Good Afternoon
Good Afternoon

2016 election must tackle income inequality

A customer paying for a purchase.

A customer paying for a purchase. Credit: iStock

As we celebrate another Labor Day, it's worth noting that these are uncertain times for American workers.

Wages are just starting to accelerate after a long period of stagnation in the wake of the Great Recession. Yet the gap widens between workers and those in the higher echelon. On Friday, we learned that job gains have slowed although unemployment fell to 5.1 percent -- a 71/2-year low.

To help lower-income workers, some cities around the country are raising significantly their minimum wages. Even having a solid job with a middle-class income doesn't bring the rewards it once did. Organized labor has its challenges; the Supreme Court is set to hear a California case to determine whether a teachers union can require the workers it represents in collective bargaining to pay dues even if they are not union members.

Sometimes it's not about money. While some retail companies have promised to give workers adequate notice about shift changes, more do not. Parents and companies are still trying to find ways to allow some time for child rearing without hurting career advancement.

Improving the lot of workers is what today's holiday is all about. The national holiday was established in 1894 -- after the Pullman railroad strike in Chicago that featured riots and sabotage by railroad workers and the killing of 30 strikers by federal marshals and Army soldiers.

The essential battle today is over income inequality. This must be addressed -- whether it's through increasing the minimum wage, retooling the economy to create more good-paying jobs, retraining workers, or something else -- in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Monday, we honor workers. Tomorrow, let's start working to improve their lives.