2015 saw some progress in movement to raise wages

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Marking nearly one year since the first Raising Wages Summit, the AFL-CIO released a new report Jan. 19 detailing the successes, struggles and path ahead to raise wages for working people.

The report, "Fighting for a Better Life: How Working People Across America Are Organizing to Raise Wages and Improve Work," finds that over the past year, income inequality shifted from being a problem we discuss to a problem we can solve.

The report points to clear and unequivocal steps for a path forward. Armed with the solutions outlined in the report, it concludes that America is ready to move beyond the discussion of income inequality and is beginning to write new rules that will shape the economy.

"One year ago, we made clear that raising wages for all working people was our number one priority," says AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. "In 2015, we came together in collective voice and action, and made significant progress."

The report goes well beyond direct wage increases, highlighting successes that demonstrate the all-encompassing nature of the raising wages agenda. Numerous organizing victories, paid sick leave laws in multiple states and municipalities, and new protections against wage theft in five states are outlined as part of the effort to create an economy built on raising wages.

The report also outlines hurdles to further victories and challenges that remain as the raising wages agenda grows.

In December 2015 alone, the report shows, President Obama and Democrats in Congress were forced to fight off six budget amendments that would have rolled back protections for working people. And while the unemployment rate continued to fall last year, wage growth showed only modest improvement before grinding to a halt.

Even with modest wage growth and significant gains for working people in 2015, the report is a reminder that more work is needed to keep this wage issue a priority in political and economic conversations.

"Although the victories and the momentum of the raising wages movement in 2015 demonstrate that collective action works, we are still far behind where we need to be and where we can be," says Trumka. "In the year ahead, we will continue to push for a comprehensive economic agenda that puts working people first. Raising wages is not a hobby, it is our mission."

[AFL-CIO press release]