HomeCenterPJCVT

 

FAQs & Figures

The Issues of Fairness from Workers' and Business' Perspectives


1.
But are people earning low wages really worth it? Isn't the problem really that they aren't skilled enough to be worth living wages?
2.
But do all Vermonters deserve a livable wage?
3.
But why do we have to require businesses to pay a livable wage? What about the business argument that a free market, increasing worker productivity, and minimal regulation are the best way to a strong economy with livable wages for all?
4.
Aren't there some businesses out there that would like to pay living wages, but really can't?

But are people earning low wages really worth it? Isn't the problem really that they aren't skilled enough to be worth living wages?
Job training is a good thing, and we can all use more skills. But all the training in the world won't help if most jobs aren't paying livable wages. According to the 2002 Vermont Job Gap Study, 40% of all jobs require only short-term, on-the-job training. The three fastest-growing jobs in Vermont are waitresses and waiters, retail sales, and cashiers. These are jobs that are low-paying (median wage of $5.60 an hour), often part-time, without benefits, and are not highly skilled. Half of all non-livable wage jobs are in the retail (sales), food & beverage, education, and health care industries. Regardless of whether people gain more job skills and move into better paying jobs, someone will work these low-paying jobs. Shouldn't they get paid a living wage?

But do all Vermonters deserve a livable wage?
Well, that's the heart of the issue. The Addison Eagle doesn't think so: "Since when does the lowest common denominator in our working society deserve to earn enough to live off?" (Editorial, 7/16/99). The Vermont Livable Wage Campaign believes that all Vermonters deserve a livable wage or income, and especially Vermonters who are working hard to get by-often two or three jobs. People, businesses, and institutions like the Addison Eagle who are opposed to livable wages are essentially saying that all Vermonters do not deserve enough food, housing, clothing, and heat to survive. They are saying that it is okay to pay starvation wages and expect people to do without basic necessities. An essential point that people opposed to livable wages are missing is that non-livable wage jobs are not just the 'lowest common denominator.' They are often socially important positions, like being an educational assistant with developmentally disabled students, or working in childcare. And even if the job is working as a cashier, what's wrong with that? It's real work, hard work, and a job someone has to do. People deserve a livable wage for doing it.

It's also worth saying again that when businesses do not pay a livable wage, public assistance often makes up the difference. So when Vermonters turn to food stamps or heating assistance because they are not making livable wage, our tax dollars are subsidizing those businesses.

But why do we have to require businesses to pay a livable wage? What about the business argument that a free market, increasing worker productivity, and minimal regulation are the best way to a strong economy with livable wages for all?
Wouldn't that be nice? Unfortunately, it just isn't so-for several reasons. According to a survey of businesses throughout Vermont performed by Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, "There are a significant number of employers currently paying at minimum wage levels without benefits who, regardless of their ability to pay their employees more in wages and benefits, will not do so until they are required to." How else are the employees of these businesses going to earn a livable wage besides the minimum wage being increased?

Secondly, history shows that as the productivity of workers increases due to increasing skill levels and new technology, and the profits of businesses go up, that this doesn't necessarily translate into better wages. The productivity of American workers increased significantly from 1973 to 1997. However, during the same period wages fell by 16% (when adjusted for inflation), corporate profits hit record levels, CEO salaries have skyrocketed, and the richest 1% of Americans now control 42% of the nation's wealth. So, in this example, increased productivity and profits did not result in increased wages and wealth for all but only for business owners and management. Arguing for a "free" market really means allowing employers to do whatever they want, regardless of what's right.

It should also be mentioned that the free market is hardly free. For example, over 250 billion in taxpayer dollars is given out annually as subsidies to US corporations. US arms merchants alone get $500 million a year to advertise and promote their products. When was the last time that you heard business complaining about this interference with the free market? There are countless numbers of examples of ways in which our economy is already managed and subsidized through political policies. The only question is, who is going to benefit from these policies? Working people-the vast majority of Americans-or a wealthy few?

Aren't there some businesses out there that would like to pay living wages, but really can't?
Undoubtedly there are. And for these businesses, we need to figure out solutions. Perhaps employers who genuinely can't afford to pay a livable wage could qualify for tax cuts that would allow them to pay livable wages. There are other solutions as well, and there needs to be much discussion as to what the solution is. But the days of balancing the books of businesses on the back of their employees are over. Every Vermonter deserves a livable wage.

 

 

 

 


FAQs & Figures

Basic Livable Wage

Minimum Wage

Economy and "Impact"

Issues of Fairness

The Big Picture

 


Home   |   Mission   |   FAQs & Facts   |   Campaigns   |   Contact Us   |   Site Map

Vermont Livable Wage Campaign
60 Lake Street, Burlington, VT 05401
802.863.2345 x8 livablewage@pjcvt.org
© 2007 Vermont Livable Wage Campaign

Web Design by Kristance Harlow