We the People

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Politics and civil commentary with community columnist John Eyster.

Why not a “living wage” for ALL workers?

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John W. Eyster
Friday, December 20, 2013

I read with interest the OpEd column, “Everyone deserves fair compensation”  by David Bowen who is a Milwaukee County supervisor and sponsor of the living wage ordinance published by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  I agree with Bowen.  What do YOU think?

The GIST of the concept of “living wage” is articulated by David Bowen, “… wage paid to workers at a rate that allows them to stay above the poverty line and make a living. As it stands today, Milwaukee County uses public dollars to contract with and provide tax breaks to private corporations that pay their workers so little that they're forced to rely on public assistance, so taxpayers pick up the tab. That's just wrong.”  I agree. What do YOU think?

Bowen's point is well taken, “The living wage is not a panacea, but it will aid in creating upward mobility among the working poor. It is a step in the right direction.”

TRUTH BE TOLD, A living wage is not just an economic imperative; it is a moral one!  Consider the assertions made by Pope Francis.

I was HAPPY to learn from Bowen's column, “Communities in Wisconsin, including the City of Milwaukee, the City of Madison and Dane County, already have living wage ordinances. Nationally, dozens of communities from east to west — from Hartford, Conn., to Minneapolis and St. Paul to Los Angeles and Berkeley — all have living wage ordinances. Research is consistent to counter the misleading figures such as the ones suggested in the Milwaukee County comptroller's worst-case scenario analysis.”

I agree with Bowen, “We need to join these communities and relieve taxpayers from having to subsidize low-wage workers with public assistance. And we need to stop subsidizing businesses that pay their workers such a low wage that they are forced to turn to the government for help.”

Campaigning for his “living wage” ordinance for Milwaukee County, Bowen argues, “Living wage is about fairness. Hardworking people do not want handouts; they want to live in dignity and be able to pay their bills and provide for their families. The time for a living wage ordinance is now.”  What about ROCK COUNTY?

After reading Bowen's column, I was motivated to do some online research on the issue of “living wage” and poverty in America.  I gained a great deal of information and perspective.  I urge you to check the following websites:

“Poverty in America: One Nation, Pulling Apart” - This website reports, “The United States is a nation pulling apart to a degree unknown in the last twenty-five years. A decade of strong national economic growth in the 1990s left many of America's communities falling far behind median national measures of economic health. Despite the investments in transportation and public facilities infrastructures, massive movements of capital and people, and the expectations of most regional economists over the past forty years, the nation's regional development patterns are becoming more uneven. Income inequality is on the rise. The number of communities falling behind the national economic average is increasing. This tendency has been most pronounced in recent years, when trade liberalization and globalization have greatly opened the American economy.

“According to our estimates in 2003, almost 25% of the nation's counties had low per-capita incomes below one half the national average or less, high unemployment, low labor force participation rates, and a high dependency on government transfer payments-all measures of economic distress…”

If you want to check on specific data about “living wage” in places throughout the US, you can use:

“Poverty in America:  Living Wage Calculator.”

That part of the “Poverty in America” website reports, “In many American communities, families working in low-wage jobs make insufficient income to live locally given the local cost of living. Recently, in a number of high-cost communities, community organizers and citizens have successfully argued that the prevailing wage offered by the public sector and key businesses should reflect a wage rate required to meet minimum standards of living. Therefore we have developed a living wage calculator to estimate the cost of living in your community or region. The calculator lists typical expenses, the living wage and typical wages for the selected location.”

My search on that website led me to the FULL list of “Counties and Places in Wisconsin.”  You will find Rock County and then the locations of Janesville, Milton, Beloit and other municipalities in our area.  Checking on Janesville, I learned that the living wage for an average family (2 adults, 2 children) is $18.60.  The poverty wage is: $10.60.  Minimum wage is:  $7.25.  Check on YOUR local data.  What do YOU think?

I do NOT understand that we allow corporations to pay employees wages so low that the employees are dependent on public support which WE THE PEOPLE pay for through our taxes while the corporations reap HIGH PROFITS.  Can YOU explain this situation to me?

I believe that WE THE PEOPLE ought to be advocating – campaigning for LIVING WAGE ordinance in ROCK COUNTY.  What do YOU think?

John W. Eyster lives in the Edgerton area. He is an adjunct professor assigned with the online/distance education faculty of Viterbo University, LaCrosse. He continues his personal mission supporting democracy/civics education in Wisconsin K-12 schools through Project Citizen, We the People, Discovering Democracy (Milton HS). John is a community blogger and is not a part of The Gazette staff or management.

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