On this Labor Day, Let’s Not Just Honor Workers: Let’s Fight for Them

By Nancy Altman, President of Social Security Works

Each year, we set aside one day, Labor Day, to honor American workers, who put in extremely long hours and are incredibly productive. That is the least we should do. We can and should do much more.

As a start, we should take this holiday to recognize and reflect on the fact that there is a war that is being waged on the very workers we are honoring. The results of the war are clear: Despite the admirable productivity of America’s work force, all of the gains generated by the hard work and long hours has gone to a tiny sliver of our society, in recent decades. As the chart below shows, America’s income growth has gone overwhelmingly to the top 1% in the last four decades. It hasn’t always been this way: From 1948 to 1979 two-thirds of aggregate income growth in the United States went to the bottom 90 percent. But from 1979 onward, nearly two-thirds of growth went to the top 1 percent. Perhaps even worse, the aggregate income of the bottom 90% actually declined!

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