Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez

Remarks at the "Shared Prosperity: Building an Economy that Works for Everyone," National Press Club, Washington, D.C., October 20, 2014

[as prepared for delivery]

Good afternoon, it's an honor to have this opportunity. Myron, thank you for that generous introduction. And thanks to everyone at the Press Club, especially my friend Alison Fitzgerald, for making this possible.

Over the summer, something remarkable happened across New England. Thousands of employees of the regional supermarket chain Market Basket walked off the job to protest the firing of the company's beloved CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas — or Arthur T.

Workers up and down the chain of command put their jobs on the line. They held rallies and picketed throughout the summer. Eight managers who spearheaded the first rally — some of whom had been with the company for more than 40 years — were fired.

Loyal customers held their own rally in support of Arthur T. Merchandise started to dwindle; sales lagged; vendors began to cut ties with the company. The governors of two states stepped in to try to help broker a deal. In the end, an agreement was reached and Arthur T. took back control of the company. And just in time for Labor Day, the Market Basket employees went back to work.

The company operates 71 full-service supermarkets across New England. It's known for good products, low prices and friendly customer service. It employs about 25,000 people, and they had one simple demand. They were calling for the return of their CEO.

And upon his return on August 28, their beloved CEO stood on the back of a pickup truck and made a memorable speech, demonstrating exactly why these workers were willing to risk their livelihoods to bring him back. He said to his employees:

"You have demonstrated that everyone here has a purpose. You have demonstrated that everyone has meaning and no one person is better or more important than another…

"Whether it's a full-timer or a part-timer. Whether it's a sacker, or a cashier, or a grocery clerk, or a truck driver, or a warehouse selector, a store manager, a supervisor, a customer, a vendor or a CEO — we are all equal. By working together — and only together — do we succeed."

Arthur T.'s employees launched their protest because they wanted to work for a guy like Arthur T. — a guy who didn't treat them like they were just another cost of doing business, but rather as a valuable asset and worthy investment, as people who deserve dignity and respect. He understands that doing right by your employees is a great way to generate loyalty and productivity, adding value for consumers and increasing your profit margins.

He knows that an economy that works for everyone is one where prosperity is broadly shared.

As the Market Basket workers were getting their stores back up and running over Labor Day weekend, I had the privilege of joining President Obama and many friends in organized labor for a rally in Milwaukee, where he told the crowd: "by almost every measure, the American economy and American workers are better off than when I took office."

And the data backs him up.

September was the 55th straight month of private-sector job growth, to the tune of 10.3 million new jobs. That's the longest uninterrupted stretch of private sector job creation on record. Unemployment is now at its lowest level since July 2008. All told, the United States has put more people back to work than Europe, Japan, and every other advanced economy combined.

Manufacturing has made a historic comeback — we're making things in America again. Insourcing is in, and outsourcing is out.

Energy production is dramatically up…while the budget deficit is down.

U.S. exports are up — reaching record highs…and for the first time since 2006, the poverty rate is down. Child poverty had its largest one-year decline since 1966.

The number of young people graduating high school is up, while the crime and incarceration rates are down.

And also, reforming the health care system was — to paraphrase Vice President Biden — a big…deal. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, we've reduced the ranks of uninsured adults by 10.3 million since last year.

It is indisputably true that we've made tremendous progress in the nearly six years since President Obama inherited the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes. Almost every indicator shows that we're better off than we were on January 20, 2009.

But that's not enough. Remember, the president said "by almost every measure…" Almost isn't good enough. It's not good enough for him. It's not good enough for me. It's not good enough for America.

It's not good enough for a New Jersey man I'll call Rick. He once earned six figures as a corporate communications professional, but he was out of work for more than two years. His unemployment benefits ran out, and the temp work he found only paid about what he was getting on unemployment. He's stopped making mortgage payments and is rapidly depleting his 401k to support his teenage daughter and his wife who has a chronic illness. Rick told me that his battle with cancer several years ago wasn't as tough as his struggle with long-term unemployment.

