding.  I am not bitter of executives.  I think one must be deprived of essential English/literary/reading skills to miss my point.  I am not “bitter”, “angry”, and particularly “jealous” of executives.  Instead of I am angry and ashamed at there appalling arrogance, narcissism, and selfishness.  They indeed are the fortunate in society, htat instead of passing down lessons of success choose to name-call the rest of society as some lesser being barely capable of living.  It has gone all the way to dictate how women are to manage their bodies, when they are to have children, who is entitled to health care, jobs, who deserves lenient justice, who is accountable for business failure, etc. It’s as if some epople in a narrow band of society view themselves as if they are unaccountable “blue blood” that are above the foibles and responsibilities of everyone else.

          Remeber, it is the rich who have set the mark of “hard work,” “education,” and “behavior” as a few of the prerequisites for success.  But what do we observe?  Well, there is the fact that 70% of all wealth that is INHERITED not earned,the rarity of executive legal accountability, a miserly selfishness and self-indulgence, a jet-set playboy life style, and a life of privilege taken for granted. 

          Our life here on earth is only one out of many.  Our success and s=achievement comes on the shoulders and labors of others.  Our freedom results from the lives sacrificed by millions of others.  After that, someone is so embarrassingly arrogant to think he/she has achieved everything by themselves?  To think so is a failure of parenting, education, and character.  We all owe each other for our successes.  To so abuse the rest of society without acknowledging their contributions to one’s success and achievement it supreme arrogance, selfishness and greed.  The only comment I can make is grow up.  We are who we are because of someone else.  That’s true good and bad.  Even those who have sacrificed their lives in war are dead because of someone else…someone who was unable to get along.

          The most intolerable part of the behavior of the arrogant of the elite is not only teir refusal to credit others for their achievement, but the selfish and narcissistic attitude where they have convinced themselves they have achieved all they have by themselves, without the aid or help of anyone.  Then, they uses that selfish attidude to rationalize a selfish nature by not returning the appropriate gratitude to society by paying their taxes, helping others, or generally just contributing to society in a positive way.  We owe what we have to all the others that came before us, and many who are still with us.  To be blind to that is ingrateful, selfish and arrogant.  I suggest one grow up and learn to appreciate their fellow man, not deny them.  It is only Biblical to want to help others.  Now, who is the bitter one?

          • Mike Downing says:

            June 14, 2013 at 5:30 pm

            Yes it is indeed biblical to give to those who through no fault of their own are poor and physically or mentally handicapped. It is not biblical to be lazy and think they do not need to give directly but rely on the inherently inefficient government to do so on there behalf.

            • Dan Conner says:

              June 15, 2013 at 8:31 am

              It is most Biblical to judge not, lest thou be judged.  In addition, I don’t recall seeing anything in your credentials giving you any expertise in ability to judge others.

          • Joan says:

            June 14, 2013 at 9:24 pm

            Well said, Dan!  You are so right!

  • KJC says:

    June 11, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    Hope this link to the graph works.  What the graph shows?  Wages are advancing with productivity…and then?  Those diverge in the 70’s.  Productivity keeps going up, and wages level off. As Henry Ford would predict, that will result in general prosperity that isn’t sustained.

    Only the arrogant and uninformed think that they can be successful largely “alone.”  It’s even more true now, as we are even more interdependent, than it was in Henry Ford’s time.  Beyond the unfairness of not giving people a fair share of what they produce, in the end you end up with an aggregate demand problem that leads to stagnation.
    Too bad so many U.S. businesses haven’t Henry Ford’s vision, this is why we need “if you want to sell here, you must employ here,” laws, to help them see-the-light.  As Henry Ford’s indicated… only a shared prosperity, built on productivity, is truly sustainable ...let’s do that, and have all of us be better off… We The People.       


    • Joan Bindner says:

      June 11, 2013 at 8:14 pm

      Thank you, KJC, for posting.  I re-posted the graph on facebook. I hope that is o.k. with you.

      • KJC says:

        June 12, 2013 at 7:50 am

        It’s more than OK… America deserves to know the facts.  It’s part of making choices for our future… and Henry Ford was sooooooo right that only a shared prosperity, based on productivity, is sustainable.  And the consistent lack of sharing of those fruits of our ever improving productivity, over recent decades, is such a clear predictor of our current negative economic situation.  It’s beyond merely being unfair… It Doesn’t Work, it has left America poorer!

  • KJC says:

    June 11, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    If the first link doesn’t work, please try this one, thanks.
    The info is straight from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, The Bureau of Labor Statistics and The Census.

  • Mike Downing says:

    June 11, 2013 at 5:10 pm

    I didn’t create the title: “Closing the wage gap Q and A”. One can only economically close the gap between the low paid and the high paid through education in majors that our economy desperately needs in order to compete on a global basis. Otherwise our standard of living will drop and the wage gap will only grow.

