Wages

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.

Publications

Raising the minimum wage to $10.10: A win-win for Rhode Island workers and the economy

Raising the minimum wage will improve the economic well-being of Rhode Islanders and strengthen the state’s economy. Giving the lowest paid workers a raise will improve their economic security and help curb the growth in income inequality, which has been significant in the Ocean State over the past three decades. Putting more money in the pockets of workers will also put more money in the cash registers of locals businesses and create jobs in Rhode Island.

Minimum wage workers are not able to meet their basic needs. The Rhode Island Standard of Need, a study that documents the cost of living in the Ocean State, shows that a worker earning the state’s current minimum wage of $7.75/hour falls short of meeting his or her basic expenses by $474 each month. Furthermore, while Rhode Island’s minimum wage is slightly higher than the federal minimum wage, it still leaves a family of three well below the federal poverty line ($16,120 versus $18,480).

Clean Power, Good Jobs: Realizing the Promise of Energy Efficiency in Los Angeles

Utilities around the country are facing serious challenges, including an aging infrastructure and a need to transition to cleaner energy sources. These challenges are particularly evident at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), the nation’s largest municipally owned utility. The LADWP can begin to meet these challenges by adopting an innovative and ambitious energy efficiency policy with new programs that save customers money, reduce greenhouse gas pollution, and create good jobs. In doing so, the LADWP will take a significant step towards modeling a transition all utilities must make, from being entities concerned solely with the rapid acquisition and dispersal of natural resources to agencies proactively engaged with energy planning and management.

Same Work, Less Pay: The Wage Gap in Alabama

Imagine the uproar if football officials suddenly were to declare touchdowns worth six points for one team but only five points for the other. Many workers both in Alabama and nationwide encounter just that sort of shortfall with every paycheck they receive. Despite decades of steady improvement, sizable earnings gaps remain between women and men and between racial minorities and non-minorities, both in Alabama and nationwide.

This fact sheet examines the history of wage discrimination, the scope of today’s disparities and how an Equal Pay Commission could help Alabama close the gap.

Don’t Waste LA: A Path to Green Jobs, Clean Air and Recycling for All

Resolving our society’s trash problem is one of the major environmental challenges of our time. In Los Angeles County, this crisis has reached urgent proportions. As one of the largest waste markets in the country, Los Angeles County generates 23 million tons of waste and recyclable materials and sends over 10 million tons of waste to landfills each year. Many of the remaining landfills in the county will reach capacity and close in the coming years, and officials project that as early as 2014, we will be making more trash than our landfills can handle.

The City of Los Angeles creates a third of the county’s waste that goes to landfills and therefore has a major role to play in addressing this crisis. Recognizing this, the City has set an ambitious and worthy goal of becoming a zero waste city by 2030. However, reaching this goal will be impossible without reforming the dysfunctional and inefficient trash collection and processing system for the City’s businesses and large apartment complexes.

Reforming this system is key to reaching not only the City’s recycling goals but also its goal of creating new green jobs in the recycling sector. In the midst of one of the worst economic crises in modern history, the City of Los Angeles’ unemployment rate stands at an alarming 14 percent. By raising standards for the waste industry, the City can create good green jobs to put people back to work, bring families out of poverty and rebuild the local economy.