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March 20, 2007

'The Rest of Us'

Note: This entry was originally posted under the byline Brian Dominick accidentally. Jessica Azulay wrote it.

I was reading this report (pdf) on low-wage work in the United States put out by the think tank, Inclusion, when all of a sudden, a sentence stopped me:

"Some 44 million workers â€“ about one out of every three â€“ held low-wage jobs paying much less than the rest of us are paid."

The "rest of us."

I had been reading along, very interested to know that as someone who makes less than $11 an hour, that I was part of a much larger segment of the US workforce than I had realized. Then, all at once, I felt excluded – and by a think tank that calls itself "Inclusion."

This language was not just used in the fairly academic report about low-wage jobs in the United States. It was also used in a press release put out by the Center for Economic and Policy Research about the report.

In that press release, Margy Waller, one of the report’s authors, was quoted as saying: "All too often these low-wage jobs are replacing jobs that have supported a broad middle class. The economy and our democratic society are strongest when no one is falling too far behind the rest. Unfortunately, we find that, in 2006, 44 million workers were employed in low-wage jobs paying much less than the rest of us get paid."

When we write "news briefs" we often rely on press releases for quotes because we write them quickly, often with no time to call sources. But for me, this quote was unusable because, just as it excluded each NewStandard staff person, it must also exclude many of our readers.

I really hope that what Inclusion meant to convey by using such language was just an acknowledgment that the researchers themselves are part of the 2/3 of the US workforce making more than $11.11 an hour. As a journalist, I appreciate it when researchers expose their potential biases like that.

But in this case, the report’s authors seem to be speaking to their audience, and by using language like "us," it came across as if they consider that their audience does not include people who make "low wages" as they define them. Maybe they assume that the only people who are going to read their report are well-paid journalists. But it seems they were mistaken, since as far as I can tell, no well-paid reporters covered this story.


Randy: Yeah!

I couldn't have said it better myself. Even the best think tanks seem totally elitist to me.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.