Economic Policy Institute

Here Are the 10 Worst Attacks on Workers From Trump’s First Year

January 20th marked the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration. Since taking office, President Trump has overseen a string of policies that will harm working people and benefit corporations and the rich. Here we present a list of the 10 worst things Congress and Trump have done to undermine pay growth and erode working conditions for the nation’s workers. 

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The Trump Administration Is Trying to Take Away the Rights of Millions of Americans to Get Paid for Their Overtime

The morning of July 25, the Trump administration filed a “Request for Information” in an effort to weaken or kill the badly-needed update to the overtime pay rule.

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A Black Woman in the Same Job as a White Man Has to Work 19 Months to Earn the Same He Does in 12

July 31st is Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, the day that marks how long into 2017 an African American woman would have to work in order to be paid the same wages as her white male counterpart was paid last year. Black women are uniquely positioned to be subjected to both a racial pay gap and a gender pay gap. In fact, on average, black women workers are paid only 67 cents on the dollar relative to white non-Hispanic men, even after controlling for education, years of experience, and location.

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The High Cost of Being Sick when You Don’t Get Paid Sick Days

There is no federal law that ensures all workers are able to earn paid sick days in the United States. For workers who fall ill or whose families depend on them to provide care in the event of an illness, this means sick days can be incredibly costly. Taking needed sick time means workers go without pay or must show up at work while sick and delay seeking treatment for themselves or their dependents.

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Black Americans Are Working More Than Ever, but Pay Hasn’t Caught Up

Over the last several decades, black workers have been offering more to the economy and the labor market to incredibly disappointing results in pay and unemployment. Some have argued that the disparity in wages between blacks and white is the result of white workers working longer and harder than black workers. They blame black workers for racial wage gaps, saying that they should do anything from getting more education to simply working harder. Such explanations minimize the role of racial discrimination on labor market outcomes, while perpetuating racial bias and stereotypes of black workers as unmotivated and lazy.

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Heads Up, Republicans Want Wall St. Investment Advisers to Lie and Pick Your Pocket

While the headlines are dominated by White House leaks and personnel scandals, the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress have been quietly helping the financial industry siphon off your retirement savings.

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So-Called 'Right-To-Work' Laws Will Lower Wages for Union and Nonunion Workers in Missouri

The Missouri legislature is poised to pass bills to weaken unions and clear the way for corporate dominance in the state. So-called “right-to-work” laws force unions to represent employees who pay nothing toward the costs of collective bargaining. It’s bad enough that these laws allow them to get the benefits of higher wages and better fringe benefits without paying their fair share. What’s worse is that these laws force unions to defend non-dues payers when they need to be defended against unjust discipline or being fired. Arbitration can cost thousands of dollars, including the cost of hiring lawyers.

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The New Year Brings Higher Wages for 4.3 Million Workers Across the Country

At the start of the new year, 19 states increased their minimum wages, lifting the pay of over 4.3 million workers.[i] This is the largest number of states ever in a given year to increase their minimum wages absent an increase in the federal minimum wage. In seven of these states (Alaska, Florida, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, and South Dakota) the increases were due to inflation indexing, where the state minimum wage is automatically adjusted each year to match the growth in prices, thereby preventing any erosion in the real value of the minimum wage. The increases in the remaining 12 states were due to legislation or ballot measures approved by voters.

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Andrew Puzder Fails Every Test for a Labor Secretary

President-elect Donald Trump announced that he plans to nominate fast food CEO Andrew Puzder to head the Department of Labor (DOL). Puzder, who makes millions as a low-wage employer, fails every test for a Labor Secretary. DOL’s mission is to improve the wages and working conditions of working Americans, but Puzder wants to keep wages low and threatens to replace his fast food chain’s employees with robots if the minimum wage rises enough to crimp his profits.

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What Ben Carson Should Learn About Housing Segregation

President-elect Donald Trump proposes to nominate Ben Carson to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Mr. Carson has expressed opposition to the Obama administration’s new HUD requirement that cities and suburbs develop plans to end their segregation or face possible loss of federal funds. He calls this “social engineering,” and says that such well-intentioned programs have unintended consequences that their proponents later come to regret. Instead, he says, emphasis should be placed on revitalizing distressed minority neighborhoods in central cities.

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The Ruling Against Obama Administration's Overtime Rule Is Wrong in So Many Ways

Judge Amos Mazzant’s opinion to block the Department of Labor’s new overtime rule is poorly reasoned and factually inaccurate. Judge Mazzant does not know the history of the Fair Labor Standards Act and he appears not to understand Chevron deference, a rule constructed by the U.S. Supreme Court to guide judicial review of federal agency regulatory decisions.

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There's Already a Big Gap Between Trump's Promises to the Middle Class and His Policies

During his campaign, President-elect Donald Trump promised that he would take the side of American workers against economic elites when evaluating policy. Yet, the policy proposals he put forth during the campaign had nothing in them that would actually help working- and middle-class Americans. Now that more plans and potential cabinet appointments are coming into focus, it looks worse than many of us thought even before the election. Across a broad range of crucial issues, the incoming Trump administration appears likely to betray the promises he made to the American middle class. Here’s a rough sketch of how.

