Well, you’re hitting on a LOT of peripheral issues which kink up labor and welfare laws in the US, any one of which could be a single debate topic in and of itself. So, some quick thoughts:
- In a nation as large as the US, there’s no such thing as a single “living wage”. What works in Tulsa doesn’t work in San Francisco. I don’t tihnk there’s much debate about that.
- I personally don’t see any persuasive data that large donor money is the problem here. Single large donors are already limited, and when it comes to labor law, labor groups contribute more to labor-friendly politicos than corporation-friendly groups contribute to corporate-friendly politicos. We can debate nuance, but a look at Open Secrets show that corporations tend to split their donations pretty equally between the parties.
- Qualifying (2) above, I believe that Europe’s (generally speaking) less partisan, less confrontative labor collective environment has contributed to the more labor-friendly environment that you speak of.
- The problem with low-wage burger flippers (et al) that you refer to, in my view, is a self-inflicted wound, since the government facilitates paying low wages by providing public support to low wage workers. If the US were to prohibit the employed from receiving any public support whatsoever, the low end of the labor market would immediately quit their jobs, and the employers would have to pay them what you’re calling a “living wage” to get them back — and that would be a re-assertion of the free market, while the current situation (facilitating low-wages) is a distortion of it.