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Report Cites Weaker Voice, Less Pay for Working Hoosiers

On Labor Day, union membes and low-wage workers in Indiana and across the country rallied for a better deal. (SEIU)
On Labor Day, union membes and low-wage workers in Indiana and across the country rallied for a better deal. (SEIU)
September 5, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS – The nation just celebrated working people in America on Labor Day, but advocacy groups say workers themselves aren't appreciated nearly enough in Indiana.

Many in the state make only minimum wage, which is the same as the federal rate of $7.25 an hour - and often, these workers are trying to support a family. Many of the surrounding states have higher minimum wages.

According to Andrew Bradley, senior policy analyst with the Indiana Institute for Working Families, basic costs in Indiana have increased by more than 60 percent in the last decade, but wages have only risen 9 percent. But, he said it's a problem that can be solved because the Hoosier State is good at that.

"We've seen that in terms of our business climate rankings, we're very business friendly,” Bradley said. “But the policy choices we've made about our wage and labor standards have paid off with results that aren't great compared to our neighbors."

Michigan, Illinois and Ohio all have higher minimum wages than Indiana. Indiana also has the lowest union coverage of any of the neighboring states, including Kentucky.

Bradley cited a new report by the Economic Policy Institute that showed only 11 percent of Indiana workers have union coverage, down from about 23 percent in 1989. He said that means fewer people have a voice.

"Those who have more worker voice are more likely to have job-quality benefits like paid family leave, paid sick time, less wage gap for gender and racial wage gaps,” he said. "And Hoosiers don't have that same level of participation in collective bargaining, and so they're not seeing those same levels of benefits."

Bradley said the state needs 75,900 more jobs to reach its pre-Recession employment rate - but pay keeps slipping, and that could send more people into poverty or drive them out of Indiana to find a better life.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IN