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Obama Finally Passed an Executive Order to Address Wage Theft and On-the-Job Hazards, But a Texas Lawsuit Could Block It

One of President Obama’s most important contributions to better pay and working conditions in the United States is his executive order on Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces, which he issued two years ago and is finally taking effect this month. The order, which addresses wage theft and on-the-job hazards, including sexual harassment and race discrimination, affects 25 million employees working for businesses that provide goods and services under contract to the federal government – businesses that range from janitorial services to ship builders.

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Teachers Make 17% Less Than Similar Workers...and That Number Keeps Dropping

It’s back to school time and while many of us say we value our teachers and our children’s teachers, that is not reflected in their paychecks—and it’s getting worse: teachers’ pay has been steadily decreasing over the last several decades.

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Trump's Plan for the Economy Does Almost Nothing For Working People, Helps Rich Get Richer

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gave an economic policy speech yesterday. Besides peddling his standard trade scam, Trump doubled-down on one of his favorite tax scams, and unveiled an entirely new scam.

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CEOs Make 276 Times More Than Typical Workers

The compensation of the CEOs of the largest firms has grown much faster than stock prices, corporate profits and the wages of the top 0.1 percent. But the most dramatic difference is between the compensation of CEOs and the compensation of typical workers is that from 1978 to 2015 CEO compensation grew 941 percent while the compensation of a typical worker grew just 10 percent.

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The Federal Minimum Wage Has Been Eroded by Decades of Inaction

This week marks the seven-year anniversary of the last time the federal minimum wage was raised, from $6.55 to $7.25 on July 24, 2009. Since then, the purchasing power of the federal minimum wage has fallen by 10 percent as inflation has slowly eroded its value. However, this decline in the buying power of the minimum wage over the past seven years is not even half the overall decline in the minimum wage’s value since the late 1960s. As the figure below shows, at its high point in 1968, the federal minimum wage was equal to $9.63 in today’s dollars. That means that workers at the minimum wage today are paid roughly 25 percent less than their counterparts 48 years ago.

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Paul Ryan's Tax Plan Is Just a Shift toward Less Obvious Tax Breaks for the Rich

Paul Ryan’s election-year tax reform agenda shocked some people with its 33 percent top marginal income tax rate on earned income. This is much lower than today’s rates—or even what prevailed after the George W. Bush tax cuts—but at the same time, it’s high relative to the world of wildly unrealistic Republican tax plans. Have Republicans realized that slashing taxes on the rich won’t lead to booming growth and hence be self-financing? Or have they realized that they shouldn’t exacerbate inequality by continuing to fight tooth and nail for enormous tax cuts for the rich? Sadly, no, they are still fighting for enormous tax cuts for the rich—they’re just being a bit more subtle about it now. One example of this subtlety was detailed in my previous post: the 33 percent statutory rate masks the fact that high-income individuals could easily pay a top rate of 25 percent under Ryan’s plan by simply reclassifying their income as pass-through income. So the extent to which the House Republican caucus is no longer calling for drastic cuts to top marginal income tax rates is highly exaggerated. They’ve simply traded in their very-apparent tax reductions for less-obvious tax loopholes.

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Supreme Court Immigration Decision Means Millions of Workers Will Be Deprived of Crucial Labor Protections

This morning the Supreme Court of the United States issued its decision in United States v. Texas, the State of Texas’s challenge to the most significant of the executive immigration actions—known as the DAPA and DACA+ initiatives—which were announced by President Obama on November 20, 2014. The Court was deadlocked in a 4-4 tie, which results in the Fifth Circuit’s decision being upheld, which had affirmed the District Court’s preliminary injunction that prevented the president from moving forward with DAPA and DACA+.

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Hotel Housekeepers Make the Beds but Still Can't Afford to Lie in Them

This week marks the beginning of summer—family reunions, barbeques, and beach vacations— for those who can afford it. Those who can’t include hotel housekeepers, who like many U.S. workers over the past three decades have seen the standard features of a middle-class lifestyle grow even farther out of reach while productivity has more than doubled.

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As Union Membership Has Fallen, the Top 10 Percent Have Been Getting a Larger Share of Income

As union membership has fallen over the last few decades, the share of income going to the top 10 percent has steadily increased. Union membership fell to 11.1 percent in 2014, where it remained in 2015 (not shown in the figure). The share of income going to the top 10 percent, meanwhile, hit 47.2 percent in 2014—only slightly lower than 47.8 percent in 2012, the highest it has been since 1917 (the earliest year data are available). When union membership was at its peak (33.4 percent in 1945) the share of income going to the top 10 percent was only 32.6 percent.

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Universities Oppose Paying Their Postdocs Overtime, but Will Pay Football Coaches Millions of Dollars

Colleges and universities have made the indefensible argument that they can’t afford to pay their low-level salaried employees for their overtime under the Department of Labor’s new overtime rule. Universities have singled out postdoctoral researchers, many of whom spend 60 hours a week or more running the labs that turn out the nation’s most important scientific advances, as a group of employees that would just cost too much if they had to be paid for the extra hours they work each week.

