Lessee what we got here. What anything is worth, its market price, is the highest price any ready, willing, and able purchaser is able to pay right now. But that's not what union workers earn - they are able to strike an employer, and use that as an attack on his profits that enables them to coerce him into paying them more than they are worth. That they are able to create an effective strike is based on various kinds labor laws. So their wages aren't really market wages, they could be described as political wages. Middle class peopl can potentially receive lots of income from the rich and near-rich, the people who actually pay the taxes in this country. For example, unemployment compensation, social security, medicare, etc. The poor of course cash in on non-earned income like crazy: welfare, housing assistance, legal assistance. medicaid, minimum wages, pell grants for school, food stamps - a very long list of benefits that cover practically everything in life that costs money.