As a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization, Workplace Fairness can’t tell you how to vote (although we’d sure like to sometimes!) But we can tell you a few things that we hope you’ll be keeping in mind next Tuesday, November 7. Although workplace issues, and domestic issues in general, have trouble rising to the forefront as candidates focus on Iraq and national security issues, and run ads smearing their opponents’ records, it’s important to keep in mind just how much job security, the economy and other workplace-related issues affect every single day of your life.
A few facts to keep in mind as you’re considering the candidates for whom you will be voting:
- Almost 46 million Americans have no health insurance, and many more have insurance with limited benefits. Fewer employees receive health insurance through their employers now than in the past, as coverage has declined from 61.5% in 1989 to 58.9% in 2000 to 55.9% in 2004. Those who still receive employer-provided coverage are now paying a larger share of those insurance costs than ever before. From 1992 to 2005, this share has risen from 14% to 22%. Annual health care costs per person were estimated to be about $6,300 per person in 2004, and are projected to increase to about $12,300 by 2015. (Citizen’s Health Care Working Group Report and EPI Postcards from an Ailing Economy)
- Since 2000, the median family headed by someone of working age (65 or less) has seen its income drop 5.4% after adjusting for inflation, representing a loss of $3,000 in annual income. Adjusted for inflation, the median earnings of full-time workers have fallen since 2001, even after the second round of tax cuts in 2003 which were supposed to have jolted the economy. (EPI Income Picture)
- Some claim that wages grow slowly because people are getting fringe benefits, particularly health insurance. For the bottom 20% of the workforce, wages fell by 1.9% from 2004 to 2005, despite the fact that only 24% of these workers even receive health insurance. (See EPI: Increasing health costs can’t explain earnings dip for low-wage workers.)
- One-third of employees can be considered to be chronically overworked, making them at higher risk for on-the-job mistakes and stress-induced health risks and depression. (See Families and Work Institute: Overwork in America.)
To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, are you better off than you were two years ago? Here’s some commentary from the Economic Policy Institute, who provided many of the statistics above, about that very question: The U.S. Economy’s on the Table. (You’re also invited to share your thoughts — and any resources you’re relying upon — in the comment section, as your own perspective is likely to be helpful to our blog’s readers.)
Here are some voting guides from other organizations who pay attention to the concerns of working Americans:
If it will be a challenge for you to vote on Tuesday, based upon your work commitments, arm yourself with this information provided on our site: Voting Rights. In a number of states, you have the right to take time off from work or rearrange your schedule in order to facilitate voting, but you may have to give advance notice to your employer. Regardless of what legal protections may apply in your state, it is better to work cooperatively with your employer to ensure that you get to vote and that the work gets done.
And while it’s probably too late to request an absentee ballot if you haven’t done so already, if you have requested one and will have conflicts on Election day, please go ahead and send in your ballot, so that it gets counted in a timely fashion.
Let’s hope that workers have cause to celebrate on Election Night! (I have the feeling it will be a very late night, and that there will be a number of workers who appear a little bleary-eyed the next morning. Let’s hope the sleep deprivation will be worth it.)