Almost isn't good enough for Austraberta, a 71-year-old woman I met in Houston. She's been a janitor for more than 30 years, and even though she helped organize her co-workers for higher wages, she still struggles to keep her head above water earning $8.85 an hour. An increase in the national minimum wage would help her give her a little breathing room and peace of mind.

Almost isn't good enough for the new mom from Texas who wrote to us. She had to go without a paycheck for six months in order to take time off to care for her daughter who was born nine weeks premature — all because we don't have a national paid leave law.

Almost isn't good enough for millions of people working harder and falling further behind — because there's no dignity to working 40-50 hours a week and then having to get your food from a food pantry.

For them and their families, the data points don't mean a whole lot. If the breadwinner in your household is out of work, then the unemployment rate might as well be 100 percent.

And even if that breadwinner has been lucky enough to keep her job, chances are good she hasn't seen a meaningful raise in years — even though she's contributing to rising productivity and a growing economy with her hard work. The pie is getting bigger…American workers helped bake it…but they're not getting a bigger slice. Their sweat equity hasn't translated into financial equity.

We're on pace for 2014 to be the best year for private sector job growth in 16 years. But the difference between then and now is that the rising tide of the late 1990s lifted more boats — the yachts and the rafts; the cruise liners and the dinghies.

The principal unfinished business of this recovery is to ensure that prosperity is broadly shared, and that we build an economy that works for everyone.

Some say the challenges that remain are intractable. Some pundits claim that the problem is "structural", whether it's low wages or long-term unemployment. We hear chatter that globalization and technological progress create inequalities and opportunity gaps that simply can't be helped. Well, I don't buy that. "Structural unemployment" — that amounts to excuse-making, a way to justify inertia, gridlock and just plain giving up. And low wages and lousy benefits, we must remember, are a choice, not a necessity.

I'm confident we can construct a stairway to shared prosperity in which everyone has the chance to live their highest and best dreams, and that's what I want to discuss with you today.

This stairway has a number of important steps.

Step one involves tearing up the talking points and understanding history. Shared prosperity is not a fringe concept cooked up by socialists. Historically, both parties have embraced it with their words and their actions. In fact, it's a principle as American as apple pie, and it's the linchpin of a thriving middle class.

Don't take my word for it. President Teddy Roosevelt once said "our aim is to promote prosperity and then see that prosperity is passed around, that there is a proper division of prosperity."

Don't take my word for it. Listen to one of Wall Street's most powerful executives. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein has talked about the destabilizing effects of income inequality. "Too much of the GDP over the last generation," he said, "has gone to too few of the people."

Don't take my word for it. In August, Standard and Poor's issued a report explaining that income inequality is stifling GDP growth at a time when we're still climbing out of the Great Recession. "A rising tide lifts all boats," they conclude, "but a lifeboat carrying a few, surrounded by many treading water, risks capsizing."

More recently, Janet Yellen said just last Friday at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston: "The extent of and continuing increase in inequality in the United States greatly concern me. It's no secret that the past few decades of widening inequality can be summed up as significant income and wealth gains for those at the very top and stagnant living standards for the majority."

People across the ideological spectrum recognize that America works best when we field a full team, and when the entire team shares in the sacrifices and the spoils. Gilded Ages are not golden ages in America. But in today's polarized political climate, there are regrettably some who have lost sight of the fact that shared prosperity is a non-partisan principle and the key to long-term success.

A second step in the stairway to shared prosperity is a familiar one. We have basic, common-sense policy tools at our disposal, tools that have worked well in the past and can work again.

For starters, we need to raise the minimum wage. Despite what you might hear from certain folks on Capitol Hill, this is not a radical idea. The Congress led by Newt Gingrich passed it. Every President except two since FDR has signed it into law.

But we've been stuck at $7.25 per hour for five years. The purchasing power of the minimum wage is 20 percent less today than it was 30 years ago, and the United States has the third lowest minimum wage — as a percentage of median wage — among OECD countries. Meanwhile across the pond, the conservative government of British Prime Minister David Cameron recently signed off on a minimum wage increase to $11.05 per hour. They did so for the same reason that Henry Ford — who was not exactly a progressive — doubled the wages of the workers on his assembly line a century ago…because, as he said, "countrywide high wages spell countrywide prosperity."

