A Maximum Wage Law?
A Maximum Wage Law?
By Lawrence J. Hanley / huffingtonpost.com

I recently read about a cash-strapped seven-year Walmart employee in Louisiana who says she'd live in her car if she could figure out how to do it. Another Walmart employee claims that many Walmart "associates" actually do that to make ends meet, but it's really not an option for the 52 year-old "front-of-the-store" manager.

The Louisiana woman used to get by on her full-time, $11.60 per hour paycheck, but she's struggling now as a result of her store's decision to cut the hours of full-time workers and increase the hours of lower-paid, part-time workers. Many other Walmarts have done the same, helping America's largest employer emerge from two years of declining profits.

During the corporation's downturn Chief Executive Officer Michael Duke's total 2011 compensation was $18.7 million -- 725 times the wages of Walmart's average worker.

Walmart isn't the only company balancing its books on the backs of its workers, which is one reason why many corporations have turned the corner while more and more Americans hit hard by the recession are still out of work or working for minimum wage or close to it.

There is growing support for a bill in congress that would raise the minimum wage. The legislation would increase the wages of 30 million Americans and provide a much-needed boost for working families and our ailing economy.

While raising the minimum wage is a laudable goal, the widening income gap between the rich and the rest of us must be addressed if we are to salvage the bulwark of our economy -- the middle class.

America is becoming a country of "haves" and "have-nots." Most of the wealth generated by U.S. workers over the last 40 years has gone to the richest 1 percent of our nation, while the middle class has seen no real improvement in their buying power or standard-of-living. And things are getting worse for an increasing number of middle class families who are falling into poverty because of the Great Recession.

You don't have to be an economist to be alarmed by the financial chasm opening up between the rich and the rest of us.

The average CEO made 380 times the wage of the average American worker in 2011. In actual dollars, that comes to $34,053 for the worker, and $12.9 million for the CEO -- a wage disparity far greater than that of any other country.

The median individual wage in 2010 was just $26,364 -- which means that half of all workers made that much or less that year. Significantly, the average wage of all workers is going up because the incomes of the rich are going up; but median income is falling because of the continued erosion of the incomes of the middle class and working poor.

There doesn't seem to be any finish line in this race to the bottom. Big business worships at the altar of the "Free Market" which rewards those who, in effect, impoverish hardworking people to feed the insatiable appetite of the rich. This transfer of wealth to the rich from the poor and middle class is most evident in corporate America.

What can be done to deal with growing income inequality and close the astronomical divide between the billionaires and millionaires and the rest of America?

A maximum wage law.

A maximum wage law would limit the amount of compensation an employer could receive to a specified multiple of the wage earned by his or her lowest paid employees.

In other words, if federal law limited an employer's income to no more than 100 times the wage of his or her lowest paid workers, and, if, for example, those workers made $25,000 per year -- the employer would make no more than $2.5 million per year. The employer's compensation could not increase above that amount unless his or her lowest paid workers got an equivalent raise as well.

The idea is not unprecedented. In a time of massive domestic and economic distress, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued an executive order during World War II limiting corporate salaries to no more than $25,000 per year after taxes. The president believed that if middle class fathers, brothers, and sons were putting their lives on the line for just $60 per month, the rich should be required to make some sacrifice too.

FDR's maximum wage proposal was bold and brilliant. Believing that all citizens should help out with the mobilization effort, he refused to be bullied by the rich, and never lost sight of the fact that fair compensation and a thriving middle class are essential elements of a healthy economy -- particularly during a national emergency.

A maximum wage law would actually ensure that "a rising tide [would lift] all boats," and encourage competition while improving lives at every level of society.

The minimum wage certainly must be raised. It's also time to start a national discussion about creating a maximum wage law.

