Saving America's Workers: Employers Are Getting More, Paying Less

at Facebook Inc.'s office in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011.
(Scott Eells, Bloomberg via Getty Images)

By Angelo Young

U.S. companies have been getting more out of fewer employees, but those workers aren't enjoying a corresponding increase in their wages.

Consider the stats: The country's economic activity is 2.5 percent higher than it was before the last recession, which began in December 2007, but there are 3 million fewer employees today than there were in 2005, according to the conservative D.C.-based American Enterprise Institute.

The left-leaning D.C.-based Economic Policy Institute points out that while the average hourly employee's productivity increased 80 percent between 1973 and 2011, the median compensation for an hour's worth of work grew 11 percent.

"A bigger share of what businesses in the U.S. are producing is going to the owners of the firms and the people who lent money to the firm, and a smaller share is going to workers," Gary Burtless, senior fellow in economic studies at The Brookings Institution, told CNN in a report published Thursday.

Up until 1975, wages typically accounted for more than half of the country's gross domestic product, but in 2012 that share hit a record low 43.5 percent, according to The New York Times.

There are numerous reasons for this widening disparity between the growth of productivity and wages, according to labor economists.

Increased workplace efficiencies certainly play a role as technology allows fewer workers to do more, but this doesn't tell the whole story. For example, according to a study late last year by the National Employment Law Project, mid-wage occupations were hit hardest but have not come close to recovering their pre-recession levels; they've instead been replaced by lower-wage level positions.

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Gallery: Bosses and Co-Workers from Hell

Bosses and Co-Workers from Hell
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Saving America's Workers: Employers Are Getting More, Paying Less

Whether they stunk up the office with smelly food, acted like a goof, rifled through your desk or caused other types of office havoc, we asked you to share your worst co-worker or boss from hell stories.

Click through our gallery to read about the co-workers that made us cringe.

Submitted by:

I work with a woman that knows who owns every car in the parking lot; what time people come in and leave work as well as if someone is in or out of the office. If you are talking to her, she will become distracted by whatever is going on around her; a person walking in the hall, someone at the front door or a car parked outside of the office and will interrupt the conversation to comment on her observations. She is the type of person that can never be made happy and has an insulting, snide or inappropriate comment for any situation. Being around a negative person like this is very exhausting by the end of the day and is one of the reasons I dread coming into to work.

Submitted by:

I once worked in an office where there was a girl that had a pleasant personality, she was a good worker and attractive but she reeked of garlic everyday. She believed that garlic would help keep her healthy so she ate it raw; she took garlic pills and who knows she probably even drank garlic water. You could just walk by the cubicle and it reeked of that bad breath smell.  The bad thing about it was that another guy had to share a cubicle with her. I don't know how he stood it. It made me cringe just to walk by it.

Submitted by:

I used to work for a doctor that would actually tell us not to talk! There were nine women that work in the office. He only wanted us to talk when it pertained to patient care. When he did hear some of us carrying on a conversation that only the dust mites could hear, he would mumble "talk, talk, talk." He would hover around us just to listen in and make sure we weren't talking! He would yell at some of us. He would ask for corrective criticism but lash back and disagree in a heartbeat. He would take phone messages of mine and my coworker's desk knowing that we are tearing up the office looking for them. And last but not least, he would fire anyone who would not follow everything he said to a "T". And once they were gone, you were forbidden to speak of their name. Yes, he actually said don't speak about Jane Doe, nothing good or bad. That's when I split.

Submitted by:

I worked for a religious based social service agency with a very small office with about seven employees. One lady who was older sat near me and everyday she would ask my opinion about something work related and then tell me that I was wrong when I gave her the answer so I just started to give both sides of any issue. Then one morning I came to work and she was sitting in my desk chair and said that maybe the cleaning people had switched them by mistake. Every Monday she would be sitting in my chair so I got tired of rolling it back to my desk so one day I decided to just let her have it and I would keep hers. A co-worker was fired so I asked the boss if I could switch chairs.  My boss said yes, and then the next Monday the older lady had my new chair!

Submitted by:

As a corporate trainer I have seen a few odd balls. However, the worst person I clearly remember was in a new hire class I trained. Long story short, she would pick her face and eat it while I taught the course. It became so bad she had to excuse herself to the bathroom to blot the bloody mess she called her face. Other new hires came to me saying that she was a distraction and they couldn't put up with her. Her favorite time to pick her face was directly after lunch, I still get a tad sick to my stomach even thinking of Facepicker. She eventually got fired because she could not perform the job. I hope she never works with people again.

Submitted by:

When I was a teenager I worked at I Can't Believe its Yogurt. I had one coworker that was... strange. Every time he'd make a mistake he'd go over to a wall and start banging his head against it while saying, "stupid, stupid, stupid."  The man would literally ram his head into walls.  As you could imagine, I was constantly worried when he'd seem tired mid-workday.  My thinking was that he might give into a nap in the back after one of these incidents of self-inflicted head trauma and not wake up.  I do not remember him ever getting much done.

Submitted by:

She was nearly 40, needy, immature and drove me NUTS! One day she would be crying, never telling anyone what was wrong; another day she'd be "petting" you and calling you "Mama"(ewww!); then she would ask questions that she should ONLY ask her mother... i.e. "Why does my belly button smell?" She'd constantly call me on my way home from work (even though we'd worked ALL day together), just to chat. I needed this in rush hour traffic? If I ignored her calls, she'd be crying the next day telling everyone I "hated her." Or, if I ignored her at work, she'd run to our manager and tell her that I was "picking on her". This "child" constantly had her fingers in her mouth, would chew her nails and was DISGUSTING! I felt like I had to sanitize my area every time she sat there.

Submitted by:

I used to work at a restaurant and was telling my boss an idea I had that would help us get more done, faster. He thought it was a dumb idea, so I forgot about it. A week or so later, I walk into the restaurant office and see a big memo saying that my very attractive female coworker got a raise and a bonus and was congratulated for her "ingenuity" and great idea.
Turns out that "great idea" was the same "dumb idea" that she had apparently overheard me telling my boss earlier. I confronted my boss about it and he acted like he didn't know what I was talking about. Guess the idea sounded better coming from a hot girl than from a dude, eh?

Submitted by:

I worked in collections, which is an incredibly intense and highly pressured atmosphere. One gentleman talked to himself, laughed evilly and watched everyone intently. He always sat in a tensed-up crouch as though ready to bolt at any moment. Everything about him was strange. He voiced opinions on topics that weren't being discussed and often spoke of himself in the third person. He also used different voices throughout the course of conversations. Everyone basically shunned him except for me and another coworker. We were overly nice to him because (as we discussed at length one day) we were both aware that at some point he would show up at work with a gun and kill everyone. We hoped that by being nice, we would be spared.

Submitted by:

For the purpose of this post I will call this coworker of mine Stella. Stinky Stella didn't bathe as often as the rest of the world. If she showered once a week I would be surprised. She worked in my department for 7 or 8 years and we complained many times to the supervisor. She would have a talk with Stinky Stella and for a few days she wouldn't stink to high heaven. But it wouldn't be very long that she would start smelling really ripe again. She is very open about telling everyone she picks up guys on the internet, talks to them online and then goes to meet them. She also would talk to her computer and answer the computer sometimes it seemed as though she was having an argument with herself. Part of her daily diet was nose content. She picked her nose and ate it! She is without a doubt the grossest person I have had to work with.

Submitted by:

I had a co-worker who would describe to anyone her bowel problems, in graphic detail and this would usually happen while we were eating lunch. This wasn't once in a while, it was all the time. She was not a pleasant woman to be around.


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