WCP: Poverty and Precarious Work

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worker squeeze

Over the Labor Day weekend we celebrated workers and unions, but work itself is becoming increasingly precarious. In this week’s Working-Class Perspective, John Russo argues that we should examine the relationship between work and poverty. In order to ensure that workers receive both a living wage and economic security, we must re-embrace worker solidarity.

Neoliberals believed that changes in the organization of work associated with economic restructuring would propel economic growth that would, as the saying goes, “lift all boats.” That didn’t happen. Rather, we’ve seen wages and benefits decline for working people in both private and public sectors – as we’ve heard about throughout this year’s presidential election, from candidates from all parties.

Instead of rising, many boats began to sink. Several decades into economic restructuring and neoliberalism, the poverty rate in the U.S. is higher than it’s been since 1960. More than 146 million Americans live in poverty today. More than 100 million receive some form of public assistance, including about 46 million who receive food stamps. As The Economist reported recently, the poverty rate here is “higher than that of almost any other developed country.” High poverty rates mean that many people go hungry, struggle to pay for housing, and have very limited access to health care.

Read the special Labor Day post in its entirety (new window) and check out other Working-Class Perspectives posts on our website.

The Working-Class Perspectives blog (new window) is brought to you by our Visiting Scholar for the 2015-16 academic year, John Russo, and Georgetown University English professor, Sherry Linkon. It features several regular and guest contributors.