Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Could Milwaukee County See Living Wage Proposal?

During Monday's Labor Day Rally in Milwaukee County,  Supervisor David Bowen announced that he would be introducing a living wage resolution, much akin to the one recently passed in Dane County:
At the rally that awaited them, Milwaukee County Supervisor David Bowen told the demonstrators that the living-wage ordinance to be considered by the board will be similar to one approved in Dane County.

The proposal would apply to companies contracted by the county to employ service workers, including janitors and security staff, and would require those companies to meet a new wage standard based on federal poverty guidelines, Bowen said.

Bowen was joined at the rally by Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic and Supervisors Theodore Lipscomb Sr., Khalif Rainey and John Weishan Jr.

"If you use public money, you should invest back into the community," Bowen said.
The article went on to show the support for it and the sound reasoning behind it:
"If companies receive taxpayer money, they should provide a living wage to keep their workers off public assistance," said Janet Veum, communications coordinator for Wisconsin Jobs Now.

If wages are so low that workers need public assistance, the taxpayers pay twice, once for the company and then once to support the workers, she said.

Workers also spoke out Monday. Deirdre Dunlap, one of the Labor Day marchers, said she earns $5.25 an hour, plus any tips, for pushing wheelchairs at Mitchell International Airport. She's worked there since November.

"I'm in this because the living wage needs to be increased," she said. "It's really needed to meet basic needs, just paying rent and the bills."

Dunlap supports herself and two daughters on her salary. She said getting them ready for school was a challenge. At one point, she had to choose between buying her daughter shoes and paying a bill. She chose the shoes.

"If there was a living wage that would allow us to not need public assistance, it would allow us to completely get off the system," she said.
The timing for this couldn't be any more vital either.

The Institute for Wisconsin's Future just came out with a study showing how the state budget was designed to really stick to the poor and make they stay poor. Some of the findings include:
• Making health insurance and health care much more expensive for many parents now in BadgerCare;
• Charging premiums for transitional Medicaid;
• Additional cuts in child care support, which make child care less affordable and harder to find;
• Not rolling back the tax increases on low-income households that were included in the last budget –and leaving low-wage workers out of the recent income tax cut; and
• Tightening eligibility requirements for unemployment benefits for jobless workers.
As one would expect, there are going to be cranks that don't believe people should be paid a living wage. One of these fools is Supervisor Steve Taylor, who issued a press release mewling about the proposed resolution:
"As folks throughout Milwaukee County and the nation celebrated the last holiday of the
summer, some Milwaukee County Supervisors were busy reviving the ill-advised minimum wage proposal. At the time when our communities are in dire need of more development to create jobs and increase the tax base, the County Board should be working on initiatives that attract rather than deter companies from doing business with Milwaukee County. Given the current less-than-favorable economic outlook, a resolution of this kind is misguided, out of touch with reality and would do more harm than good to Milwaukee County residents. It is a questionable short term fix that will have long term negative effects on the county's economic well-being. Should an ordinance change with respect to minimum wage be proposed, rest assured that I will be working with my like-minded colleagues on the Board to stop it."
It's amazing how much stupid a person can cram into one paragraph.

First off all, the day is Labor Day. The fact that Taylor couldn't even name it shows how much respect he has - or more appropriately, doesn't have - for the workers. Secondly, the "like-minded colleagues" on the Board also believe in purple unicorns and have their press releases written by Chris Abele's spokesman.

Furthermore, Taylor's whining might not have been so laughable if not for the fact that he is currently on vacation, touring the Southern part of the country and spending what would take a poverty-level wage earner months to make.

If there is a fault with Bowen's proposal, it is that it doesn't go far enough.  Instead of just limiting to companies that contract with the county, it should be for all companies within the county.  While conservative readers are cleaning their spittle off their monitors at this statement, remember that San Francisco raised their minimum wage to $10.55 per hour.  Australia's minimum wage is set at $15.59 per hour.  And neither of these places have fallen into the ocean, despite the hair pulling and teeth gnashing of Teapublicans.

In fact, these places are benefiting by the higher wages.  As is explained by Unite Here Local 2 President Mike Casey in San Francisco:
“Any day that the lowest paid workers in a community get a raise is a great day,” he said.

Casey said the extra income will go directly into the local economy.

“That money gets spent,” he said. “It doesn’t get stowed away into savings accounts or into buying stocks or doing what rich people do with their windfalls.”
There is no indication what Abele would do if this resolution makes its way to his desk, but as the gentle reader is aware, he is well known for not being a friend of workers.

Methinks that the following statement I got from Supervisor Theo Lipscomb sums the whole issue up the best:
We can debate what the standard should be but there's no doubt in my mind that when public dollars are invested the wage should be high enough that those who work don't also need food stamps to feed their family.

So much of what government does has been privatized; essentially politician's have outsourced their conscience. Most elected officials would never vote to pay people minimum wage but when you privatize services you basically hire someone else to do that dirty work for you.

Living Wages Now!
Indeed, the only reason to oppose this idea would be the desire to continue to suppress an entire group of people in order to favor the moneyed elite. That is not fiscal responsibility.  That is plutocracy.

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