By KAREN PARKER | County Line Publisher

Labor Day is over, which means the usual: go back to school, change the furnace filter, and prepare to clean out the garden.

Luckily for us, here in Wisconsin we can look forward to a gubernatorial election. Despite both campaigns’ best efforts to stir us up with misleading ads, few of us have been paying attention. Hey, it’s summer. Baseball, brats and beaches are a lot more alluring than either Scott Walker or Mary Burke.

But we know that as the weather cools down, the politics heats up. If you have been listening at all, it appears the big issue is jobs. Where are the 250,000 jobs Walker promised? Is Burke a hypocrite when she criticizes Walker while her own Trek Bicycle shifts jobs overseas? Blah, blah, blah.

We have heard so much on those issues that we know little else. But leave it to a County Line reader to alert me to a few other facts you are not likely to hear from either candidate.

It’s all found in a report, “The State of Working Wisconsin,” recently released by COWS. No, it’s not a bunch of Holsteins chewing their cud and discussing the economy. COWS (Center on Wisconsin Strategy) is a nonpartisan think tank based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

If you have the uneasy feeling that the bounce back on Wall Street bounced right over you, it’s possible you are right. Here are a few facts from the report that you are not likely to hear either Scott Walker or Mary Burke talk much about.

Taking inflation into account, the median wage grew by just 50 cents from $16.50 in 1979 to $17 per hour in 2013 (wages expressed in 2013 dollars). That’s an annual hourly increase of less than $0.02 each year.

Clearly $17 an hour would be considered a good wage in the Kickapoo Valley, which gives you an idea of how far behind we are compared with the rest of the state.

Eighty-two cents is the amount women earn for every dollar men earn in the state (2013, comparing medians).

The gender gap has narrowed in the last few decades (in 1979 it was 59 cents) due to rising women’s wages as well as declining wages for men in the 1980s and early ’90s.

I don’t know about you, but it is cold comfort that although women are making more, the men are making less.

In 1987, nearly two of every three private sector workers (63 percent) in the state obtained health insurance through their jobs. The share dropped to just over one in two (52 percent) by 2012.

If you are over 50, chances are you recall when any job of merit came with health insurance and maybe dental insurance, too, with most or all of the premium paid for by the employer. It was called a perk. Now the only thing that perks for most people is the coffee.

From the end of World War II until the 1970s, median wages were closely tied to overall economic growth. As the economy grew and productivity increased, workers’ wages advanced as well. This was the period of shared prosperity, where good news in GDP secured good results for workers’ wallets. That relationship fell apart in the 1970s. In that decade, wages and productivity decoupled, defying expectations about the pay-off to growth and shattering the expectations of the inevitable economic advance of each generation of Americans. Since the 1970s, productivity has continued to grow, but neither hourly wage nor total compensation is keeping pace. In this way, economic growth has become, as one economist puts it, “a spectator sport.” In spite of productivity advances and increasing education of the workforce over the last quarter of a century, median wages have stagnated or have only slightly increased for some workers, and have even fallen for some groups.

We all know that the days of earning a great living at General Motors with just a high school diploma are gone, and it does not appear that acquiring advanced college degrees and becoming more productive is a guarantee of an improved outlook.

The decline in unions contributes to the decline in wages, as union members earn higher wages than their nonunion counterparts, both in the private and in the public sector.

Further, unionization has a positive effect on nonunion workers’ wages. When union membership is higher, even nonunion employers need to pay something approaching the union rate to attract and keep skilled workers. But these positive effects on wages occur only if unions have a sufficient share of the workforce organized. As membership declines, unions’ ability to deliver wages for their members and to generate positive “spillover” effects to nonunion workers wanes as well. The positive effects of unionization decline dramatically as union density declines. The loss of union power in recent decades has had a negative impact on Wisconsin workers, whether they are unionized or not. Long-term decline in Wisconsin’s unions is one important reason why wages have hardly improved in the last quarter century, in spite of the sustained increase in workers’ productivity over that period.

Wisconsin is not an island. Most of the above is systemic and nationwide and, quite frankly, I doubt that the governor’s office will make a lot of difference to the average Cheesehead. But for some bizarre reason, Americans and Wisconsinites seem to have no trouble voting against their own self-interest (when they can be bothered to vote at all).

It is any wonder we are in the pickle we are in?