The One Thing

If everyone who worked were paid fairly, many, many of the problems that plague the country would simply go away.

What is it worth to you to have clean dishes for your restaurant meal? Suppose the waiter just wiped them off with a rag, then put your meal on the plate. Is there anyone anywhere who would think that’s OK? There would be public health problems galore, eating out would become a dangerous sport, not to mention the eewww factor. Yet, dishwashers, who perform an obviously valuable service, are at the very bottom of the pay scale.

Much the same can be said about enjoying a clean bed in your hotel room, clean surroundings in your workspace, and numerous other elements of modern life. Having these things depends on people who work these jobs, mostly full time, yet are rarely paid enough money to live on. And they never get a raise. This practice persists because of the capitalist imperative to pay as little as possible, which can be done because there are plenty of other desperate people who will take your job if you don’t want it. This is not what should happen in a democracy.

If everyone who worked were paid fairly,
many, many of the problems that plague the country
would simply go away.

What would happen if these low wage workers were paid a fair wage, a Living Wage? Miraculous things.

Poverty would disappear for every person who could find work. The flip side is that those who could not find work would still be poor. On the other hand, people would not have to work two jobs just to survive, and the secondary jobs they gave up would be filled by the unemployed.

The benefits of Living Wage would be felt in two main ways. First, the government. All the low income earners who pay no income tax now would become tax payers, and at the same time, their improved income would remove them from most welfare roles. The benefits of more tax revenue and fewer persons on welfare roles are obvious. All by itself, this double benefit would help place the government on the road to a balanced budget.

Second, adequate income is a powerful family stabilizer which would be felt in many ways. There would be no more deprivation; the family would not have to chose between clothing and food. Not having to work a second job radically increases the time the family can be together, thus supporting the children in many ways. Family meals could become the norm, not the exception. Workers with two jobs rarely can find time to have a hand in their children’s school activities, or even their upbringing at all. Reducing it to one makes such things as guiding homework and attendance at PTA activities possible.

Improvements would be felt in unexpected ways. For example, an increase in the school tax base would make possible all sorts of improvements in public schools, such as smaller class sizes, field trips, visits by outsiders, physical education, nurses services, and so on. The effects would be felt from that generation onward. A recent report in California showed that even students’ physical fitness is affected. In schools with enough money, simple programs to improve fitness paid off so well that most students passed tests of fitness with flying colors. Those in poor schools did not.

Our common practice of de facto slave wages for cleaning and service jobs should be ended immediately. It is weakening the country in numerous ways. We have concerned ourselves with the economic health of the very wealthy, while building a large underclass of people who are not adequately paid for the work they do. Rectifying the situation with Living Wage laws would strengthen the country in numerous ways and correct a burgeoning compromise of democracy.


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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. On this you are correct. But keep in mind, the more any business has to spend, the higher they will charge. Prices go up, so the wage must rise again. It keeps going. Some business will close, which costs jobs.


  2. It’s a complex thing, and Living Wage is no panacea. However, Australia has had Living Wage laws for a century, and it works reasonably well there. The crucial thing is that full time work should not keep one in poverty.


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