About to sign off for the Labor Day weekend. The Center for American Progress has a good run-down on how everyday workers are faring on this holiday which Samuel Gompers, one of the original founders of the American Federation of Labor, called "the day for which the toilers in past centuries looked forward, when their rights and their wrongs would be discussed."
WORKING HARDER, EARNING LESS: "Wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nation's gross domestic product since the government began recording the data in 1947." A majority of today's workers say the number one issue they face is that the wages they are paid are not keeping up with the cost of living. Aug. 20th marked 10 years since the last time the federal minimum wage has been raised. Frozen at an unlivable $5.15/hour, the minimum wage is at the lowest buying power it has been in 51 years. Workers earning above the minimum wage are struggling as well. According to AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, "Real median earnings for men working full-time and year-round were lower in 2005 than in 1973. In inflation-adjusted 2005 dollars, a typical man working full-time in 1973 earned $42,573. Thirty-six years later, this figure has fallen to $41,386." Yet, productivity -- as President Bush likes to frequently point out -- remains high. "What jumps out at you is the gaping hole between productivity growth and earnings," said Jared Bernstein, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). People are "working harder and smarter but not really seeing remuneration that they ought to be seeing." The wage crunch isn't affecting the entire labor force, however. The top one percent of earners -- including many corporate CEOs -- received 11.2 percent of all wage income in 2004, up from 8.7 percent a decade earlier and less than six percent three decades ago.
How many TV networks, radio shows and newspapers will "discuss" how everyday, working Americans are faring in today's economy, as Gompers had hoped? I'd speculate not many. How far we have come from the days of media figures like Edward Wylie Scripps, founder of the first newspaper chain:
A newspaper must at all times antagonize the selfish interests of that very class which furnishes the larger part of a newspaper's income... The press in this country is dominated by the wealthy few...that it cannot be depended upon to give the great mass of the people that correct information concerning political, economical and social subjects which it is necessary that the mass of people Shall have in order that they vote...in the best way to protect themselves from the brutal force and chicanery of the ruling and employing classes.
Chris Kromm is executive director of the Institute for Southern Studies and publisher of the Institute's online magazine, Facing South.