Work and Wages in Louisiana

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Information about Work and Wages in Louisiana
News & Politics

Published on February 18, 2014

Author: bagertjr



A presentation on work, wages and economic inequality in Louisiana. Shared at the Together Louisiana Statewide Issues Conference on February 15th, 2014.

+ Work & Wages in Louisiana Civic Academy February 15, 2014

+ Our Purpose  To discuss what our faith traditions teach on work and wages.  To discuss important trends in Louisiana: --on wages --on economic inequality --on the “Big Disconnect”  To discuss what we can do about it: -- Legislative solutions focusing on 2014

+ What do our faith traditions say about work and wages? (Just a few examples)

+ Presbyterian Church We celebrate the full humanity of each woman, man, and child, all created in the divine image as individuals of infinite worth, by working for:  Employment for all, at a family-sustaining living wage, with equal pay for comparable work.  The rights of workers to organize, and to share in workplace decisions and productivity growth.  Protection from dangerous working conditions, with time and benefits to enable full family life. Presbyterian Church USA, “A Social Creed for the 21st Century

+ Catholic Church “A just wage is the concrete means of verifying the whole socioeconomic system and, in any case, of checking that it is functioning justly.” On Human Work, Papal Encyclical of Pope John Paul II “[T]oday we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills.” No to an Economy of Exclusion, Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis "Employers are obligated to treat their employees as persons, paying them fair wages in exchange for the work done and establishing conditions and patterns of work that are truly human.” “Unequal power may press workers into a choice between an inadequate wage and no wage at all. But justice, not charity, demands certain minimum guarantees. The provision of wages and other benefits sufficient to support a family in dignity is a basic necessity to prevent this exploitation of workers.” US Conference of Catholic Bishops, "Economic Justice for All: Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the U. S. Economy“

+ United Methodist Church “Every person has the right to a job at a living wage. Where the private sector cannot or does not provide jobs or all who seek and need them, it is the responsibility of government to provide for the creation of such jobs.” Social Principles of the United Methodist Church Judaism "Government should set a community standard for wages; people working for the government, directly or indirectly, should not be paid sub-poverty wages... Only employing those who will work for sub-standard wages decreases the quality and motivation of the workforce.“ Central Conference of American Rabbis (1999)

+ Scripture “I will be swift to bear witness against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow and the orphan.” Malachi 3:5 “Listen! The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. James 5:4

+ What does your tradition say?

+ What does our state say?  NO state minimum wage  NO state department of labor  Right to Work (for less)  At-will employment  Economic development that benefits corporations with little accountability for creating good jobs

+ What does it cost to get by in Baton Rouge? According to Economic Policy Institute “Family Budget Calculator”, for a family of 4, about … Source:

+ Annual incomes in Louisiana Some families are NOT getting by Middle 20% are just getting by Some families are doing great

+ Louisiana has the 6th highest income inequality in the nation

+ What’s driving increasing inequality? “The BIG Disconnect”

+ “The Big Disconnect” is about productivity and wages 1948 to 1979 Net productivity up 106% up 93% Hourly compensation (This is how we got 1979 ourselves a middle class.) Between 1948 and 1979, productivity (how much workers produce) and compensation (how much those workers take home) GREW TOGETHER.

+ Since 1979, workers’ productivity KEPT INCREASING 1979 - 2013 but compensation STAGNATED. (This is how that middle class stopped growing.) 1979

+ Translation: what this means in real numbers.  21% of Louisianans live below the poverty line; 40% live below 200% of the poverty line (for a family of 4, that is $47,00 year/$3,925 month/$906 week  77% of fast food workers in Louisiana rely on some public assistance  Public employees are not immune: police officers in Tallulah qualify for (and rely on) food stamps

+ The Big Disconnect in Louisiana: 1979 - 2012 Worker productivity increased by 35% Wages increased by only 1%

+ Inequality in LA is getting worse since the 1970s

+ And EVEN worse since 1990s

+ Declining Wages, Slow Job Growth  In 2008, median hourly wage in Louisiana was $15.56/hour  By 2012, it had fallen to $14.68/hour  Loss over $1,600 per year for a typical worker  Why? Wage decline in high paying industries (manufacturing) + Insufficient job creation = rising unemployment rate

+ Job creation focused on low-wage jobs  Even with increased job creation, the state’s jobs have not kept up with the number of residents needing work  In order to keep up with increasing population, Louisiana needs to create about 150,000 more jobs by 2016  Most jobs created since the start of the Great Recession have occurred in low-wage industries (hospitality, leisure, service jobs)

+ How do we change this pattern?  Legislative solutions  Raise the minimum wage  Increase the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)  Job creation/Workforce development solutions  Public works/infrastructure building  Accountable development (making sure that public economic development money creates good jobs)

+ Economic Renewal and Job Creation can happen even in difficult times  During the Great Depression, the country turned to infrastructure projects to create jobs  In Louisiana, we built bridges, hospitals, highways, air bases, and a park system  Louisiana legislators bemoan our failing infrastructure, this is an opportunity to create well-paying construction jobs, to improve both the economy and physical plant of our state  “Public-private partnerships” need to be accountable to the public – are they creating jobs? Are those jobs going to the people of the state? Are they paying a living wage?

+ It’s starting to happen now…  Legislators are taking notice  The 2014 Legislative Session will include at least one proposal to (institute) and raise the state minimum wage to $9.00/hour  Even the state’s top economist warns that the “economic development” money spent in Louisiana does not give us the promised “return on investment”

+ What can we do?  Understand our economy and what the current state means for workers and their families  Tell our stories -- What does it mean to work for minimum wage? -- Who is a “typical” minimum wage worker? -- What would it mean to get a raise?

+ The Cycle of Organizing for Action 1) House Meetings – Civic academies & house meetings - stories - find out you are not alone - potential issues, common interests - identify leaders – do one-on-one relational meetings - build constituency with energy for making a change Cycle repeats 5) House Meetings – Evaluate impact on families 2) Develop Teams on issues - Move from problems to issues -- Find out what steps are being taken to make a change - Power Analysis – who has it, where is the leverage to change 3) Shape Action through research - The purpose of an Organized action is the ReAction . . . something changes. --This is different from a demonstration, movement or activism where the purpose of the action is the action 4) Plan and do Action


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