Inadequate Wages Won’t Work

As we wait for President Obama’s post-Labor Day speech on employment, it’s a crucial time to be  thinking about job creation, but also an important moment to reflect on the conditions of those who are still employed.

A brief released today as part of the State of Working North Carolina series stresses the importance of  ensuring that workers are paid for the work that they do and that these wages allow workers to support themselves and their families.

The brief notes that wage theft, or the illegal withholding of wages by an employer, is on the rise; that a higher percentage of North Carolina’s working families are currently earning low incomes; and that the state’s lowest-wage earners actually saw a decline in inflation-adjusted wages over the last 10 years. Simply said, more and more families are relying on jobs that don’t pay enough, or in the worst cases, don’t pay at all.

What can we do? We can invest in workers. Paying employees a fair wage is not only essential for allowing workers to put food on the table, it is important tool for stimulating the economy. Increasing low-income worker’s wages puts money into the local economy and reduces employer costs by reducing turnover and increasing productivity.

Americans have long believed that hard work should be rewarded with fair wages. North Carolina has concrete tools at its disposal to turn rhetoric into action. Enforcing protections to ensure that workers are paid for all hours worked, increasing the minimum wage, and making sure that all workers have access to basic wage laws are policies that reinforce the value of work, help struggling families, and accelerate the economic recovery.

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