[Marxism] "The Problem of the Declining Real Wage"

John A Imani johnaimani2 at sbcglobal.net
Thu Nov 9 12:39:54 MST 2006

LBJ Journal of Public Affairs

The Problem of the Declining Real Wage
History, Analysis, and Recommendations

by Joseph Siedlecki

In the "Long Strike of 1875," coalminers rose up against their mine operators to demand, among other things, a better wage. After months of struggle, the miners were defeated and returned to work with little to show for their troubles. After the strike was broken, the workers' wages were cut repeatedly. Union records show that in 1876, 1877, 1878, and 1879 the miners "received 48, 58, 50 and 51 cents respectively less than in 1869 for doing the same dollar's worth of work." The workers sang their sorrows, reciting lyrics such as:

Our wages, they grow beautifully less,
And if they keep growing thus, I guess,
We'll have to put on magnifying specs,
To see the little figures on our checks,
It's nothing strange to find on seeing the docket,
We've worked a month and are still out of pocket,
It makes a man feel dirty cheap, you bet,
To work a month and then come out in debt.

For many Americans in the early 21st century the song remains the same. Between 1973 and 2000 the real wage (average hourly wages and salaries of production and nonsupervisory workers in the total private sector, adjusted for inflation) decreased by 8 percent. The decreasing value of the average real wage is a significant social policy problem in the United States. This paper will review federal wage policy, outline relevant demographic and employment trends, analyze the problem as it stands today, and provide a set of recommendations for addressing the problem.

Paper located at http://www.lbjjournal.org/PrintLBJArchives/2005/Spring%202005/06siedlecki_sp2005.pdf

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