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Millions of people in the United States work in jobs that pay them less than the minimum wage. Subminimum wage workers provide many of the services which make our economy run— farming food, delivering goods, and caring for children and the elderly. As we saw during the COVID-19 pandemic, these jobs are called “essential,” but not compensated as such, keeping workers in a state of working poverty. Struggles for wage justice attempt to fight this by demanding sick leave, better pay, and other protections to shield workers from rising inequality. To do so, they face the goliath of corporate power, which is bolstered by a political apparatus designed to privilege profits over people.

This webinar features a conversation between three leaders from nonprofits dedicated to worker advocacy, power building, and fair wages. Our panelists are:

Saru Jayaraman, President of One Fair Wage

Chirag Mehta, Director of Policy and Ideas at Community Change

Erica Smiley, Executive Director of Jobs with Justice

This webinar explores:

  • What are the core stakes in the fight for fair wages?
  • What are the challenges that campaigns for wage justice face?
  • How is wage justice related to other struggles for racial and gender justice?
  • How do we build power to transform the subminimum wage economy?
  • How do subminimum wages and anti-worker policy affect democracy?
  • What kind of legislative policies— antitrust laws or universal basic income, for example— would best support wage justice?
  • What can practitioners and organizers learn from current wage justice struggles?


Allegra Baider and Chirag Mehta, “Building Power and Prosperity for Families: Tackling the Child Care Crisis Ahead of the Next Recession,” Washington, DC: Community Change, June 4, 2019.

Sara Jayaraman, “How DoorDash and Postmates Make an Already Dangerous Job Worse,” Eater, December 16, 2021.

Saru Jayarman, “How Restaurant Workers Are Inheriting a Legacy of Slavery in the US,” Bioneers, October 2017.

Jon Pratt, “It’s Complicated: Nonprofit Organizations and Wage Equity,” NPQ, March 15, 2022.

Erica Smiley, “Collective Bargaining 3.0,” Dissent, March 15, 2022.

Erica Smiley, “Corporate Attack on Democracy: An Assault on the Working Class,” LA Progressive, February 1, 2022.


Webinar sponsored by: