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Poll: Four in 10 U.S. workers say they are underpaid

By Sommer Brokaw
Poll: Four in 10 U.S. workers say they are underpaid
A new survey by Gallup shows more than 40 percent of American workers feel they are underpaid, a drop from 51 percent a decade ago. File Photo by FotograFFF/Shutterstock/UPI

Aug. 28 (UPI) -- As workers and advocates across the United States fight for higher wages, new research showed Tuesday that four in 10 American workers believe they are underpaid.

Forty-three percent said they're not earning what they are worth, half said they're paid about right and 5 percent said they're overpaid, the survey by Gallup said.

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"The percentage saying they are underpaid is the same as it was eight years ago, the last time Gallup asked the question -- a time when unemployment was much higher and optimism about the availability of good jobs far lower than it is now," said analyst Jim Norman.

Most who said they're underpaid, 85 percent, said they're still satisfied with their jobs -- including a third who said they're "completely satisfied." Those who believed they were paid about right were even more satisfied with their jobs, at 97 percent.

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A Gallup poll on the issue in 2008 showed 51 percent felt underpaid.

"A decrease in the percentage of workers who think they are not paid enough would be a welcome sign that workers feel they are getting their fair share of the economy's gains," Norman said. "With so many expressing satisfaction about their jobs and their pay, however, the number who feel underpaid does not seem to be a red flag that American workers are reaching dangerous levels of frustration about wages and salaries."

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The nation's unemployment rate for July stands at 3.9 percent, the third month this year it has been at least that low after having been above 4.0 percent for the previous 17 years. When Gallup asked the question about job satisfaction and pay in 2010, the unemployment rate was 9.5 percent.

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Satisfaction may soon begin to improve, though, as some companies plan to pay workers more as unemployment has fallen.

Employers are projecting slightly larger pay raises next year, a Willis Towers Watson survey said.

This month, Disney announced a plan to raise starting wages from $10 an hour to $15 an hour by October 2021 -- a move experts believe could touch off higher wages at other companies in central Florida.

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Orlando attorney John Morgan is pushing to raise minimum pay statewide to $15 by putting it on the ballot in 2020.

When Disney agreed with unions to raise its base pay to $10 in 2014, other attractions nearby like SeaWorld and Universal Orlando also boosted their minimum pay.

"The ripple effect will go from Disney to Universal to SeaWorld to Legoland to the hotels to all the little attractions. It will be a seismic shift," Morgan told the Orlando Sentinel. "This proves my point. Companies can pay people fairly and make a very good profit."

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