PAY PRIORITIES: ONES WHO CARE GET LOW WAGES
This article originally appeared in the Charleston Gazette on 2/8/2007
line for a family of four is $20,650. A full-time, year-round worker would
have to earn more than $9 an hour just to reach that line. That is more
money than many of us in West Virginia make.Minimum wage, which has not been raised in over 10 years, doesn’t even
come close to that. A full-time, year-round worker making minimum wage
will only receive $10,712 annually. This is just barely above the poverty
line for a family of one at $10,210. Even if there are two working adults
in a household of four they will just barely be above the poverty line at
$21,424.What this all means is that families are working hard and not being able
to keep their heads above water. Many of these families rely on food
stamps and other programs just to ensure their children are fed and the
rent is paid.
We are the richest country in the world and yet our hardest working people
can’t afford the rent. What does this say about our country? The lowest
paid workers in our country are caregivers, while sports figures and
corporate CEOs are rolling in money. The people who care for our society
are the ones who are suffering with these low wages – the hotel maids who
clean up our messes, the child care workers who take care of our children
while we are out trying to make it, the certified nursing assistants who
are working in the nursing homes caring for our sick and elderly loved
ones. These are the people making minimum wage, living below the poverty
line and still working their butts off.
What does this say about our priorities when we place more value on
someone who can throw a ball or jet around the world wheeling and dealing
to make even more money for themselves? This says our priorities are in
the wrong place. Our country does not value the vital work in our society;
they only value the work that creates more wealth for the wealthy. I say
it is time that we change that. It is time to put our money where our
mouth is and give the caregivers of our society adequate pay. It is time
to raise the minimum wage.
Dortch is the executive director of Direct Action Welfare Group, a
statewide organization fighting for the rights of poor people.