In mid-March, for example, 500 unionized workers at a Chevron Corp. refinery in the San Francisco Bay Area successfully struck to improve workplace safety and to push salaries up in line with inflation. In 2021, assisted by soaring pandemic–related demand, unionized Frito Lay workers negotiated an end to forced overtime and “suicide shifts” and an increase in pay. And in January, unionized nurses in Vermont received a 10% raise.

As a labor economist for the past 38 years—13 at the New School in New York and 25 at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana—I have learned the ways in which social justice, shared prosperity and worker power are interconnected, and I have sought pathways to shared prosperity. I have looked for strategies to ensure that everyone has a decent retirement.

I worry that Congress will fail to see the need to index the federal minimum wage to inflation. I fear that the Federal Reserve will fail to see that today’s inflation is caused by supply problems and try to fight it by crushing demand.

The current conversation about how to address rising prices must extend far beyond the need for frugal budgeting. Taming inflation in the long run calls for supply-side reforms significant enough to sustainably boost productivity. At the moment, though, workers face rising prices everywhere they look. They’ll need to cut back, yes. And they also urgently need a raise.

Teresa Ghilarducci is the Schwartz Professor of Economics at the New School for Social Research. She's the co-author of Rescuing Retirement and a member of the board of directors of the Economic Policy Institute.

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