 - International President, Amalgamated Transit Union in DC; Member of the AFL-CIO's Executive Council

0.0 ·
0
What's Next
Trending Today
The Myth of Positivity: Why Your Pain Holds a Mighty Purpose
umair haque · 14,938 views today · Of all the great myths of contemporary life, one of the most toxic is positivity. It says: there are negative and positive emotions, and only the positive ones are worth...
Have You Heard of The Great Forgetting? It Happened 10,000 Years Ago & Completely Affects Your Life
Daniel Quinn · 14,686 views today · (Excerpted from the book, The Story of B) With every audience and every individual, I have to begin by making them see that the cultural self-awareness we inherit from our...
A Hauntingly Beautiful Short Film About Life and Death
5 min · 9,190 views today · The Life of Death is a touching handdrawn animation about the day Death fell in love with Life.
10 Stunning Images from the Wildlife Photographer of the Year People's Choice Award
Natural History Museum · 8,393 views today · These incredible images are a selection from of the 25 shortlisted by The Natural History Museum for the People's Choice Award from this year's Wildlife Photographer of the...
Seven Must-Have Skills for the 21st Century
Tommy Lehe · 7,066 views today · We live in a world that moves faster than we do. Trying to keep up can be an overwhelming task that at times feels hopeless, like we are falling further and further behind—but...
Forget Air Force One, Pentagon Wastes Billions and Billions Every Month
Nadia Prupis · 4,865 views today · President-elect Donald Trump's focus on single Boeing contract ignores enormous waste of bloated Pentagon budget
Stunning Summary of US Imperialism and Native Resistance... on MSNBC!
4 min · 4,468 views today · On The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC, Lawrence explains why a protest by Native Americans in North Dakota reminds us of the history American always tries to forget.
DREAM: A Spoken Word Meditation For When Life Is Kicking Your Ass
4 min · 2,676 views today · If life is kicking your ass and the general un-coolness of everybody on planet erf is making you want to off yourself, TALK to someone: 800-273-8255 (national suicide...
Standing Rock Wisdom: How Sacred, Nonviolent Activism Has the Power to Succeed
Charles Eisenstein · 2,279 views today · I am told by Native American friends active at Standing Rock that the elders are counseling the Water Protectors to undertake each action prayerfully and to stay off the...
The Other Way of Knowing
Lilian Na’ia Alessa · 2,126 views today · Western science and Indigenous worldviews are often seen as incompatible, with the Indigenous view usually being far less valued by society at large. But an inside look at...
Amanda Abbington Introduces iAnimal - 42 Days in the Life of Chickens
4 min · 1,993 views today · Shot undercover in British factory farms and slaughterhouses, this immersive 360° video gives you a birds-eye view of what happens to chicken from farm to plate.
The Most Powerful Algorithm in the World
Joe Brewer · 1,894 views today · After the insanity of the U.S. election, a lot of people are blaming Facebook for its algorithms that parse us into ideological bubbles and spread “fake news” and other kinds...
Veterans at Standing Rock Ask Forgiveness for War Crimes Against Tribal Nations
Jen Hayden · 1,855 views today · Jon Eagle Sr., Tribal Historic Preservation Officer at Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has reported something wholly unexpected happened at the Standing Rock Reservation today. The...
How a White Supremacist Became a Civil Rights Activist
Araz Hachadourian · 1,762 views today · The story of a KKK leader’s transformation shows us that we need not live forever with the kind of violence we saw in Charleston this month.
Dear Activists, Maybe It's Time to Admit That We've Got It All Wrong
Mickey Z. · 1,557 views today · “The first step in the revolution is eye contact.” - Alicen Grey
Sean Carroll - The Meaning of Life
7 min · 1,497 views today · The world keeps happening in accordance with its rules; it's up to us to make sense of it and give it value. Sean Carroll Music: Moby - God Moving Over the Face of the Waters
Why People Cling to Old Beliefs
1 min · 1,455 views today · Cognitive psychologist and neuroscientist at McGill University, Daniel Levitin, explains why people can be so stubborn when it comes to false beliefs. This behavior is...
Solar is Already Producing More Energy Than Oil, Says Major Scientific Review
Nafeez Ahmed · 1,396 views today · And is twice as powerful than previously thought
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 1,303 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
The 24-Hour Emergency Hotline for Syrian Refugees
7 min · 1,095 views today · Mohammed Abu Amar runs a makeshift 24-hour helpline from his flat in Hamburg, guiding scared refugees fleeing the violence in Syria across the water to Europe.  Despite losing...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
A Maximum Wage Law?