Low wage workers deserve attention and action

Ryan Rippel

Coming into 2020, conventional wisdom held that the United States was enjoying the strongest labor market in a generation. But by what metrics was that determination made?

Millions of workers were stuck in low-wage jobs without basic assurances such as health benefits and a predictable schedule, and no opportunity and no security.

Then COVID-19 hit. Over the last seven months, millions of workers have been laid off, furloughed, or scaled back. According to Pew Research, one in four adults are struggling to pay their bills.

The people on the wrong side of these divides were not randomly determined. Specifically, people of color were much more likely both to be poor before the pandemic and to lose their job because of the pandemic. Research released in 2018 showed that the black-white wage gap for men has regressed to 1950s levels. (Reminder: Segregation was the law of the land in the 1950s.)

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