Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

May 8, 2013

We the People: Minimum wage is not enough to live on

By Pat Vaughn
Chronicle contributor

CROSSVILLE — For folks too young or too unaware what has happened to our economy the past 30 years, here is an answer. Ronald Reagan, G.H.W. Bush and the Republican Party are responsible for what we know as "Reaganomics," an economy that continues today resulting in few "labor unions” and the resulting low wages and lack of worker benefits. 

Newly elected Reagan’s (1981) first attack on the middle class economy was his dismantling a labor union representing 11,000 striking air traffic controller employees, whom he “fired.” Their PATCO union was destroyed. Reagan and his rich, conservative friends (not one who needed job security, Social Security, Medicare, wage increases, work safety rules, benefits, pensions, etc.) “cheered” and pressed for more! Reagan disrespected all “labor unions” even though these unions had represented the average workers from the often dangerous, unregulated working conditions, the greed and selfishness of corporations that, even today, are no longer under contract to pay workers a decent living wage.

Before Reagan, corporations' annual profits gained from the work employees were responsible for, “unions" contracted to see the huge profits made, were shared by all involved. Annual wage increases, improved benefits including pensions and health care, all were contracted by the “unions." But Reagan and the Republican Party pushed the “trickle down” economics theory, trusting corporations to “voluntarily” share the profits without the pressure of organized labor and government involvement. These huge annual "profits" instead began going to CEOs with million dollar salaries, stock option bonuses, private jets and “golden parachutes” upon leaving. Unions, representing workers' interests, decreased in numbers resulting in today’s economy with very few jobs available especially with decent pay, even for college graduates. Only athletes and move-television actors with their million dollars pay have strong unions today!

Because low wages for years have not kept up with "inflation,” working class families used easy to get and to use "credit cards" with high interest rates, in attempts to keep up and get by. Soon credit cards maxed out and family homes began being refinanced for second mortgage monies to pay for living expenses. Continued rising inflation along with these huge debts with no true raises in pay made using credit necessary. Today, too many families are in the impossible financial position with little ability to repay their debts, especially with the rare raises in pay and too many trying to live on minimum wage.

All this, while the rich get even richer !

Today’s minimum wage should be $22 an hour based upon historical inflation numbers. Instead, the lack of unions leaves workers with no voice and no choice but to accept the $7.25 an hour current today, with no benefits or even a 40 hour work week.

Young workers have been lied to and taught to hate labor unions but everyone had best hope that a number of United Working Class Unions "reappear," as they are the only real solution to save the 99% from the “out of control capitalism!” Support any and all labor unions or workers will be working for low minimum wages forever…No elected state or federal representative will help as they are apparently in office to protect their own interests and the interests of their wealthy financial supporters… and those interests are not ours!