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Reuters/Denis Sinyakov
Would you like a living wage with that?

Cheap stuff is more important to Americans than good working conditions

Sarah Kessler
By Sarah Kessler


From our Obsession

Future of Work

Preparing for a labor force that doesn't yet exist.

Donald Trump made “bringing back jobs” a cornerstone of his campaign, and workers are campaigning for a federally mandated raise, to a minimum of $15 an hour. Most Americans, though, don’t really care much about who makes their stuff.

Of course, they say care. In a recent Pew survey, 53% of respondents said that they think it is “extremely” or “somewhat” important to know about the working conditions at the stores and services they patronize.

But when it comes to actually paying extra for products made by well-paid workers in good working conditions, only 28% of respondents said they regularly do so. The majority (67%) said they could not justify the cost.

Bringing manufacturing jobs back to the United States through trade policies or subsidies for US companies would likely make products for sale in the US more expensive. A minimum wage increase could also result in a price increase, if only a slight one. A Purdue University study found that if the minimum wage were raised to $15 per hour, prices at fast food restaurants would increase 4.3%, raising the price of a Big Mac at McDonalds by 17 cents. Prices in Seattle after the state instituted a $15-an-hour minimum wage in 2014, however, have not increased.

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