This is not a fringe idea. A strong majority of people — and a majority of small businesses — support an increase in the national minimum wage to $10.10. Because they understand that raising wages generates economic growth and that what our businesses need more than anything is customers with money in their pockets. They understand that when 70 percent of GDP is consumption, we need to stimulate consumption in order to strengthen the economy.

To continue growing the economy and adding jobs, we also need to rebuild our roads, bridges, ports and transit systems — infrastructure investments that will create middle-class jobs right away and facilitate commerce for decades and decades to come. Yes, it involves some federal spending…but no, it's not an exotic left-wing idea. The interstate highway system was Dwight Eisenhower's most enduring presidential legacy. As someone who worked on transportation issues as a local elected official, I know firsthand that we can't build a 21st century transportation infrastructure with the current approach — lurching from one short-term bill to the next and making long-term planning nearly impossible.

We also need to fix our broken immigration system. It's not just a moral, humanitarian and national security imperative; it's an economic imperative. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that immigration reform would increase real GDP relative to current projections by 5.4 percent over the next two decades. That translates into an additional $1.4 trillion in economic activity — adding jobs, putting upward pressure on wages and helping stabilize the Social Security Trust Fund.

These three ideas — minimum wage, infrastructure and immigration reform — have worked in the past, while enjoying strong bipartisan support. How about we try them again?

Congress shouldn't stop there. They should move on to the third step in the stairway to shared prosperity: big, bold policy innovations. Comprehensive immigration reform is big and bold, and there are other major policy initiatives that are long overdue. Let me highlight an issue, which isn't high-profile — yet — but which I believe is a sleeper, and that is paid leave.

We stand alone as the only industrialized nation on the planet where paid family leave is not the law of the land. Our dismal record on paid leave was on prominent display when I recently traveled to Australia to meet with my Labor Minister counterparts in other G20 nations. Canada, Australia, the UK, Japan, Germany, the Nordic countries and others — both progressive and conservative governments: they're all leaning in on leave, while we're falling behind. They all recognize that paid leave is good economic policy and good family policy. They know it's possible to have thriving businesses and flexible workplaces — that the two aren't mutually exclusive but mutually reinforcing.

Why can't the United States of America figure this out? Why are we making people choose between the job they need and the family they love? Why aren't we giving them the tools to be both attentive parents and productive employees? And how can we say we're for family values when so many women have to jeopardize their economic security to take a few weeks off from work after giving birth?

This isn't just a matter of doing the right thing; this is also a sensible strategy for reversing the decline in labor force participation, something that's critical to sustained economic growth and shared prosperity.

Let's take a look at labor force participation rate among women ages 25-54 in the United States and Canada. In 2000, it was roughly the same. Today, Canada is ahead of us by roughly 8 percentage points — in large measure because they have generous paid leave laws and provide broad access to affordable child care. If we had simply kept pace with Canada, we would have 5.5 million more women in the workforce. The innovation economy would be enriched by this reservoir of human capital. Sectors with serious gender gaps, like Silicon Valley and Wall Street, would have additional talent to tap. America works best when we field a full team, and there's a lot of female talent on the bench.

And here's the rub: that 5.5 million more women off the bench and in the game would increase GDP by an estimated 3.5 percent, which translates to more than $500 billion of additional economic activity. So we're essentially leaving money on the table — because we're not leading on leave.

Earlier this summer, as he convened the White House Summit on Working Families, President Obama made the case:

"At a time when women are nearly half of our workforce...[and] primary breadwinners in more families than ever before, anything that makes life harder for women makes life harder for families and makes life harder for children. When women succeed, America succeeds, so there's no such thing as a women's issue. This is a family issue and an American issue."

Bottom line: for the good of our families and the strength of our economy, we need to lead on leave.

Not only can we not waste talent, we have to cultivate it — which brings me to one of the most exciting steps in the stairway to shared prosperity. Just as we need to invest in our physical infrastructure, we need to invest in our human infrastructure. Just as we built the railroad system, just as we built the Internet, we need to have a skills ecosystem that both meets the needs of our economy today and opens new frontiers for growth.

