For the seventh time in as many years, Kroger refused at its annual shareholder meeting on June 23 to join the Fair Food Program–a collaboration between buyers, growers, and workers in support of fair wages and humane labor standards on Florida’s tomato farms.

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The Fight for $15 has grown, over three short years, from a strike by 200 fast-food workers in Brooklyn to a nationwide movement that now includes Cincinnati. The original push for McDonald’s fast-food workers has evolved into a movement for low-wage workers. Links to the racial justice movement, Black Lives Matter, are also developing.

On Nov. 10, Cincinnati’s City Hall was the site for one of 500 protests around the country where the Fight for $15 campaign rallied for higher wages and union rights.

Thomas Kochan, MIT Sloan School of Management

As Labor Day approaches, we are likely to hear from a growing chorus of political, religious, academic, labor and business leaders who agree “America needs a raise” to reverse three decades of wage stagnation and rising income inequality.

But this consensus that something needs to be done has yet to produce a clear narrative or strategy for what to do. Getting there requires an agreement on what norms should guide wage growth, an understanding of the causes of wage stagnation and policies to address these causes in ways consistent with today’s economy and workforce.

It’s been 133 years since New York City celebrated the nation’s first Labor Day holiday in 1882 to acknowledge the role workers play in the economy. The federal government followed suit a dozen years later. As we review the suspected culprits behind wage stagnation, now is a good time to consider a new normal to ensure workers get their fair share of America’s prosperity.

by Mike Brown, mbrown.c4ad@gmail.com

Though employees are protesting stagnant wages and deteriorating working conditions at the AdvancePierre Foods plant in West Chester, they want the company’s majority owner in Los Angeles, Oaktree Capital Management L.P., a private equity firm, to hear them.

Employees say Oaktree is pulling the strings at AdvancePierre and is looking to sell the company. Fearing they were not being heard, employees asked the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 75 in March to help unionize workers at the plant on Princeton-Glendale Road. Employees say the company has illegally obstructed those efforts.

"My bills are getting higher and my paychecks getting lighter, but I'll take it...one day at a time."

~Dale Watson, 2015 country album Call Me Insane

In New York where the entry-level fast food workers earn $16,920 per year, the governor has convened a wage board to evaluate whether fast-food workers are adequately paid. In Hamilton County, fast-food workers average about $12,150 per year, but the governor is bound by the minimum wage rates set out in the Ohio Constitution.

McDonalds - creative commons
McDonald’s (creative commons)