Irit Tamir, Director of Oxfam America’s Private Sector Department, has written an excellent article explaining the context for the recent and dramatic uptick in number of workers going on strike in the U.S.  In it she writes:

“Why are members of the United Automobile Workers (UAW) taking to the street as the latest workers to go on strike this year? Here’s one reason: auto industry profits soared by 92% in ten years, to $250 billion, while worker pay has declined by nearly 20% since 2008.

It’s no wonder workers are fed up. Corporate concentration and power have been on the rise for decades. And the ones who are profiting are corporate executives and shareholders—not workers.

CEO pay has skyrocketed 1460% since 1978; the ratio of CEO-to-worker compensation went from 20-to-1 in 1965 to 399-to-1 in 2021. And worker wages have NOT kept pace with CEO increases—nor productivity. While worker productivity increased by 64.6% between 1979 and 2021, hourly wages only bumped by 17.3%.

This is not the American dream that we were all raised on—the one that says, as long as you work hard you will be rewarded. Instead, we are seeing a return to the days of Upton Sinclair and the Gilded Age—when fat cats counted their money while those living in poverty worked in horrific conditions for little pay.

I face the sad truth that our children are not better off than we were; they are facing a tumultuous world, with staggering rates of inequality and a climate crisis the threatens our very existence. They have mounting student debt, rising costs of healthcare, food, and energy, and paychecks that fail to keep pace. Is it any wonder that we are seeing a summer of striking workers continue into the fall?

From Hollywood, to warehouses, to coffee shops—the latest strike by auto workers exemplifies the choice we collectively have to make: to stand up with workers fighting for our future, or accept the corporate power that continues to funnel profits to the already wealthy. Today, CEOs, executives, and financiers have more money than they know what to do with. The average CEO at one of the top 350 firms in the U.S. earns $27.8 million; nearly a third of U.S. workers earn under $15 an hour.”

To read the article in full, click here.

Author: Irit Tamir

Photo credit:   Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash