Ten cent wage increase leaves much to be desired

Bethany J. Royer

January 3, 2014

Bethany J. Royer

Staff Writer

PIQUA – The powers that be have given hourly wage workers a ten cent raise as of Wednesday, not that $7.95 an hour from $7.85 is anything to celebrate. As many minimum wage earners must continue to rely on public assistance to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.

“This is not nearly enough to achieve a livable wage for many workers but any and all upward pressure on wages is better than the stagnant wages we have seen,” said Ohio AFL-CIO (The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations) President Tim Burga in a press release on the meager increase going into 2014.

While Burga states there is an economic benefit to the increase, given wage earners will spend directly into our communities and local economies, too many workers are still being forced to rely on taxpayer-funded public assistance programs. Such individuals are not being paid enough to make ends meet and to make matter worse, many of the working poor or long-term unemployed have been further pinched on several fronts.

First to feel the blow were those dependent on the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program which was not extended by Congress before taking a holiday break. This left thousands in the state of Ohio alone to wonder what they will do next. This transpired on the heels of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) being cut in November which looks to be cut again. Bad news when Ohio ranks in the top ten for food insecurity rates above the national average.

Look to a future Daily Call for more on food insecurity.

As provided by the AFL-CIO, minimum wage was established as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Its purpose was to prevent market forces from driving down the wages of the lowest earners in the labor force. Research shows that an increase in the minimum wage spurs employers to increase wages for other low-wage workers. However, minimum wage reached its peak value (Buying power) in 1968, since then it has failed to keep up with the increase in consumer prices. Meaning, the real value or purchasing power of minimum wage and those earning not far above it leaves much to be desired. This is according to a Congressional Research Service report (Prepared for members and committees of Congress) on inflation and the real minimum wage released in September 2013.

Continues Burga, “Corporations like Walmart and McDonald’s enjoy record profits and their CEOs are paid obscenely large salaries ─ all while the workers at these companies suffer and Ohio’s taxpayers are squeezed.”

The equating of company profit to the low wages they pay as taxpayer’s subsidizing CEO paychecks made headlines throughout 2013 with many hourly workers taking to the streets in a demand for a living wage.

Whether 2014 will look any different for those seeking a wage to make ends meet such as the working poor (There were 10.4 million individuals in 2011 defined as the working poor in the United States by the Bureau of Labor Statistics) and those dependent on aid remains to be seen.