As We Enter Age of Trumponomics, Five Charts That Highlight Persistent Worker Woes

(Photo: AP/Mark Lennihan)

A FedEx driver loads Dell computers for delivery, Friday, Oct. 23, 2015 in New York. 

It is now apparent to anyone paying attention that the trends driving the working and middle classes’ woes—from decades of expanding corporate power to the silencing of workers’ voices—will be exacerbated by the incoming Trump administration.

Here are six charts from the Economic Policy Institute that underscore the systemic inequities for workers that will persist—and almost certainly worsen—under the right-wing doctrine of Trumponomics.

The gap between productivity and worker pay continues to widen.

Companies’ profit margins have soared while leaving worker pay in the dust, so where has all the money gone? The answer is exorbitant compensation for chief executives and other C-Suite bigwigs. In 1965, CEOs made about 20 times more than the average worker, but that ratio has skyrocketed to more than 275 to 1. This extreme lop-sidedness began in the 1990s and has become a poignant symbol of economic inequality. But don’t expect a Trump administration stocked with millionaire and billionaire CEOs to see that as a problem.

Deunionization has eroded worker pay across the board.

The rate of unionization for private-sector workers has fallen precipitously over the past few decades—from 34 percent of men and 16 percent of women in 1979 to 10 percent of men and 6 percent of women. This chart, a product of groundbreaking research, shows how the decline in union density has decreased pay for workers at every level of education and experience to the tune of $133 billion total.

That means that women would be making $13.80 more a week and men would be making $52.39 more a week had union density stayed at its 1979 level. Strong union density forces non-union workplaces to adjust wages and labor standards to keep up with union shops.

Meanwhile, Trump refused to bargain with unionized workers at his Las Vegas hotel (until finally announcing in late December that the hotel will negotiate), used Twitter to go after a union official who criticized him, and has voiced support for a national right-to-work law, a top GOP priority that has so far forbade private-sector unions in 26 states from requiring membership or dues payments as a condition of employment. A national right-to-work law, along with an eventual Supreme Court case that would gut public-sector unions, will only further decimate union density and send ripples through the economy.

Fewer and fewer workers have access to overtime.

One of the hallmarks of the New Deal’s labor law reforms was the implementation of premium overtime pay for hourly and lower-earning salaried workers for time worked beyond 40 hours a week.

As this graph shows, in 1979, more than 12 million salaried workers earned less than the overtime law’s salary threshold and were thus guaranteed access to overtime pay—regardless of their duties. However, the value of that threshold has eroded with inflation. Today, even with a 50 percent larger workforce, only 3.5 million salaried workers automatically receive overtime pay.

This past summer, Obama implemented a new overtime rule that doubled the salary threshold from $23,660 to $47,476, a bold change that would grant several million more salaried workers access to overtime pay. But a business lobby and a GOP-backed lawsuit in Texas led a federal judge to block the implementation of the rule, based on what advocates say is a highly misguided legal interpretation. The future of the overtime expansion now rests with Trump, who has indicated that rolling back regulations like the overtime rule will be a top priority. Without the new rule, millions of low-salaried workers will continue to be exploited by companies who force them to work long hours with no extra pay.

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