The vast majority of American households’ income comes from what workers receive in their paychecks – which is why wages are so important. Unfortunately, wages for most workers grew exceptionally slowly between 1979 and 2012, despite productivity—which essentially measures the economy’s potential for providing rising living standards for all—rising 64 percent. In other words, most Americans, even those with college degrees, have only been treading water—despite working more productively (and being better educated) than ever.

EARN groups provide key research and policy analysis describing how these trends have played out at the state and local levels, and what policymakers can do about it.


Senate Ways & Means chair blocks a bill to raise minimum wage to $15 an hour

A Hawaii state senator is blocking a bill that would increase Hawaii’s minimum wage after a series of pay hikes that was enacted in 2014 came to an end this year.

As of Jan. 1, the state minimum wage stands at $10.10.

Arianna Espinoza says with that rate, she’s barely getting by working at a retail store in Ala Moana full time, while also attending college full-time.

“Not only am I paying for my own rent, I’m paying my own insurance,” the 20 year old said.

proposed bill would bump up the minimum wage to $12.25 per hour in 2019, then to $15 per hour in 2020, but the chair of the Senate Ways and Means committee is refusing to give it a hearing without more research.

New bill works towards equal pay in the workplace

A bill at the State Capitol is gaining momentum in the movement to help women in the workplace earn just as much as their male counterparts.

According to the Hawaii Appleseed Center, women in Hawaii make 16% less than men.

“The problem is that women are paid less than men for doing the same work. Its ridiculous in this decade in a supposedly developed nation,” said Susan Wurtzburg of AAU Hawaii.

The bill serves employers a one-two punch-prohibiting them from asking a job applicant about their previous wage history.  Senator Laura Thielen says in many cases, where people previously were underpaid, it is perpetuated in successive jobs.

Workforce Development in Kentucky Should Encourage High-Road Jobs

Kentucky’s workforce development conversations focus almost exclusively on employers’ needs and perspectives and ask how public dollars can improve perceived deficiencies in the workforce. Such an approach ignores the increasingly difficult conditions employees face in the labor market, and the responsibilities employers should have to provide jobs that meet acceptable community standards.