Falling Wages and Health Care Are Top Issues
Society for Human Resource Management
By Bill Leonard
April 22, 2008

The top workplace-related issues for the 2008 presidential election are improving wages, keeping jobs in the country and providing universal health care, according to a recent poll of U.S. workers conducted by the Employment Law Alliance (ELA).

Although immigration has been touted by many political observers and candidates as one of the top issues of the 2008 campaign, less than half the survey's 1,125 respondents said that the president needed to concentrate on immigration issues. Approximately 40 percent of the respondents thought that making it easier for professionals to work in the United States is a key campaign issue, while only 25 percent ranked amnesty for illegal immigrants as a top concern.

"While immigration and its impact on the workplace is a significant issue, and a highly emotional one, this poll clearly indicates that it pales in comparison to a host of other issues that American workers are more interested in," said Stephen J. Hirschfeld, CEO of ELA.

According to the poll results, the top issue among workers is improving wages and the earning potential for all workers. A large majority (87 percent) of the respondents would like to see the next president work on increasing the proportion of U.S. workers who earn at least a living wage, and 86 percent thought the president needed to focus on reducing the number of U.S. jobs that are outsourced overseas. A surprising 83 percent of the respondents said that providing health care coverage for all U.S. citizens should be one of the next president's top priorities.

"These are very real issues that potentially affect every American worker and every household. The president is the chief executive officer of the country, and here we have Americans telling their next CEO what they think should be on his or her agenda when it comes to working men and women," Hirschfield said. "The fact that they want more attention placed on raising their standard of living and creating universal health care coverage says quite a bit about the state of the country and the state of our economy."

Other top issues listed by the survey respondents include improving workplace safety regulations (76 percent) and expanding family leave options for workers (70 percent). More than two-thirds of the respondents (69 percent) said that the president should make enforcement of workplace discrimination laws a priority.

"This survey is important because of the extent of demographic detail, including gender, race, income, education and geography," said Ted Reed, president of the Reed Group in Philadelphia and director of the ELA survey. "The focus on pocketbook issues across the board as a presidential priority and top issue for U.S. workers is unmistakable."

Bill Leonard is senior writer for SHRM Online.

Original Text