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Holly Sklar on Wages and Work
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June 13, 2008

Are we living the American Dream in reverse? Study after study has shown that rather than leading the world in economic mobility — the United States has become the most unequal nation in the western world. According to a new study reported in THE NEW YORK TIMES, "The chance that children of the poor or middle class will climb up the income ladder, has not changed significantly over the last three decades."

But it's not just a matter of joining the ranks of the wealthy. THE ECONOMIST put the matter starkly: "After you adjust for inflation, the wages of the typical American worker — the one at the very middle of the income distribution — have risen less than 1% since 2000. In the previous five years, they rose over 6%." Writer and activist Holly Sklar joins Bill Moyers to talk about the battle for "a living wage."

Holly Sklar

Holly Sklar is a nationally syndicated columnist, author, policy analyst and strategist. Her op-eds for McClatchy-Tribune News Service (formerly Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service) and Minuteman Media have appeared in hundreds of newspapers and online outlets. Sklar is the co-author of RAISE THE FLOOR: WAGES AND POLICIES THAT WORK FOR ALL OF US, which showed that raising the minimum wage to a living wage is necessary for workers and good for business and the economy. She is writing a book about revitalizing the American Dream.

Sklar is Director of Business for Shared Prosperity (BSP), a new national network of business owners and executives "committed to building enduring economic progress on a strong foundation of opportunity, equity and innovation." BSP is mobilizing business support for a higher minimum wage, guaranteed affordable healthcare and other policies.

Sklar is also senior policy advisor to the Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign, a leading faith, community, labor coalition working to raise the minimum wage to a living wage at the state and federal level ( Let Justice Roll has helped raise state minimum wages in 17 states, and played a key role in raising the federal minimum wage in 2007 for the first time in a decade. Sklar's other books include STREETS OF HOPE: THE FALL AND RISE OF AN URBAN NEIGHBORHOOD, the widely taught story of how the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative is rebuilding a long impoverished Boston community as a dynamic urban village. She is the author of CHAOS OR COMMUNITY? SEEKING SOLUTIONS, NOT SCAPEGOATS FOR BAD ECONOMICS and many other books and reports on domestic and international issues.

Published on June 13, 2008.

Guest photo by Robin Holland

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Sociologist Katherine Newman on the global markets' effect on kitchen table issues.

References and Reading:
Business for Shared Prosperity.

The Raise the Floor Project
Read Op-Eds by Holly Sklar on women and working wage issues.

Let Justice Roll Living Wage Campaign
Read reports by Holly Sklar.

Holly Sklar on COMMON DREAMS.
Op-eds on the economy and current affairs.

NOW on PBS: A Living Wage
NOW examines the fight for a "living wage"—the pay needed to cover an actual week's worth of living—on the Nashville, Tennessee campus of Vanderbilt University.

"Businesses Divided over Impact of Higher Minimum Wage,"
ONLINE NEWSHOUR, February 2, 2007
The NEWSHOUR reports on the Senate vote to raise the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25.

One in four American workers — more than 30 million people work jobs that pay less than the federal poverty level for a family of four. Shot in the Northeast and California, the film profiles four very different Americans who work full-time but still can't make ends meet. Despite their hard work and determination, these four find themselves, as one of them observes, "hustling backwards."

Living Wage Resource Center
The site includes a brief history of the national living wage movement, background materials such as ordinance summaries and comparisons, drafting tips, research summaries, talking points, and links to other living wage-related sites.

Also This Week:

Bill Moyers Journal analyzes the growing inequality gap on the ground in Los Angeles where recently union workers marched to bring attention to how they are getting squeezed out of the shrinking middle class. Follow the march with our virtual map.

Steve Fraser, historian and author of WALL STREET: AMERICA'S DREAM PALACE, discusses the modern parallels and differences to the first Gilded Age, the big disparity between the rich and poor, and the increasing strain on working Americans.

Holly Sklar, co-author of RAISE THE FLOOR: WAGES AND POLICIES THAT WORK FOR ALL OF US, discusses what current economic conditions say about the state of the American dream.


Senator Bernie Sanders, "The Collapse of the Middle Class"
Senator Sanders' office received over 600 responses from all across the state, as well as some from other states. This small booklet contains a few of those letters.

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