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The Uber Litigation Shows How the Company Gets Around Employment Laws

The recent settlements in the California Uber litigation demonstrate the perils of mandatory arbitration for our entire framework for regulating employment. Unfortunately, media coverage of the Uber controversies has not highlighted the damage that arbitration agreements have wrought to the individual workers involved and to our employment laws generally. But it is now more clear than ever that everyone who cares about employment rights and the fair treatment of workers should support federal legislation to end mandatory arbitration in employment and put workers and corporations on a more equal footing.

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The New Overtime Rule Will Directly Benefit 12.5 Million Working People

These tables give a detailed breakdown of EPI’s estimate that 12.5 million salaried workers will directly benefit from the Department of Labor’s new rule raising the salary threshold below which salaried workers are automatically eligible for overtime pay. According to our assessment, most of these 12.5 million workers will be newly eligible for overtime protections: they are currently ineligible for overtime pay because they are classified, or wrongly classified, as having job duties that preclude receiving overtime. The rest will have their rights strengthened (they are currently at risk of being classified or misclassified as ineligible for overtime). There is inherent uncertainty in these estimates because no data are available documenting who is currently eligible for or receiving overtime.

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Unemployment for Black Grads is Still Worse Than it Was for White Grads in the Aftermath of the Recession

The black unemployment rate is typically twice as high as the white unemployment rate, and African Americans are often the last to feel the economic benefits during a recovery. These realities are reflected in the fact that the unemployment rate for young black graduates is still worse today than it ever was for whites in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Young black college graduates (age 24–29) currently have an unemployment rate of 9.4 percent—higher than the peak unemployment rate for young white college graduates during the recovery (9.0 percent). Young blacks with only a high-school degree (age 17–20) face a grimmer picture: an unemployment rate of 28.4 percent, which is also higher than the peak unemployment rate for white high-school graduates during the recovery (25.9 percent).

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Straight Out of College, Women Make $4 Less per Hour Than Men and the Gap is Getting Wider

Right out of college, young male college graduates are paid more than their women peers—astonishing, given that these young people by definition have the same experience. While young men with a college degree earn an average hourly wage of $20.94 early in their careers, their female counterparts earn an average hourly wage of just $16.58, or $4.36 less than men. This difference would translate to a $9,000 annual wage gap for full-time workers.

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How Princeton's Trustees Failed History with Their Woodrow Wilson Decision

Last week, the Princeton University trustees announced they were rejecting student protester demands that “Woodrow Wilson” be removed from the names of the university’s School of Public and International Affairs and a residential undergraduate college.

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Almost Two-Thirds of People in the Labor Force Do Not Have a College Degree, and Their Job Prospects Are Dimming

Almost two-thirds of people in the labor force (65.1 percent) do not have a college degree. In fact, people without a college degree (which includes those without a high school degree, with a high school degree, some college education, and an associates’ degrees) make up the majority of the labor force in every state but the District of Columbia. Mississippi has the highest share of non-college educated workers (75.7 percent) while Massachusetts and the District of Columbia have the lowest shares (51 percent and 33.7 percent, respectively).

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Uber Drivers Should Be Paid For Wait Time

Whether drivers for ride services such as Uber and Lyft are employees or independent contractors has become an important issue for city administrators, labor policymakers, and the businesses and drivers themselves. But an increasing number of voices argue that the drivers are neither, that some work relationships arranged through digital platforms in the so-called gig economy differ so fundamentally from traditional employee or independent contractor relationships that we need a new, third category of worker.

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Women Over 65 Are More Likely to Be Poor Than Men, Regardless of Race, Educational Background or Marital Status

Women age 65 and older are much more likely to be poor than their male counterparts—and older, minority, and unmarried women are at greatest risk. The chart below replicates findings in a new report by the National Institute on Retirement Security, but uses an alternative measure of poverty that takes into account out-of-pocket medical expenses and other factors in addition to income. Hispanic senior women have the highest poverty rate of any group—31 percent, compared with 28 percent of Hispanic men over the age of 65. Senior women who never married have a similarly high poverty rate (29 percent); comparatively, senior men who never married have a poverty rate of 21 percent. As women get older, they also become more likely to be in poverty: 17 percent of women between the ages of 70–79 and 22 percent of women 80 and over are in poverty. Meanwhile, men in these age groups have a poverty rate of 11 percent and 17 percent, respectively.

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The One Unemployment Statistic You Need to Know to Understand How Badly the Deck Is Stacked Against Black America

In December 2015, the national unemployment rate was 5.0 percent, down 0.1 percentage point since the end of the third quarter in September 2015. Forty-three states and the District of Columbia added jobs in the fourth quarter. All but seven states gained jobs in 2015, and all but eight ended the year with lower unemployment than in December 2014. Yet even as the recovery moves ahead slowly, conditions vary greatly across states and across racial and ethnic groups. In December, state unemployment rates ranged from a high of 6.7 percent in New Mexico to a low of 2.7 percent in North Dakota. Nationally, African Americans had the highest unemployment rate, at 8.3 percent, followed by Latinos (6.3 percent), whites (4.5 percent), and Asians (4.0 percent).

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