    • Bernice Vetsch says:

      June 14, 2013 at 6:16 pm

      Wrong.  All work is worth decent pay, but more important than money is the satisfaction that can only be earned by doing work that fulfills one’s inner purpose.  For a budding writer or teacher or dancer, it would be spiritual and emotional death to force oneself into a STEM mold just to earn (you hope) a higher salary.  Not to mention that you would most likely not do well what you hate doing and the burnout that would soon ensue from working in a position that does not reflect your true interests. 

    • Dan Conner says:

      June 24, 2013 at 1:47 pm

      Not is it only dead wrong about only closing the wage gap by graduating people in desperately needed majors, it is anti-free enterprise.  It befuddles me how people get on their soap box extolling the virtues of “capitalism” and “free enterprise,” but then want to closely regulate education, appropriate majors, abortion, religion and yada-yada-yada.  Not only does it illustrate an intrinsic hypocrisy, but a basic misunderstanding of economies.  I would think that someone saying these things spent and admired STEM too much and should have studied economics and sociology more.  Either that, or actually learned the subject.

      It seems genuinely silly and poorly thought out that someone proposes to “manage” the educational system and ration degrees/majors in some herky jerky fashion, lurching from one acute need to another.  Not to mention to frightful things it might do to students. 

      Also, it is truly foolish to believe salaries and pay are directly related to educational fields.  Without a doubt, business degrees have the highest salary returns, even though our schools pump out MBA’s like crazy.  True STEM graduates didn’t make the list until about #10 on the list.

  • KJC says:

    June 13, 2013 at 10:31 am

    I think we should be graduating at least twice the number of “STEM” majors.  And don’t forget what one of the first likely responses to that is going to be?  For Big Business to drop those salaries to be more like the rest, now that those grads are in an over-supply situation (like some many others right now.) It is folly to pretend that just adding more STEM folks to our economy is going to be sufficient to turn-things-around in our employment situation… one result will just be to reduce salaries in those areas.
    We must change our macro-policies so they support our social contract, instead of undermining it.  Henry Ford had a macro policy, he thought long-term.  We need to have that kind of action happen again, and the global economy has only painfully underscored the absolute necessity of it. 
    In that WSJ article I recommended, Mr. Blinder suggests that we allow Companies a cheap tax rate on re-patrioting profits (you know, like when Apple moves its intellectual property rights to Ireland, so they can pretend the money is being made there) ... with the new law that say they must show an equal increase in employment (measured as increased social security taxes.)  He put that provision in because?  We gave that exact tax holiday back in 2005, without such a provision…and no jobs appeared here.  Fool us once… 
    It’s only a start, I still think we’re going to need “if you want to sell here, you will employ here” or something like it, as all our big global competitors do that, in various ways.  But starting with Mr. Blinder’s macro-proposal is fine with me.
    To be fair, Henry Ford could just “decree” that wage doubling and hourly decrease back in 1914…his board tried to deter him, but he stuck to his long-term vision.  Today?  He would be sued by his shareholders… so?  We must give Executives a defense… “it will cost us money if we don’t employ more people here.”  Hence the genesis of “if you want to sell here, you must employ here,” as means of changing our laws to achieve desired behaviors and outcomes.  We the People.

  • Joe says:

    June 14, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    Peter Rachleff, wanted to bring the following Paul Krugman article to everyone’s attention:

  • KJC says:

    June 15, 2013 at 8:09 am

    Where we are is not “new.”  It’s happened before… it comes about whenever the balance between Capital and Labor gets tilted too far.
    Such as?  When the the Top 400 people (Capital) in our great country now have more wealth than the bottom 150 million (Labor.)  Anybody want to defend that as reasonable?
    120 years ago we were in a similar time… it was called the Gilded Age.  There was huge business consolidation, monopoly and buying of elections, abuse of power, etc… looking back, now some of the characters are even called “robber barons.”  (Rockefeller, Mellon, Carnegie, etc.) 
    So how did we get out of that ugly time?  There was this popular politician that wanted to break-up the monopolies, etc, correcting the corruption and imbalance.  He had worked his way up to be governor of New York, the most powerful state at the time.  But? He had ruffled-the-feathers of the rich and powerful.  So? They plotted to “kick him upstairs.”  Yes, they made sure that he got nominated as V.P., seeing it as a dead-end job with no real power…their “clever” way of marginalizing him.  It was working, until?  A few months into office, President McKinley was shot, and died.  Making T. Roosevelt the new President… and then he did exactly what the rich and powerful feared, breaking up the monopolies, etc. 
    I do not think we could/should count on an incident/ accident to get us out of Gilded Age II.  We’ll have to be willing to take a real stand for the Common Good.  As long as a significant percentage of the population doesn’t play the “somebody else” game…rejecting the “divide and conquer” politics that keep this in place…we can get out of this.  We have another advantage this time, today’s far superior communication systems.  “Sunlight is always the best disinfectant.”  I think we’d turn this around… even without T. Roosevelt and Henry Ford.  Our Founding Fathers would likely remind us that we each have a responsibility in this…I’m unwilling to leave this to chance.  You?