Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Minimum Wage Should Be a Living Wage; Economy; It Is Unjust to Exploit Our Lowest-Paid Workers; OTHER VIEWS

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Minimum Wage Should Be a Living Wage; Economy; It Is Unjust to Exploit Our Lowest-Paid Workers; OTHER VIEWS

Article excerpt

The minimum wage has been $7.25 per hour since July 24, 2009, even though the prices of basic, everyday goods such as food, housing, utilities and health care have jumped 7.3 percent in the past three years. As a result, the lowest-paid workers in our state have seen the real purchasing power of their paychecks eroded by steady increases in the cost of living. The fact that our legislators are not taking action to increase minimum wages to keep pace with inflation is a sad commentary on the values of our elected leaders.

Sadder still is the fact that the minimum wage does not even come close to what a worker needs to earn a living. In St. Louis, a minimum-wage worker must work an average of 78 hours just to pay one month's rent and utilities on a very modest apartment. This forces workers to take second and third jobs just to make ends meet. Let's call this what it is: exploitation. It is not only unjust, it is cruel to expect workers to toil long hours only to go home and beg for food at the end of the day.

What does it say about our values as a society when the wages of the poorest members are suppressed while the richest ones are enjoying record increases in their incomes and wealth? It says that we value the freedom of upper class owners/managers to amass unlimited private wealth more than we value the basic health, welfare and dignity of the whole community. My question is this: Is that the kind of world we want to live in? The United States has not always been like this, and it doesn't have to be now. We can choose to elevate minimum wages to living wages.

Some say that increasing minimum wages will cause employers to cut jobs. The truth is that if low-wage workers have more income, they will spend all of it buying goods and services for their families. This will have a multiplier effect, helping to create demand and stimulate job creation. It also produces tax revenue, aiding local, state and federal budgets. Even if it were true that an increase in minimum wages would cost jobs in the economy, the lowest-paid workers would not have to work two and three jobs to make ends meet if they had one job that paid a living wage. …

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