Tag Archives: wages

The Economic Policy Institute recently ran a couple of good studies about wages.


Factory Workers Earn More Money

EPI says, “…manufacturing workers still earn 13.0 percent more in hourly compensation than comparable private-sector workers. This manufacturing premium, however, has declined by about one-fourth (3.9 percentage points) since the 1980s, when it was 16.9 percent.” So why do manufacturing workers make more money than “comparable” people? And why is the margin diminishing?

Here’s another question that bugs the heck out of my friends who work in aerospace but are members of the Auto Workers Union: “Why do auto workers get much better contracts than aerospace workers?” We work just as hard and have had as much or more training. We have the same national union leaders, the same history, and the same intentions, but our wages and conditions have never been as good as theirs. Why?

It’s Not the Work, It’s the Organizing

Manufacturing workers are easier to organize than other workers. There are more of them in one place. They work closer together. They live closer together, They have more of the same interests. Contrast, for example, techies. Techies are notoriously hard to organize, even though they may really want a union. They live all over the place. They work almost entirely alone. Some of them actually work at home. They tend to travel for work. They don’t usually advance within the same company, but move from one company to another for advancement. It is very hard to organize techies.

The easier we are to organize, the more likely we are to have a union and thus get better wages.

Aerospace workers can cuss the auto workers all they want, but the fact is that auto workers were easier to organize. Assembly line production calls for the highest levels of cooperation among workers. Take just a few of the workers off an assembly line, and it has to shut down!

Airplanes, for the most part, aren’t made on assembly lines. It’s hard to win a strike in aerospace, but it’s much easier in auto. Better organizing, better contracts!

Why Is the Gap Decreasing?

EPI says that the gap between [organized] factory workers and everybody else is decreasing since 1980. I almost laughed when I saw that date. 1980 is the year that American government set new anti-worker policies and elected its best enforcer —
Ronald Reagan. So the question answers itself.

Unionism in America has atrophied beneath the government assault, and the advantage of unionism is not nearly as widespread as it was pre-Reagan. We fell from 35% of the workforce to the present 11%. Union workers still make way more money than non-union workers doing comparable work, but there just aren’t that many union workers left to bring up the statistics.

Whose Wages Are Rising?

The other interesting article from EPI said, “States with minimum wage increases between 2013 and 2017 saw faster wage growth for low-wage workers compared with states without any minimum wage increases (5.2 percent vs. 2.2 percent).”

Last month, Wall Street had a minor panic when it was announced that wages were rising for the first time in recent history. They were barely rising, but they were slightly higher than inflation for that same period. Since then, economists and political pundits have been saying that wages will continue to rise and that the government will have to take steps, such as raising interest rates, against the trend.

Capitalists may say otherwise, in fact they do, but they do not want wages to rise.

But wages did, statistically, rise a little bit in February, 2018. The reason was that some local and state governments, responding to political pressure from working people, were beginning to raise their minimum wages. An increase for low-wage workers has a profound effect on statistics, because there are so many low-wages workers. Also, all wages tend to rise when they are pushed up from the bottom.

Nineteenth century writers Karl Marx and Frederich Engels noted that workers would tend to benefit themselves more by organizing politically than they would by fighting the bosses one company at a time. It’s not a new idea; it’s just a true one.

Crossing the Line

There are a lot of references to “the line” in literature. There’s the “red line,” there’s the “line in the sand,” and there’s the “picket line.” If you want to get someone to answer the question “Which side [of the line] are you on?” just ask them if they support increasing the minimum wage. It cuts through a lot of verbiage.

Even though unemployment is statistically low, and the time is ripe for organizing, your own wages aren’t likely to rise much until you actually organize. Either organize a union on the job or organize politically to raise wages. That’s the road to success!

–Gene Lantz

I’m still on 89.3FM in Dallas every Saturday at 9 AM Central /Time. If you want to know what I really think, check out my personal web site.


We’re forced today to battle to hang on to what little we have. But it’s good to keep in mind what we actually want.


For example, we are trying to keep the bosses from shipping our jobs overseas. Mr Trump says he will help us. We say we want to keep those jobs, but is that really our ultimate goal?

