Earlier this month, Nebraska was near the top of the national rankings in a dubious statistic. According to the AFL-CIO’s 2014 Executive PayWatch website a CEO of a Nebraska company was paid, on average, 170 times more than an average worker and an astounding 421 times that of someone making the state’s minimum wage.
That is the highest disparity of any state in the country except for Michigan.
For comparison, a recent staff editorial in the Lincoln Journal Star points out “In 1965, CEOs made only about 20 times the average worker. Those years were also the golden years of the middle class in America.”
The disparity has gotten even worse nationally since the Great Recession according to a new report from the National Employment Law Program which shows while the number of U.S. jobs lost during the Great Recession mostly have been restored, most of these jobs are low-wage jobs that pay, at most, about $27,000 per year.
ThinkProgress: “Most of The Jobs Added Since the Recession Pay Low Wages”
There are good reasons to have grave concerns about this growing pay gap. First, it means more workers are falling behind and more families are having trouble reaching economic stability. Nebraska has the second-highest percentage of hourly workers earning at or below minimum wage compared to our surrounding states. People in the U.S. who work full-time should not be falling into poverty. Hard work should pay in America.
Second, this wage gap is dangerous for the U.S. economy as a whole. The middle class has the highest purchasing power, so their ability to buy goods and services is our country’s economic engine and key to a growing economy. As the middle class shrinks, fewer people have disposable income and our economy stops growing.
One step to stabilize our economy and address this worrisome wage gap is to raise the minimum wage. From the ThinkProgress story:
“Overall, Americans have long lost out on better wages even as they work harder. The last decade has brought stagnant or falling pay. Yet productivity has more than doubled since 1968, and if the minimum wage had kept pace with that growth, it would be nearly $22 an hour, not the current level of $7.25.”
A thriving American economy must work for all people. We must rebuild our middle class to keep American families out of poverty and allow for economic growth. Raising the minimum wage would be a key tool to make sure hard work pays in Nebraska and in all states so America can move forward and undo some of the drastic damage done during the recession.
Your voice will be essential to get the minimum wage raised in Nebraska. Stay tuned – we’ll keep you informed in the coming weeks about how you can get involved and take action on this important issue.