Numerous factors lead to higher wages for workers. These are unions, strong minimum wage laws, group consciousness, and government policies.
First, labor unions are extremely important. Before the Progressive Era (1890–1920), there were no unions. Workers were ruthlessly exploited. Labor strikes in the late nineteenth century often ended in violence when management called in Pinkerton guards. Today, unions still exist, but they are not as robust as they once were. The weakness of unions over the past several decades correlates with the stagnation of workers's wages and the transition away from manufacturing jobs. Walmart, America's largest employer, does not allow unions.
Second, minimum wage laws are important labor protections. The federal minimum wage has not increased since 2009. Moreover, the minimum wage has not been adjusted for inflation for many decades. Fortunately, many states have higher—often much higher—minimum wages. There is typically a huge discrepancy between executive pay and that of the rank-and-file worker. One example of this is in the fast-food industry. A stronger minimum wage throughout the country—in addition to helping employees—could force employers to reduce exorbitant executive salaries.
Third, group consciousness is not significant in the US, and individual accomplishments are lauded. In Japan, on the other hand, group consciousness is very important. The disparity between the minimum wage and top wage is much less apparent.
Finally, government policies can promote or discourage higher wages for workers. The tax cut of Donald Trump's presidency rewarded executives and stockholders—not average employees. However, Portland has a CEO tax that seeks to encourage higher pay for common workers.