There are two pieces of very good news in this area. First, there are millions of good middle-class jobs available for the taking right now, and opportunities are growing. Many of them require less than a college degree, though more than a high school degree. Everywhere I go, I hear the same thing from employers. They tell me: Tom, I want to grow my business. I'm bullish about investing in America. I just want to make sure there's a pipeline of skilled talent to make it happen.

About a quarter of the companies on Fortune Magazine's list of 100 fastest growing companies are in the energy sector. That means a treasure trove of energy-related jobs, and we are working with the industry to give workers the training and expertise to fill those jobs.

The same is true in other industries. The utilities are in the process of dramatically expanding and modernizing the grid, which will require workers who can earn at least $50,000 a year to start. We can't expand broadband access without middle-class workers either.

And on and on. We'll need upwards of 100,000 more computer support specialists in the coming years. Another 64,000 dental hygienists. 30,000 more surgical techs. These are jobs that can support a family, paying between $40,000 and $70,000 a year, and in many cases you can get the necessary credentials at a community college.

The second piece of good news in the skills space is that we're in the middle of an exciting transformation in the way we prepare job seekers of all ages for the middle-class jobs of today and tomorrow.

We've scrapped the old "train and pray" model — where we train someone to make widgets and then pray there's a company out there looking for widget-makers. Instead, we're focusing on demand-driven, or job-driven, training. We're working with industries and employers to understand their needs in granular detail, and then making sure training programs are designed to meet those precise needs.

I like to think of the Department of Labor as — we help make a connection, just the right fit between ready-to-work Americans and ready-to-be-filled jobs, often sprinkling in the secret sauce of community colleges.

Let me illustrate what I mean. I recently met a guy Steve Capshaw, who owns an advanced manufacturing business in Western Massachusetts, supplying critical component parts to the aerospace and medical device fields. He starts entry level workers at $20-25 dollars per hour with generous benefits. And he described for me recently what he called the paradox of his business. In the middle of the recovery from the Great Recession, as America was struggling to add jobs, Steve's company began turning away large amounts of business for one simple reason: he had a shortage of skilled labor. He dramatically increased wages and benefits in an effort to recruit talent…but still he couldn't find the right people. As he listened to stories of stagnant wages and persistent unemployment, Steve felt like "living on another planet."

DOL as sprang into action. The Middle-Skills Manufacturing Initiative was born in Western Massachusetts. The initiative is a joint venture of local manufacturing businesses, community colleges and the workforce system, which includes federal, state and local partners. Our grant making is catalyzing partnerships like this in various growth sectors across America. As a result, Dana Graves, the father of twins who was stuck in a low-wage job cycle, successfully completed the training program, and is now a highly-valued and well-compensated employee at Steve's company. This is a win for Steve, a win for Dana and his family, and a win for America.

And Steve's example isn't a one-off. We are helping to build these partnerships across the country.

We're not simply tinkering with the workforce system; we're transforming it. Just as President Eisenhower built the interstate highway system, we are building a modernized, refurbished skills superhighway enabling workers to get good jobs and businesses to find good workers. We are doing this in partnership with businesses, colleges, nonprofits, philanthropy, Republicans and Democrats in Congress, and our partners in state and local government. The new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, enacted this summer thanks to strong bipartisan support, will enable us to continue this transformation.

The superhighway has plenty of on-ramps and off-ramps. The destination is a middle-class job, but there are a lot of different routes to get there. Community colleges are one well-traveled path…and we're putting down the orange cones and doing the roadwork to make the ride that much smoother. The Obama administration has made a very bold investment — nearly $2 billion over the last four years — to help community colleges develop innovative training programs and curricula that help more people launch middle-class careers.

Technical training and apprenticeship is another important stretch of the highway. Unfortunately, we haven't kept up on the necessary renovations over a period of several decades. As a nation, we're massively underinvested in apprenticeship — other countries are running circles around us. I'm traveling to Germany and the UK next week to learn more from apprenticeship best practices overseas.

