Why You Should Join the #MillionStudentMarch: Wage Stagnation
On November 12th, the Million Student March will be held on campuses across the nation. There are now 50 marches scheduled, with many more to come! To find your local event and sign-up, visit studentmarch.org.
We have three demands:
- Tuition-Free Public College
- Cancellation of All Student Debt
- A $15 Minimum Wage for All Campus Workers
Angry Millennials fully endorses these demands and each week, we will cover one major reason why every young person across the country should be in the streets on November 12th. This week, we focus on an issue which effects not only college students and millennials, but our entire workforce: Wage Stagnation
Wages have been stagnant for the past forty years, as can be seen clearly in this chart from Pew Research:
While the wage itself increased quite a bit from $2.50 in 1964, which was equivalent to $19.18 in constant 2014 dollars, today the average worker is only making $20.67 per hour. In fifty years, we have only gained $1.50 per hour on average, when considering the increasing price of goods and services. Since the end of the 1970s, we have not made any gains, despite a huge boost in productivity.
From 1948-1973, both productivity and hourly compensation rose between 90 and 100%, at very similar rates. However, as our economy became more productive after 1973, the hourly compensation actually fell slightly, before rising gradually in the late 1990s. As productivity rose another 74.4%, hourly compensation only rose another 9.2%. Clearly, workers as a whole have not been benefiting from the productivity gains in our economy for the past few decades, but what about when we split these charts by class:
Here we see that wages for workers in the 95th percentile have increased 41% since 1979, over half of the increase in productivity. Meanwhile, those at the 50th percentile have only increased 6%, while workers in lowest 10th percentile have actually seen their real hourly wages decrease by 5%. This seems to indicate that at least half the gains of our increased productivity are going directly to the top 5%, while the rest of us are either making less, or enjoying a very minuscule increase.
As Bernie Sanders cites quite often in his stump speeches, this disparity is even more obvious since the financial crash:
The conclusion here is clear: Our wages have been stagnant for decades, despite increased worker productivity, and almost all of the gains have gone to the top 5%, especially since the financial collapse. As we watch the slow but steady collapse of the middle class, we experience increased hardship everyday, struggling to cover basic needs such as healthcare, school, nutrition, transportation, and the myriad of other costs which are making it more difficult for us to make ends meet.
Predictably, this trend has a significant impact on recent graduates. Here is another graph from EPI:
As you can see, average hourly wages of young college graduates have been fluctuating since 1990. In general, they fell after 1990 before rising drastically in the late 90s. Since 2000, even as they spike up during certain years, wages are generally lower today. Another distressing feature of this chart is while the wages of women and men shared the same trends since 1990, we see that they begin to diverge at around the time of the financial crash. Today, college educated women earn almost $4.00 less per hour, and are seeing their wages continue to fall, while the wages of men are actually increasing. This gender gap will become much wider if these trends continue.
Another study by Young Invincibles examined where recent Millennials were working, and made charts of their median annual wages, split into the top five sectors among 18-24 year olds and 25-34 year olds:
From these charts, we can see that the movement for a $15 minimum wage has significant importance to millennials, as a large percentage of us are in the retail, leisure, and hospitality industries, which tend to pay close to, or slightly above the minimum wage. In fact, the yearly median wage for young people of both age cohorts in EACH field has either remained stagnant and decreased, including healthcare, and the professional & business fields.
This indicates that young people are not earning any more than in 2004, even in fast-growing fields which are commonly recommended by career counselors. This could have serious implications, considering that total student loan debt has almost TRIPLED in this same time period.
RAISE THE MINIMUM WAGE
This explains why thousands of fast food, retail, home care aides, airport workers, academic adjuncts, and other workers have joined the movement for a $15 per hour minimum wage. Even as the price of many goods and services continues to increase, which we will cover next week, our wages are worth either the same or even less than decades ago. With every passing year, our earnings are worth less, creating a dire, urgent situation where going on strike without a union is the only way to fight back. Despite multiple studies which support the idea that raising the minimum wage would actually provide an economic stimulus, most low-wage employers are against raising the wage, despite being multinational corporations with millions in profits.
While electing Bernie Sanders, who supports a nationwide $15 per hour minimum wage, would certainly help immensely, we will need a mass movement to put pressure on our politicians to start helping the workers they supposedly represent. For this reason, one of the demands of the Million Student March is the $15/hour minimum wage for all campus workers, in solidarity with the Fight For 15. Even if we are going to school to escape minimum wage labor, raising the wage won’t just help the cashiers in the food court, but ALL OF US!
Our education system is broken, and we are paying higher tuition each year for an education which is increasingly not helping us in the job market. However, we can’t give up. Students across the country must fight for a $15/hour minimum wage to rise the income of all workers. We must eliminate the tuition of public universities to provide an opportunity for all members of our society to obtain a higher education regardless of income. Finally, we must abolish student debt, because a large percentage of our generation has been robbed of our economic futures.
This isn’t impossible. We start on November 12th at the Million Student March. Sign up and find your local event at StudentMarch.org.
We are more than our degrees and job titles. We are not a loan. The time has come for us to stand up and fight back!