Too many American workers face stagnant wages, soaring economic inequality, and persistent racial and gender pay gaps. State and local policymakers can take action to address these challenges by establishing workers’ boards. These governmental bodies bring together representatives of workers, employers, and the public to raise minimum wage rates, benefits, and workplace standards across entire occupations, sectors, and industries.
Workers’ boards can be adopted in tandem with other policies—such as statutory minimum wages and paid leave policies—that raise basic standards for all workers. What distinguishes workers’ boards is their ability to lift standards above legislated minimums and address industry-specific issues. They can also adjust standards to account for different levels of training and experience and involve workers and their organizations directly in governance decisions. These features allow workers’ boards to raise pay for low- and middle-income earners. Indeed, simulations suggest that “wage boards are much better positioned to deliver gains to middle-wage jobs than a single minimum pay standard.” Because workers’ boards promote standardized compensation, they can help rein in pay discrimination against women and people of color. In addition, they level the playing field for high-road employers by ensuring that companies compete on the basis of productivity rather than by undercutting wages and benefits.
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Senior Fellow; Senior Adviser, American Worker Project