It’s up to us to rebuild the middle class!

The numbers don’t lie. While the economy has doubled since 1980, almost all the benefits have gone to the really rich – the top 1 percent. Who’s in this top 1 percent? 60 percent are executives. Their pay took a dip at the start of the Great Recession but now is growing at 23 percent a year, while wages for workers are growing at 0.5 percent a year.

Check out the chart below. Middle-class incomes have barely moved since 1982.  In the same time, the incomes of the rich have skyrocketed. And the percentage of workers in unions has dropped.

Why? One factor is that corporations have often used illegal tactics to keep workers from joining unions through legal delays and campaigns of intimidation.

But there’s hope.

Middle Class Chart

What can we do?

  • Join our union. If you’re already in the union, be more active to help make us stronger.
  • Sign a petition to say you support a new federal rule that would require union elections to be resolved in a fair and timely manner. Corporate interests are trying to block this, of course. It’s up to us to stand up and help rebuild the middle class.
  • Or you can send a note directly to the National Labor Relations Board through the federal government’s website.
  • Just being aware helps. Share the facts with your friends and families. Get engaged in the discussion by sending a letter to the editor of your local paper. And don’t be afraid to speak up, whether at work, in the community or in your family.

Sources: Wage data from IRS, compiled by Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty, UC Berkeley; Union density data compiled by Gerald Mayer, Congressional Research Service; Data integrated and chart created by James Geluso, SEIU Local 521

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6 Responses to “It’s up to us to rebuild the middle class!”

  1. Marta Damon says:

    It would be helpful to list the source of your chart to give it creditability.

  2. djdjd says:

    You can’t have the y-axis of that chart indicate exponential growth in even intervals; It skews the results. Middle class earnings could have risen from 70k to 90k in that time period, but this chart is grossly inaccurate, and there’s no way know. GREAT JOB!!!

    • SEIU Local 521 says:

      We had to go with a logarithmic scale on the Y-axis, or else the middle-class income line would have been indistinguishable from the X-axis, because the other lines (in particular the .01 percent line) are so high. The data point for the middle-class income in 1967 was $46,621, and in 2008 it was $62,487, a 34 percent increase (averaging 0.83 percent annual growth). The data points for the top line were $5.79 million in 1967 and $27.3 million in 2008, a 371 percent increase (averaging 9 percent annual growth). All figures were adjusted for inflation by the economist who compiled the numbers from federal tax returns.

      • Bill says:

        I agree with djdjd. The chart could be more compelling if done a little differently. And what about data since 2006?

        • SEIU Local 521 says:

          The chart actually goes to 2008. The labels stop at 2006 because of a fluke in the way Excel builds charts. The IRS releases income tax data after several years, so the data after that isn’t available yet.

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