President Kennedy popularized the expression that “a rising tide lifts all boats,” the idea that if the general economic conditions of community improve, everyone in that community benefits. Of course, these kinds of economic tides don’t raise themselves.
City Councilor Khrystian King presents his
proposal to support an increase to the minimum wage
One of the most difficult aspects of any contract negotiations is the raise. How much should employees make? Most employers rely heavily on the idea of market rates and industry standards in order to develop their answer to that question. There’s a logic to that. And, at the same time, market rates and industry standards aren’t designed to help people lead better lives.
According to MIT’s Living Wage Calculator, a living wage for a family with two adults and two children in Worcester County requires each parent to make at least $15.81 per hour. The success of SHARE and other unions in our community to maintain solid wages and benefits work to benefit Central Massachusetts as a whole, raising the tide, and normalizing a livable income.
One factor in improving the economic climate, the minimum wage, is a relatively recent idea. It has its own fascinating history, its origins involving exploding bakeries, a blue eagle, and a guy who may or may not have been drunk. The minimum wage is designed to increase wages up the scale, expanding and strengthening the middle class. Additionally, proponents argue that, for employers, higher wages mean more efficient workers and less employee turnover, making it easier to recruit and retain workers and helping their bottom line. And, that when workers have more money in their pockets, they spend it at small businesses in their neighborhoods, helping those local businesses grow and create more jobs.
SHARE Staff Organizer Jana Hollingsworth joined others at a recent Worcester City Council meeting to promote an increase to the minimum wage in Massachusetts. A number of residents presented to the Council, describing how an increase to the minimum wage would improve their families' lives. The Council voted to back a minimum wage increase to $15 by the year 2021, a measure that would directly raise the income of 40% of Worcester residents who currently make less than that, according to one figure cited at the meeting.
The increase must still be voted on in the State Legislature, in the form of House Bill 2365 and Senate Bill 1004. The Worcester Telegram and Gazette reports that, “under the legislation, the minimum wage would increase by $1 annually, starting Jan. 1, 2018, until it reaches $15 in 2021. The minimum wage would then be adjusted each year to rise with the cost of living.”
SHARE Staff Organizer Jana Hollingsworth's view of the City Council Chamber
Of course, another way to participate in shaping a more favorable economic climate, one that promotes fairness and well-being, is through a union. Research shows that declines in unionization are linked to increasing inequality. At the same time, researchers find that a disproportionate number of women, African Americans, and Latinos currently make less than fifteen dollars an hour.