A decade after the Great Recession, Wisconsin’s economy, at least in employment and family income, has finally and meaningfully recovered. Unemployment and involuntary part-time employment rates are low. And, nearly a fifth of the way into this new century, the value of the median income of four-person families finally exceeds its 2000 level. This is very welcome news for working Wisconsinites.
This good news is not untarnished. Despite job gains, Wisconsin’s job growth is slow relative to the national pace. Wages are still in no way keeping pace with worker productivity. Wisconsin is comparatively weak in more lucrative occupations: professional, scientific, technical, and information. Our manufacturing sector, while growing, is a still significantly smaller than at the beginning of the century. And inequality continues to grow. One in five workers currently holds a poverty-wage job with few benefits. Rural economies are declining. Wisconsin’s black/white disparities still lead the nation.
State policy can also rig the system against workers. The Ohio legislature has barred local governments from improving working conditions, banned local hire ordinances that help set aside work for local residents, and passed tax cuts that favor the wealthiest Ohioans at the expense of our roads, schools and health care. But there are solutions. We can strengthen Ohio’s working people and create an economy that works for everyone by helping workers to speak up together, raising wages, and investing in communities instead of corporations.
State and federal policy makers can make sure all Ohio’s working people – not just the top 1 percent – can enjoy a decent life free from economic insecurity. Although this is by no means a definitive list, this report offers a new path forward with practical policy solutions that can be implemented today.
The District of Columbia can use its economic development efforts to stem the tide of the city’s rising income inequality, but it is failing to do so. Instead, the District’s economic development efforts—including the enormous Wharf project—often support creation of low-wage jobs with minimal benefits, a lost opportunity to reduce inequities. By not including requirements to create high-quality jobs, the District encourages developers to compete for projects and profits by aggressively cutting labor costs—at the expense of workers’ ability to live in the District and support their families.
What happens to San Diegans whose employers steal their wages? This report describes the experience of working people in San Diego who come forward with complaints of minimum-wage violations and other types of wage theft.