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.


A Fair Wage for Human Services Workers: Ensuring a government funded $15 per hour minimum wage for human services workers throughout New York State

The Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, Fiscal Policy Institute, and Human Services Council applaud Governor Cuomo’s proposed minimum wage increase. Full time work at a minimum wage should meet families’ basic needs, not leave them in or on the brink of poverty. The Governor’s proposal will enhance the opportunity of upward mobility for individuals and families across the state, while strengthening the State’s economy and decreasing the need for public assistance. This wage increase will be especially impactful for human services workers, given that over half are currently paid
under $15 per hour; 30 percent under $10.50.

More than 200,000 human services workers are the driving force behind services like afterschool programs, child welfare, early education, services for older adults, public assistance programs, and many others vital programs. Even with full-time hours, their current wages do not meet the basic needs of individuals and families in most areas of the State; low-wage human services workers are often eligible for the same benefits as the clients they serve.

Stolen Chances: Low-wage work and wage theft in Iowa

Our 2012 report Wage Theft in Iowa characterized wage theft as an “invisible epidemic” affecting thousands of low-wage workers in Iowa. Since 2012, numerous media reports, an uptick in worker organizing to recover unpaid wages, and heightened attention from some state and local elected officials have made Iowa’s wage theft problem far more visible. Yet the state’s landscape of lax enforcement remains fundamentally unaltered, and new evidence presented in this report underscores the persistence and scope of the problem.

Our 2012 report used national survey work done by the National Employment Law Project to calculate a baseline for the incidence of wage theft among low-wage workers, and then used Iowa demographic statistics to develop estimates of lost wages and lost tax revenues for our state. Our estimates — $600 million in stolen wages and another $120 million in unpaid sales, income and payroll taxes annually — gave dimension and scale to a problem that, to that point, we understood mostly through a few egregious cases (such as that of Henry’s Turkey Service in Atalissa), anecdotal evidence of wage theft reported by many workers, and close studies of a few industries (such as construction).

This report updates and expands on that work by drawing on two more years of claims and enforcement data from state and national agencies, and new results of a 2014 survey of 300 low-wage workers in Eastern Iowa. These local survey responses provide some of the first direct glimpses we have into the scope and nature of Iowa workers’ experiences with wage theft.

Raising the New Mexico Minimum Wage

Raising the minimum wage is an important and effective strategy for reducing poverty particularly given the erosion of the purchasing power of the state wage since it was last raised in 2009. In New Mexico, approximately 112,000 workers are earning the current state minimum wage of $7.50. In January, New Mexico lawmakers should act to raise the minimum wage to $10 per hour by 2018. While this increase should not be considered a living wage, thousands of families would benefit.

There will probably be a proposal to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10 an hour in the 2016 legislative session. That would be the first minimum wage increase for the whole state since the present minimum wage of $7.50 took effect in January of 2009. This report assumes an increase in two steps, to $8.50 an hour in 2017 and to $10 an hour in 2018. In 2018, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), there will be about 771,000 workers statewide making an hourly wage in New Mexico. The EPI estimates that 112,000 workers would be directly helped by raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour. An additional 79,000 workers would be indirectly affected – their wages would rise due to spillover effects from raising the wage to $10. The total number of workers affected would be 191,000 or almost 25 percent of hourly workers. This report describes the characteristics of these low-wage workers and looks at the EPI’s estimates of the wage impacts of raising the state’s minimum wage.

The Case for a County Minimum Wage

Inaction by Congress and state legislatures has led many cities and counties to adopt a local
minimum wage. We show that a $15 county minimum wage, phased in by 2020, would raise the
incomes of at least 19,300 workers in Johnson County and 24,300 in Linn County; the majority
would be full-time workers over age 20, and many would have families. This in turn would
increase spending in local retail and service establishments, boosting the local economy