`Anxious Class' Develops in U.S. Labor Force

THE JOURNAL RECORD, September 1, 1994 | Go to article overview

`Anxious Class' Develops in U.S. Labor Force


WASHINGTON (AP) _ A new "anxious class" is developing in America's labor force as workers worry about their economic well being and their children's futures, Labor Secretary Robert Reich said Wednesday.

"Some workers are surging ahead. Others, unfortunately, are treading water. And still others, I'm sad to say, are sinking, and sinking quickly, in the same economy at the same time," Reich said in his yearly appraisal of the nation's workforce. He spoke to the Center for National Policy.

Reich said the American middle class has been split into three new groups. "An underclass," he said, is trapped in inner cities and "increasingly isolated from the core economy" and the accompanying jobs.

And, there is an "overclass of people who are positioned to profit and to profitably ride the waves of change in the new economy." That group, he said, is isolated "in their own residential compounds, in gated communities and highrise office towers."

Between them, Reich said, is a large "anxious class" comprised of people who "hold jobs, but who are justifiably uneasy about their own standing and fearful about their children's futures."

Reich's assessment came with the approach of Labor Day.

In a concession to the nation's unions, which have lost one battle after another in Congress over the last year, Reich said revitalization of the labor movement "would help reverse the erosion of the middle class."

One battle the unions lost in the last 12 months was the acrimonious fight over the North American Free Trade Agreement, adopted by Congress last fall.

At the height of organized labor's influence, a third of Americans held union cards, but that number is down to 11 percent now.

Reich defended the administration's record on job creation against the criticism that many new jobs are concentrated in low-paying service industries.

He said the "notion that we're creating a bounty of bad jobs is purely mythological. It's not true at all. …

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