Raise the minimum wage!

By Rosalie Tirella

Reports on the US economy trouble me. Specifically the sections about job growth. Seems here in America, jobs are growing in three categories: retail, restaurant, and temp help.

Scary. The lowest paying jobs. The jobs with no or few benefits like health insurance. The jobs no one takes unless they have their backs against the wall. The minimum wage jobs. The Wal Mart jobs. The jobs that barely come with anything but an $8 an hour paycheck. Usually for part time work.

Contrary to stereotypes, minimum wage jobs aren’t held by kids looking for some after school spending money or a bit of work experience. The majority of minimum wage jobs in America are held by adults who are trying to pay their bills, even raise families.

Does America need more people, many women, stuck in grueling poverty? Do we need a shot in our spending arm? The answers, no and yes, respectively, can be achieved if we raise the minimum wage to $10 or $11 an hour. By raising the minimum wage, we lift millions of people out of a kind of indentured servitude. By raising the minimum wage we will pump billions of dollars back into the economy as these workers take to the stores and shops and spend their bigger paychecks on goods their families need. Maybe a new refrigerator or a used car or even more groceries. Trust me, none of the dough will be socked away in a CD, etc. It will be spent, plowed back into the economy, making local businesses stronger, more profitable.

The multi-billion dollar big box retail stores can afford to pay their employees $11 an hour. Even local mom and pop businesses can, even though they will deny it.

Here in Massachusetts, the minimum wage of $8 an hour has not been raised since 2008. Pathetic for such a progressive, forward leaning state such as ours. Brutal for folks who play by the rules, go to work and work hard each day.

It is only fair that if you have a work ethic and go to work every day and work 40 hours a week that you earn enough money to pay your rent, buy groceries, etc. It’s called earning a living wage.

The fact that in America the minimum wage type jobs are growing like gang busters is depressing. It means all our factories are dead and that no big, I MEAN BIG, economic powerhouse has risen to take industry’s place. Renewable energy, bio tech, video game design. Add it all up and for most Americans, the equation equals shit.

We have to do better by people who in the 1940s or 1950s would have had a secure lower middle class life, complete with tiny ranch or cape a family car and maybe dreams of college for their kids.

We cannot keep creating and perpetuating a slave class, an under-class. This is America! This country is supposed to be about upward mobility … the American dream. Don’t let the dream die.

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