American Friends Service Committee
Patrica Watson, Editor
Sara Burke, Assistant Editor
Pat Farren, Founding Editor
2161 Massachusetts Ave.
Peacework has been published monthly since 1972, intended to serve as a source of dependable information to those who strive for peace and justice and are committed to furthering the nonviolent social change necessary to achieve them. Rooted in Quaker values and informed by AFSC experience and initiatives, Peacework offers a forum for organizers, fostering coalition-building and teaching the methods and strategies that work in the global and local community. Peacework seeks to serve as an incubator for social transformation, introducing a younger generation to a deeper analysis of problems and issues, reminding and re-inspiring long-term activists, encouraging the generations to listen to each other, and creating space for the voices of the disenfranchised.
Views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of the AFSC.
The Achilles Heel of the Economy
Dr. Ray Marshall, former Secretary of Labor, refers to the increasing disparity in wages in the US as the Achilles heel of the economy. In an overall rosy economy, many workers are struggling to make ends meet. But the economy must serve people and not the other way around. Work and wages should support families. Families should not be undermined by the structure of the economy.
Unfortunately, even though the economy is considered strong, the benefits are not being distributed fairly. Some workers are earning astronomical salaries, with Cadillac benefits and stock options. Many other workers and their families are not making ends meet. If the economy is to serve the person, it must serve all persons, not just the wealthy.
Test your knowledge of the Achilles heel of the economy:
1) In the economy at large, what has been the most important factor in maintaining or increasing family income?
2) What is the fastest growing category of jobs in the US?
3) Who is the largest employer in the US?
4) What percentage of new jobs pay wages below a livable wage?
5) What percentage of children live in poverty?
6) How many Americans are without health insurance coverage?
7) What percentage of stock, mutual funds, and pension funds does the bottom 80% of American families own?
8) Between 1980 and 1997, after adjusting for inflation, the minimum wage fell 15%, the average hourly wage declined by 3%, and corporate profits rose 118%. How much did CEO pay increase?
9) How much higher are union wages than non-union wages?
1) c: The most significant factor over the last twenty years in maintaining and increasing family income has been putting two adults into the workforce. Without increasing the number of workers, family income would have fallen dramatically. This is clearly a factor in parents spending 40% less time with their children.
2) b: Cashier is the occupation category that will add the most jobs in the coming years. These jobs pay significantly below a living wage. [National Priorities Project, Working Hard, Earning Less: The Story of Job Growth in America, December 1998]
3) c: Manpower Inc. is the largest US employer with more than half a million workers. Manpower, Inc. is a temporary agency reflecting the switch from full-time jobs to part-time and temporary jobs. Currently 27% of workers are nonstandard. [AFL-CIO America@Work, Jan. 1999]
4) c: This figure depends on what one defines as a living wage. In a recent study by National Priorities Project, 74% of all new jobs were found to pay below a livable wage if one looks at the actual costs for a family of four to meet its basic needs of food, housing, transportation, clothing, and to pay federal and state taxes. A livable wage for a family of four, as defined by thisresearch, was around $32,000, although it varied by states. [Working Hard, Earning Less]
5) b: 21% of all children live in poverty, but 46% of African American children and 40% of Latino children live in poverty. [Center for the Future of Children, The Futures of Children, Vol. 7, no. 2, 1997]
6) b: More than 42 million Americans are without health insurance coverages. Most of these are low-wage workers and their families.
7) a: The bottom 80% of American families own only 3% of stock, mutual funds, and pension funds. [UFCW Action, Jul-Aug 1998]
8) c: CEO pay increased by 536% during this period. [AFL-CIO]
9) b: On average, union wages are 34% higher than non-union wages, but the difference is even greater for African Americans and Latino workers.[Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment and Earnings, Jan. 1998]
Reprinted from Active for Justice, Oct. 1999, Pikes Peak Justice & Peace Commission, 235 E. Fountain Blvd., Colorado Springs, CO 80903; 719/632-6189