D L Henderson
4 min readJun 27, 2018

Question: Why have wages not gone up to keep up with the costs of living?

There are lots of economic scholars who tell us their theories about decades of stagnation of real wages. Which theory is correct is not meaningful to this or perhaps any discussion for families who must continually deprive themselves and their children, adjusting to ever increasing costs and never increasing wages. Here is my experienced opinion:

It is obvious for us who struggle at the bottom of the economic ladder, and to my point, everyone from the middle economic class on down has had to do this humiliating task. Why I include the 6-figure middle? A co-worker of mine wisely observed that whatever and whenever we get a raise, we spend it. Maybe the highest income folks can save and invest…I wouldn’t know about the rest, but even though some have more things than others, they still have to say no to more and try to hold onto what they have gained.

Why the emphasis on economic is because most of us consider ourselves “middle class” simply because we are Americans and have jobs.. It is a sense of pride. We simply aren’t “low class” people. We have dignity, and we used to have pride in our jobs and our ability to support others. Heck! We used to carry the world!

Here’s my answer to the question, “Why have wages not gone up?”

A true story…I wasn’t always a Union man. But I noticed when I was a young man and new to the workforce that whenever the auto workers or the steelworkers or any of the other big Unions went on strike, they got a significant pay raise…and I got the same percent raise , too! Not even in the same industry and not a evenUnion member either! I got the same as those who sacrificed their weekly wages to bargain for a raise. Not a bad deal!

What happened to that happy scenario?

Corporate strategy applied across the entire spectrum of employers.

Employees became “associates” Employees were allowed to participate in “business decisions” through employee participation schemes. (My employer decided to move production out of State, and 250 of my co-workers, including myself, lost our jobs…Too young to retire and too old to hire…How come we couldn’t participate in that business decision?!)

Unions had fought the good fight and workers had won the American rights they had lost when they joined the workforce. You must keep in mind that whenever you enter into employment, whenever you walk into your employer’s place of business, you have left the good old U S of A and are no longer under the protections of our Constitution and the Bill of Rights, you have crossed the border into another country, their country. Now you must submit to their laws. (Heck! Joining a Union and paying dues is worth it just to escape servitude, to regain your rights as an American!)

However, everyone took it all for granted, both workers and Union Reps. All became complacent. Unions no longer were a growing and dynamic movement. Like so many other movements, including the American Revolution, they became an institution. It no longer existed as a movement and workers stopped participating. (Just like voters not voting!) Unions lost touch with their members. Unions and their Members forgot to keep moving.

When things stop moving, they eventually die…sooner rather than later, unfortunately…

Anything that becomes an institution has not long to live.

Big Money successfully suppressed Unions in the world of the private sector. Now the Supreme Court has put the final nail in the coffin of Workers’ Rights and Industrial Democracy. Public employees and their Unions will soon succumb to the so-called “right to work.”

The biggest asset we had as Americans to influence politicians to work for all of us, not just for the super rich, will gradually fade away. Our most important advocate for increased, livable wages is being suffocated. No organization can survive without air, without support whether called dues, taxes, tithes, or offerings or an active participation.

Note: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 1917 non-union workers made 80% of the wages Union workers made, around $175 per week. Unions used to represent about 30% of private employers now down to 6.5%. Now the danger exists for public (government) employees who now represent 34.4%. Corporate strategy has made those Unions relatively insignificant, and now “Conservatives” will be consolidating their power over Government workers. Then their “turn to the Darkside will be Complete.”

The End

(…is near…)



D L Henderson

Born 1950; HS 1968; Born again 1972; Cornell ILR; Steward, Local President/Business Agent; Husband, father, grandfather; winner/loser/everything in between