By Thomas A. Kochan
First published in The Conversation:
The year 2016 could be the year the country ends its 30 years of wage stagnation and begins attacking income inequality.
The strengthening economy, along with the growing frustration that many are not sharing in it, has elevated wages to the top of presidential campaign debates, while workers and their advocates are already taking direct actions to press for wage increases.
The “fight for $15“ minimum wage battle is the most visible form of direct action, one mounted by a coalition of unions and community groups. It has already succeeded in raising wages in 14 states or localities and is on the 2016 agenda in 15 additional cities or states.
Across the country new forms of worker organizing are emerging, including a number that are putting information technologies to work to support workers.
Uber drivers are raising their voices in class action suits and union organizing drives, and apps like Sherpashare, Glassdoor and others are providing workers the data needed to separate good from bad employers. Watch for more “worker-centric” apps to emerge using information and transparency as new sources of bargaining power while unions use collective bargaining and public pressure to keep forcing low-wage firms like McDonald’s and Walmart to keep raising wages.
A growing chorus of business leaders, from start-up entrepreneurs to Wall Street veterans and social investors, is challenging the corporate focus on maximizing short-term shareholder returns in recognition that companies can produce long-term value for shareholders and provide good jobs with good wages.
The year 2016 will see increased debate over how to make these companies the norm, not the exceptions.
But the best way to fulfill my prediction that 2016 will be the year America starts turning wages around would be to elect candidates who will support and translate these examples into national policies capable of building an economy that works for all.