More than 600,000 U.S. manufacturing workers earn less than $9.60 an hour, and 1.5 million — or one-fourth of all manufacturing workers — make $11.91 or less, according to an analysis released Friday.
The National Employment Law Project said that manufacturing jobs — once considered the solid source of middle-class income — increasingly are paying wages that can barely support a family.
The report said that for 30 years, from 1976 to 2006, U.S. manufacturing workers were paid a median wage that was above the U.S. pay median. That manufacturing advantage peaked in the mid-1980s.
By 2013, the median manufacturing wage was 7.7 percent lower than the median U.S. wage for all public and private sector workers, according to the Census Bureau’s survey data.
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Wage concessions by unions, hiring of non-union workers, other pay cuts and broader use of temporary workers have contributed to the declining pay scales, particularly in the automotive sector, the report said.
“While foreign and domestic automakers have added 350,000 new jobs in the U.S. since 2009, nearly three-fourths of all auto workers are now employed at parts plants, where workers are paid nearly 15 percent less on average than motor vehicle manufacturing workers overall,” the law organization reported.
It said that from 2003 to 2013, real wages for auto parts workers fell nearly 14 percent, three times faster than for all manufacturing workers and nine times faster than the drop for all occupations.
The report also said that 14 percent of workers in the auto parts sector are employed by temporary staffing agencies, earning 29 percent less on average than workers employed directly by auto parts manufacturers.
The law organization, a research and advocacy group for low-wage and unemployed workers, noted critically that “wage erosion throughout the manufacturing industry has taken place even as state, local and federal officials have spent billions in subsidies in recent years to attract manufacturing jobs.”
The subsidies were deemed critical to help U.S. manufacturers battle global competition.