In a Better World, We Don’t Want Jobs

What we actually want is wages, not jobs. We get fooled on that when politicians announce that they have brought in a certain number of jobs after giving away millions in tax abatements and other concessions to this or that corporation. The jobs, if they ever materialize at all, often turn out to pay very little. Texas is a great example of this. Texas politicians claim that they brought in more jobs than any other state, but they hide the fact that they also have more minimum wage jobs than any other state.

Texas and the rest of the South had full employment up to 1860. Everybody who wanted a job had one. Lots of people who didn’t want a job still had one. Slaves didn’t make any wages, but they by Golly had full employment!

It isn’t jobs we want.

If all our gains in productivity (wealth produced per worker per hour) went to shortening our working hours, out jobs would only last about two hours a day, 5 days a week. As the wealth produced would still be the same, we could enjoy the same wages that we made with the old-time long hours.

In a Better World, We Don’t Want Obama Care

Right this minute, the fight is on to try to save the Affordable Care act. But is it really what we want? Wouldn’t we really rather have free health care as a right — so we could have great public health services and medical experts consulting with us to keep our health at the peak?

In a Better World, We Don’t Want Electoral Reform

The Republicans have severely battered the democratic system, and they are probably going to try to do a whole lot more damage before the Mid-Term elections. We have to fight to stop voter suppression, the flood of money into elections, and the outright falsehoods perpetrated against us in election campaigns. But what would we like to have?

Now that almost everyone in America has access to a telephone or a computer, why shouldn’t we do away with representational democracy altogether and begin direct democracy? It would be a lot easier and cheaper than the present system, not to mention being far more fair. Why not have a national discussion over, for example, the federal budget, and then take a day or two for everybody to register their vote electronically? Computers could count the vote and let us know the outcome right away!

We could say similar things about free education, ending chauvinism, the right to emigrate, ending wars, child care, military expenditures, etc. There are better ways to do things than the options we are presently being offered.

A Better World Is Attainable

Shorter working hours, free health care, and direct democracy may sound like science fiction. It’s probably true that they wouldn’t have worked as well in the past as they could work now, and they would certainly work better in the future than they would work now, but they could work now!

The system that we live under doesn’t adapt to the possibilities of improvements for its constituents. Mostly, it only adapts to the possibilities of improvements for a tiny few rich people, and those rich people do the best they can to hold everybody else back.

But we could have a better world for everyone. Having a clear idea of what we want is Part One of developing a strategy to get it.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on and 89.3 FM radio every Saturday at 9 CST. If you are curious about what I really think, click here.


We all hear about “drawing the line” and “crossing the line.” They say in Texas that it has something to do with the Alamo, but there’s a more universal line. It’s the class line.


The physical line between bosses and workers is the picket line

It’s not always simple to figure out who we’re talking about when we sing the great old union song, “Which Side Are You On?” Almost everybody pretends to be on our side.

One could pick around all day trying to sort out exactly who is in the capitalist class, the working class, and the middle class. We can categorize ourselves over and over again as we consider different issues such as gay marriage, global warming, gun control, art lovers, art haters, renters or owners, etc etc. But the important line is the one between workers and bosses. There’s a sure-fire way to know just who is on the workers’ side and who is on the other side.

It’s the issue of wages

Our side wants better wages. Their side wants worse wages.

A new organization has been formed to fight against the Obama Administration’s change in the overtime law. The new law gives considerably more wages to certain workers, and the new organization, “Partnership to Protect Workplace Opportunity,” (who do they pay to come up with these names?) is on the opposite side of the line that really matters. You can look at their list at On their side you will find the National Restaurant Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Associated General Contractors, Associated Builders and Contractors, Jimmy John’s, and lots of  banks, insurers and  auto dealers.

Usually, when they are trying to influence legislation, they sneak around about it so we don’t know who they are. Read Dark Money. I guess the new organization is trying a new tactic by letting us know who (some of them) they are. Maybe they think it will intimidate us?


What they have in common is that they’re all for worse wages. They’re all bosses. They’re all against us. It’s good to know about them.

–Gene Lantz

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