Vicki Meath, the executive director of the western North Carolina nonprofit Just Economics, had a great Labor Day essay in the Asheville Citizen-Times entitled “Honoring Labor: workers deserve higher wages.”
After reviewing the history of Labor Day, the labor movement and the brave men and women who helped end child labor and bring on the 40-hour work week and so many other critical reforms, Meath concludes this way:
“We can honor these heroes by building on their progress and fighting for worker justice like a higher minimum wage.
Across the country and here in Western North Carolina, we know workers can’t survive and thrive on $7.25, the federal minimum wage. Twenty nine other states have raised the minimum wage higher than the federal rate and workers in North Carolina are organizing to make that a reality here as well through the Raising Wages NC campaign. A full-time minimum wage worker, working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year makes $15,080/year before taxes, and that’s if you can get 40 hours and if you never take a single day off. The last federal minimum wage increase was in 2009 and while the minimum wage has not risen since then, costs like housing have.
And raising the minimum wage is an economic boom. Low and middle income earners don’t have foreign investments but rather tend to spend their money in the local economy on goods and services that support local businesses.
The real value of the minimum wage was at its height in 1968 and adjusted for inflation would be worth close to $12/hr in today’s dollars. Back then, businesses managed to still grow and young workers had an opportunity to come into the workforce making a livable base wage to grow from. Don’t we want at least the same for workers today? Isn’t the well-being of today’s workers a cause worth continuing to fight for?
Beyond minimum wages, local unions and organizations like Down Home NC, the Living Wage Coalition of Transylvania County, and Just Economics are continuing the fight for workers’ rights and a just economy in Western North Carolina. This labor day, consider how to lend your voice to the chorus of people who have pressed and fought for fairness, equity and justice in the workplace.”