Commentary

Physician calls on the “haves” to join the fight for living wages

Dr. Aparna Jonnal, an Orange county physician, has a great essay over on Blue NC today that serves as an apt follow-up to Miriam Thompson’s fine op-ed that ran in Raleigh’s News & Observer last month. The subject: the societal imperative to combat poverty with living wages and the critical need for even those who wouldn’t benefit directly to join in the fight.

This is from Dr. Jonnal’s post:

“As a doctor, I learn about people’s lives in an intimate way. I can easily say that the greatest obstacle to health that I have seen is poverty. So many of my patients have been very poor, crushingly poor where they have to choose between basic necessities such as food and heat, where there is no chance for them to buy presents for their children, where they lie awake at night wondering if they will have a roof over their heads the next day. And most of them are working.

In fact, being a doctor has often been disappointing because I have to prescribe treatments that people cannot afford, and I have to treat symptoms of problems that have their roots in poverty. This is what led me to work on raising wages for working people, but this fight is a long, hard one. In my years of working toward economic justice, I have only seen the wage and wealth gap grow, and the conditions for low-wage workers plummet. I hear presidential hopefuls talking about the importance of raising wages and raising taxes on the wealthy but none of this will happen without many, many of us working toward these ends on our own.

This struggle should not fall solely upon the shoulders of low-wage working people. Ms. Thompson wisely writes that we all have ‘…the awesome responsibility to challenge the current economic environment.’ I wholeheartedly agree, and believe that the lion’s share of this responsibility is actually on the shoulders of those of us with higher paying jobs.”

Jonall concludes by asking folks of all income levels to become engaged in the Fight for 15 movement. Click here to learn more about that outstanding cause.

Commentary

Minimum wage increases remain hugely popular

raise the wageHere’s an issue that North Carolina conservatives are no doubt delighted isn’t on the ballot in the Old North State tomorrow (other than through the positions of the candidates): the minimum wage.

Steve Greenhouse of the New York Times explains in this article entitled “In State Voting on Minimum Wage, Even Critics Sound Like Supporters”:

In state after state, labor unions and community groups have pushed lawmakers to raise the minimum wage, but those efforts have faltered in many places where Republicans control the legislature.

Frustrated by this, workers’ advocates have bypassed the legislature and placed a minimum-wage increase on the ballot in several red states — and they are confident that voters will approve those measures on Tuesday.

In Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota, binding referendums would raise the state minimum wage above the $7.25 an hour mandated by the federal government.

These measures are so overwhelmingly popular in some states, notably Alaska and Arkansas, that the opposition has hardly put up a fight.

Poll results in North Carolina on the issue are similarly encouraging. And while North Carolina is obviously not a ballot initiative state, it’s surprising that this issue hasn’t been more front and center in this fall’s election debate. Let’s hope that changes in 2015.