Monday, September 06, 2010

What does Labor Want?

As the nation pays tribute to the American worker, the American worker is finding it harder and harder to keep, find or create work enough to support a family. It's not that there is no work to be done.  Quite the contrary. The amount of work to be done is endless.  No, the problem is priorities.

Rather than focusing on what's best for society, we've channeled most of our productive effort into the making and accumulation of money at the expense of pretty much everything else.

"What does labor want? We want more schoolhouses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge; in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures." ~ Samuel Gompers
US Department of Labor.

The Stimulus Package (HR1) and Low-Income Families - "A third of all families with children, 13.4 million families with children, are low-income, defined as families with incomes less than twice the federal poverty line. Nearly three-quarters of these families have at least one employed adult, though not all are working full-time. Over 60% of the working adults have a high school education or less. How we address these labor-market problems will help determine the inequality in our country and the prospects for future generations." 

Low-Income Working Families: Updated Facts and Figures
Low-income parents work a lot. Even though low-income families worked substantially less than higher-income families in 2006, nearly half (48.6%) fell in the high-intensity category—meaning at least one parent worked full time, all year. Another 17.8% worked a moderate amount, 5.6% worked a low amount, and 8.2% worked for themselves.
Low wages explain why these families have low incomes. The vast majority of low-income families’ income comes from earnings—89% in the case of low-income families with at least one full-time, full-year worker in 2006. These high-work families made roughly $25,000 during 2006 (only 22% above the poverty level for a family of four). Those in the medium– and low–work intensity categories had even lower incomes, roughly $13,860 and $6,300, respectively.
Single-parent families are in even worse economic situations. Single-parent families are almost twice as likely to have low incomes compared to all families with children, and almost three times as likely to have low incomes compared to married-couple families with children. 70% of single parents are in the workforce, but only about 40% work full time—perhaps because of child care challenges and other family responsibilities. When they are able to work, low-income single parents work for lower wages; in 2006, single parents earned about $10 an hour while married parents earned about $11 an hour. The median wage rates for each group are about $1 lower.
Low-income families have low rates of health insurance coverage. The share of non-elderly adults in low-income households who lacked health insurance increased from 39 to 43% from 2000 to 2005; for children, nearly 15% remained uninsured at the end of this period. The rate of uninsurance for low-income children actually declined relative to the beginning of the decade, but only due to an increase in public insurance programs that focus on children, such as the State Children’s Health Insurance Program,. During this period, the percentage of low-income families with employer-sponsored insurance dropped significantly. For families with poverty-level incomes (below 100% of poverty), the percentage with coverage dropped nearly 7 percentage points, from 37 to 30%. For those with incomes between 100 and 200% of the FPL, private coverage dropped a similar amount, from 59 to 52%. For comparison, coverage rates for the highest-income families (with incomes above 400% of the FPL) dropped as well, but only 0.7%, for a 2005 coverage rate of 92%.
Health problems are more prevalent among low-income families, and these families are more likely to be uninsured. Almost 21% of families with income below 150% of the federal poverty level have at least one member in fair or poor health, compared with only 16.7% of higher-income families. Lower-income families are also much more likely to have at least one member without health insurance.
Finding decent affordable housing is a huge problem for low-income families. The hourly wages needed to afford housing at fair-market prices are well above the wages low-income workers receive. Average rents nationwide have been growing faster than inflation, while the median renter’s monthly income dropped 7.3% between 2000 and 2008. As a result, average gross rents (monthly rent plus the estimated average cost of utilities) as a share of renter income increased from 26.5 to 30.3% over the period
While the heads of low-income working families are likely to be less educated than those of middle-income families, the large majority have at least a high school diploma. Of the heads of low-income working families, 73% have at least a high school education; 35% have education beyond high school.
Compared with high- and middle-income families, low-income working families are disproportionately nonwhite and immigrant, although most are headed by white, native-born, non-Hispanic adults. Forty-two% of low-income working families are headed by white adults, while 70% of middle- and high-income families are headed by white adults. Seventy-three% of low-income working families are headed by native-born adults, compared with 85% of middle- and high-income families.

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