My parents taught my siblings and me that education is the great equalizer. That continues to the case — whether it's a four-year college, an associate's degree, online learning or on-the-job training. The skills revolution is a critical step in the stairway to shared prosperity for millions of job seekers across America.

The stairway to shared prosperity has quite a few steps, and I would like to discuss two more. The recent events at Market Basket illustrated the importance of worker voice. Arthur Demoulas created an environment where every worker felt empowered, validated and respected. To him, worker voice wasn't a threat to the company; it was an indispensable asset.

Worker voice can take many forms, one of the most important being membership in a union. The Obama administration is resolute when it comes to protecting the collective bargaining rights of workers across America, rights that have come under withering attack in recent years. Because it's clear to me, throughout our history, there is a direct relationship between the health of the middle class and the vitality of the labor movement. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that last year median weekly earnings for union members were $200 higher than for non-union workers. That's not pocket change, and it doesn't even account for the superior benefits enjoyed by union members.

I grew up in Buffalo, the quintessential 20th century manufacturing town, and I saw firsthand that a job in a union shop was a surefire way to punch your ticket to the middle class. What I saw in Buffalo and continue to see as Labor Secretary is that unions don't succeed at the expense of business; they succeed in partnership with business.

If you go to the Ford plant in Louisville, Kentucky, you'll see what I mean. There, management came together with the United Auto Workers to save a facility that was about to be shuttered, with thousands of jobs hanging in the balance. The two sides built a culture of cooperation, developing a viable plan that involved shared sacrifice leading to shared prosperity. Around 2007, they were hemorrhaging employees; their numbers had dwindled to under 1,000. Today, they are 4,400 strong and growing, and that's not even including the supply chain. You see the same kind of collaboration at SEIU, where the union works with employers on a training program that is helping meet the growing demand for health care workers. You see it at UPS where labor and management are working together to build a pipeline of skilled workers and ensure UPS can continue to compete in a global economy.

We need to create space in America for new forms of collaboration between workers and their employers. The widespread use of works councils in Germany is a great example. The councils establish a collaborative process for workplace decision-making. They're elected by all workers, including both managers and front-line employees, and they help decide things like schedules and working conditions. They're considered critical partners in a company's operation.

Look at Volkswagen. Earlier this year, executives there supported an effort by the UAW to organize its plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, because it meant they would be able to set up a works council. The head of VW's global works council, who's also a member of the company's supervisory board, said: "Volkswagen considers its corporate culture of works councils a competitive advantage." I'll learn more when I visit Volkswagen in Germany next week. I believe we need to import this model to the United States, and I'm confident that we will.

There is other innovative work being done in the area of worker voice. The MacArthur Foundation recently awarded one of its genius grants to a woman named Ai-jen Poo, the Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Ai-jen has spent her career as a tireless advocate for domestic workers who do backbreaking work for poverty wages. Ai-jen's organization is part of a growing movement of grassroots nonprofits giving voice to workers who have been marginalized and exploited for too long — fast food workers, cab drivers, home health aides and others. They're building coalitions, using state-of-the-art social media tools and strategic partnerships to empower these workers — to help them get the dignity and fair pay they deserve.

There are still many stubborn obstacles making it harder for workers to have a meaningful voice. Many workers are scared to speak out because they don't want to lose their jobs. Many states have passed laws making it harder for workers to organize. But I've been around the block enough to know that you can't stifle the voices of the American worker for long. The various movements and models — some longstanding, others emerging — give me great hope that we can fortify this critical step in the stairway of shared prosperity.

Voice goes hand in hand with the final and perhaps most important step in the staircase of shared prosperity — and that is leadership.

First, we need leadership from Washington. And if Congress won't do its part, President Obama has demonstrated that he'll use his executive, regulatory and convening authorities — his pen and his phone, as he says — to provide that leadership. Just in the last year, for example, we've finalized regulations to provide minimum wage and overtime protections to roughly two million home health care workers, and we've raised the minimum wage for workers under federal service and construction contracts. And we are updating an overtime regulation to provide greater economic security to potentially millions of workers.

