Now is the Time for Worker Fairness
October 14, 2016
Now is the time for fairness for those who create our economy: The ski lift operator, home care provider, waitstaff, groundskeeper, sales person, housekeeper and convenience store clerk.
A server in a small cafe tells me “I make $11 an hour, but I need more hours”. A manager at a local ski resort says, “I had to work many years before I reached the beginning salary offered me elsewhere”. “I work full time”, reports a single parent, “but still need public assistance to get by”. “Both of us work,” says a couple, “and it’s still not enough to pay the bills.”
Many who work independently have enough control to secure decent wages for themselves and the workers they hire, but most who labor in the tourism, retail and service industries are subject to pay and conditions determined by others.
It is fair for those who start a business to expect a return on their investment; to those who take the risk should go the reward. Yet who really puts themselves on the line? The families who sign leases or take out mortgages, the parents who enroll their children in the local school, and all who connect with neighbors and create friendships. It is really the employees, along with owners of small businesses, who are locked into the community. For corporations a failure is no big deal, because they just take their money and go elsewhere; but for those committed locally business success is essential. A just return on their human investment calls for control of working conditions, including living wages and on-job respect.
Pay of at least fifteen dollars an hour is politically, economically and morally justified.
The Declaration of Independence asserts that we all have unalienable rights that are to be secured by government. Realizing that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness with inadequate resources are not possible, for us not to legislate a living income for all Vermonters is political negligence.
As two thirds of the economy is domestic spending, paying workers a living wage is a positive for all; families have the resources necessary for a good life and more money is put into local circulation, which increases business activity and encourages the creation of new ventures.
Most importantly, what moral argument can justify any industry in Vermont not paying its service providers an income sufficient for themselves and their families? Many socially responsible businesses already know that the wellbeing of staff is as important as profits. It is time for all of us to determine our economic destiny by supporting an economy that serves our values of progress while taking care of our own and pays all our workers what they already have earned, a living wage.