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Archive for Monday, November 26, 2001

Open the door

November 26, 2001

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To the editor:

At Tuesday's City Commission meeting (Nov. 13), a representative from the Chamber of Commerce warned that the living wage proposal is only the beginning. Unless the door is closed now, he said, further demands will be made regarding municipal employees and workers in other businesses. He may well be right, for some supporters of a living wage for employees of companies that receive tax abatements are probably of the (controversial?) opinion that everyone who puts in a full day's work ought to be paid enough to stay out of poverty.

While it may not be the end, it would be a mistake to think that the living wage movement is the beginning. The beginning should be sought in ordinances to prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender, or in the end of school segregation and steps toward equal opportunities for racial minorities, or in the right of women to vote, or in the regulation of unsafe working conditions, or in the abolition of a 16-hour day and child labor, or in the emancipation of the slaves. At every step of the way cries went up to close the door lest dire consequences ensue. Yet capitalism is stronger now than ever, and with the CEOs of some large corporations being paid as much as 600 times the wages of factory floor workers, owners and managers seem to scrape by somehow.

The irony is that, compared with these other developments, the living wage proposal is small potatoes. It affects very few employees and costs relatively little. It is self-evidently fair. It is simple to implement and enforcement procedures are clear. Nevertheless, three city commissioners have put themselves in the unattractive position of telling the voters that they approve the idea that our community resources can be used to subsidize companies that do not pay all of their employees from this community a wage sufficient to live on. The door may have been closed Tuesday night, but the people will keep knocking.

Allan Hanson,

Lawrence

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