Leadership also means enforcing the law fairly and independently. At the Labor Department, we're being more strategic and aggressive than ever about cracking down on wage theft, misclassification and other violations. During the Obama Administration, we've recovered more than $1 billion in back wages. We've taken enforcement to a whole new level — not only because it gives workers the pay they've earned, but also because it levels the playing field and helps the vast majority of employers playing by the rules. Laws are only as effective as the political will of those enforcing them. Case in point: during the previous administration, before Labor Department investigators went to probe possible child labor violations at a large retailer, they worked out an agreement where they would provide a courtesy heads-up 15 days ahead of time. That's not leadership.

We also need leadership at the state and local level. And we're seeing exactly that. Case in point: absent congressional action on the minimum wage, in the last two years, 13 states plus the District of Columbia and 22 localities have taken matters into their own hands and raised the minimum wage in their own jurisdictions.

We're also seeing continued leadership from the labor movement and other non-profit leaders. They have been leading the charge, for example, as we fight for an increase in the minimum wage, even though most of their members aren't minimum wage workers. Why? Because they define success not simply by the size of their membership, but by the number of people they help. That's what shared prosperity is about — helping your neighbor.

And we also see remarkable, inspiring leadership from people in the business community. Employer after employer tells me that income inequality and wage stagnation are defining economic challenges of our time. They tell me that an investment in their workers is an investment in the strength of their company.

They're rejecting the false choices that are holding us back from shared prosperity. They're rejecting the simplistic notion that paying high wages undermines competitiveness; or that collective bargaining is hurting economic growth; or that you can take care of your shareholders or your employees but not both; or that vigilance about worker safety is bad for business.

They understand that treating workers with dignity and respect isn't just a nice thing to's good for the bottom line. They recognize that their responsibility goes beyond the next earnings report. They see themselves as accountable not just to shareholders, but to a broader universe of stakeholders — and that includes workers, consumers, and communities.

The high road is also the smart road. Many companies are not only taking this high road; they're making it their brand. The Gap, for example, has made a commitment to paying above the minimum wage, and they've also been leaders on pay equity policies and the promotion of women. Now, as a New York Times article explained last week, they're using these policies as a selling point in their HR recruitment efforts — because they know that prospective employees are drawn to places that stand for positive change. Since Gap announced its pay hike, applications are up 24 percent. That's not a coincidence.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the annual retreat of a group of employers that have built a movement called B Corp. Enlightened self-interest and shared prosperity are intrinsic to their business model. For B Corps, it's about more than having a corporate philanthropic effort or foundation. It's not just about doing well and also, to clear the conscience, doing a little bit of good. It's doing well by doing good. This is about social impact as a fiduciary obligation, woven into company DNA, essential to corporate identity, a factor in every decision, baked right into the cake.

The B Corp community knows that, particularly among millennials, consumers don't check their values at the door when they go shopping for goods and services, nor do investors when they're looking for a good opportunity. And more and more, people want to work for companies that prioritize social mission and social impact, so this model is critical to attracting and retaining the very best talent.

Employee Stock Ownership Plans are another example of business leadership. In 2012, there were roughly 6,800 such plans, with nearly 14 million total participants and assets just over $1 trillion. When used as they were intended, ESOPs can contribute to the growth of a company while helping employees save for retirement.

The challenge moving forward for B Corps and ESOPs is to take these successful models to further scale.

Look, I'm not naïve. I know that there's still a certain amount of ruthlessness out there. We're still up against a headwind of narrow-mindedness in many quarters. There will always be some who regrettably believe that if they burn out their neighbor's candle, or their worker's candle, it will make theirs shine brighter.

I talked to one CEO who described to me interactions with a renegade shareholder who wasn't interested in thinking long-term. His attitude — and this was a direct quote: "I'd rather be rich than right."

At DOL, we just went to federal court to get a restraining order against an Atlanta restaurant owner who was ordering employees to hide from Labor Department investigators and lie to them about their hours…and then firing those workers that did cooperate with the inquiry.

But for every bit of recklessness, there are responsible, forward-looking corporate citizens like Arthur T., as well as incredible partnerships like the one between Ford and UAW, between UPS and the Teamsters, and between SEIU and hospital systems in New York City, Pittsburgh and elsewhere.

