Their anger has been stoked by what they see as a glaring disconnect: their wages have flat-lined, while median pay for chief executives at the nation’s top corporations jumped 16 percent last year, averaging a princely £9.8157 million.
In recent weeks, workers from McDonald’s, Taco Bell and other fast-food restaurants — many of them part-time employees — have staged one-day walkouts in New York, Chicago, Detroit and Seattle to protest about their earnings, typically just £227 a week, often too little to support themselves and their families. More walkouts are expected at fast-food restaurants in seven cities tomorrow on Monday. Earlier this month hundreds of low-wage employees working for federal contractors in Washington walked out and picketed along Pennsylvania Avenue to urge President Obama to press their employers to raise wages.
The bottom 20 percent of American workers by income — 28 million workers — earn less than £6 an hour, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal research group. That translates to £13,371 a year for a full-time employee. Their income fell 5 percent between 2006 and 2012.
Corporate America has embraced many strategies to slice labour costs. Many Walmart stores — as part of a new strategy to save on wages and benefits — are hiring only temps to fill job openings. Scores of companies are relying increasingly on part-timers, who typically get paid several dollars less per hour than full-timers.
Caterpillar has pioneered a two-tier wage systems, in which workers hired after a certain date are consigned to a significantly lower wage scale than others, and it recently pressed its longer-term employees into accepting a six-year wage freeze. Many Caterpillar workers ask why the company insisted on a pay freeze when it reported repeated record profits.
A Seattle-based entrepreneur whose company produces comforters and pillows, said: “Employers pay their workforce as much as they are forced to and no more. There’s no compelling reason to give raises” with the unemployment rate as high as it is.
Four out of five US adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives according to Associated Press.
“It’s time that America comes to understand that many of the nation’s biggest disparities, from education and life expectancy to poverty, are increasingly due to economic class position,” said William Julius Wilson, a Harvard professor who specialises in race and poverty.