Los Angeles Workers are on Life Support with high cost of living and low income
A recent study by the Economic Roundtable found that union workers in Los Angeles County earn an average of 27% more than nonunion workers in the same job, a figure that does not include differences in other types of compensation like health insurance. The differential is highest in the service sector, where unionized workers earn 64% more than their nonunion counterparts.
A quarter of L.A.’s households gets by on less than $25,000 a year, and another quarter gets by on more than $100,000 a year – but there is a long, lonely stretch in between these two extremes. The household in the middle of L.A.’s income distribution has an annual income of $51,315. But this is not at the top of a bell-shaped curve. It’s the low point in a trough between the extremes of our polarized economy. And it’s this middle area that is being filled in by union workers.
40% earns $30,000 to $60,000 a year.
These clerical workers, bus drivers, teachers and nurses are filling in the missing middle in L.A.’s labor market. Without the wage boost that their unions give them, many would be on the fringes of poverty, or worse.
Part of the problem in Los Angeles is our vast and growing informal sector. Our population has grown 16 percent since the collapse of aerospace in 1990, but we still have fewer jobs in our formal economy than we did then. Under-the-table jobs have become L.A.’s growth engine in such areas as car washes, lawn care, room additions and restaurants.
Growing Industry Sectors in LA's EconomyHealth Care and Social Assistance
Arts, Entertainment and Recreation
Holding Their OwnSecurity Guards
Losing JobsDurable Manufacturing
Transportation and Warehousing
Professional and Technical Services
Daniel Flaming is president of the Economic Roundtable, a non-profit public policy research organization in Los Angeles.
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