There are CEOs like the one who told me he's already rich and he's practically running out of things to buy — so why don't we raise the minimum wage and stimulate consumption so the rest of the economy can grow?

There are leaders like the Fortune 100 CEO I talked to recently — he presides over one of the most powerful and visible brands in the world — who understands that shortsightedness is bad business strategy. He talked about how corporate leaders have to resist getting sucked into what he called "the quarter-by-quarter results vortex."

It doesn't matter what kind of business you're in — nowhere in the manual does it say you have to take the low road. Randy Garutti, the CEO of Shake Shack, has proven this. He pays above minimum wage and invests in his employees' upward mobility. Unlike some of his fast food counterparts, he's proven that there's nothing about making burgers for a living that requires you to do it on the backs of workers.

A similar thing is happening with the hospitality industry in Las Vegas. Some people think that you can only run a hotel with a minimum wage business model, but up and down the strip they're proving otherwise. They've worked with union leaders to build a Culinary Academy, where they train thousands of people a year for middle-class jobs as cooks, servers, bar backs, stewards and more.

Look at Costco. A recent study by an MIT professor found that Costco employees earn about 40 percent more than employees at the company's largest competitor, Sam's Club, plus good benefits. Nearly all store managers are promoted from within. And you know what else? Sales per employee at Costco are almost double those at Sam's Club, and they haven't had to sacrifice their commitment to keep prices low.

Shareholders are doing okay too by the way. If you bought $1,000 worth of Costco stock when the company went public in December 1985, you'd be sitting on more than $15,000 today. That's nearly twice the return from the S&P 500 over the same time period. And since 2000, Costco has outperformed the retail industry as a whole, growing almost 25 percent faster than the industry average.

Companies like Costco have clearly demonstrated that low wages are not a cost-driven necessity, but a choice.

These companies believe you don't have to be a bottom-feeder to serve the bottom line. They're embracing the idea that we're all in this together. And they're rejecting winner-take-all economics — where a few people at the top amass stratospheric wealth and everyone else gets kicked to the curb. They know it's not a sustainable path for their company, or for our country.

More and more business leaders are demonstrating the leadership that we need for shared prosperity and an economy that works for everyone. We need to make sure they are the rule and not the exception — and we can.

We need, in other words, more companies like Market Basket and more CEOs like Arthur T. If you really want to be inspired, talk to the Market Basket managers and employees who risked everything because they believed that a Market Basket without Arthur T. wasn't really Market Basket — and wasn't worth being a part of.

Talk to Cindy Whelan, who started working there when she was 17 and says of the company: "It becomes your second family."

Talk to Mark Owens, who has 34 years under his belt at Market Basket and now his son is an Assistant Store Manager. He talks about how Mr. Demoulas would start every meeting by emphasizing the importance of what he called "our precious customers."

Talk to Chris Sturzo, who will tell you that Mr. Demoulas always says: "We're in the people business first and the grocery business second."

Talk to Mark Lemieux. Ask him about the time the founder of the company, Arthur Demoulas' father Mike, came into his store the first day it opened. Mark said: "Good morning, Mr. Demoulas, thank you for trusting me to run one of your stores." And Mr. Demoulas grabbed his arm and said: "Mark, always remember: it's our store."

You can talk to all four of them…because Cindy, Mark, Chris and Mark are all here today, along with another manager named Kevin Feole. So are two Market Basket executives: Tom Trainor and Mike Kettenbach, as well as one of their vendors Jim Fantini. Will all of you please stand up and be recognized?

It's our store. Just like it's our economy — it belongs to all of us. It's not functioning the way it should unless it's working for everyone, unless prosperity is broadly shared.

My parents taught me that we all succeed only when we all succeed. But I'll give the last word on shared prosperity to one of our greatest contemporary social thinkers. Arthur Demoulas may be the boss at Market Basket, but perhaps no one put it better than the Boss himself. "Remember in the end," said Bruce Springsteen, "nobody wins unless everybody wins."

Thank you very much.