An essential conversation the Mountain Xpress needs to intensify its reporting on is the minimum wage in North Carolina — an issue that directly affects a third of the state’s workforce and disproportionately impacts people of color and women.
The current minimum of $7.25/hour (or $15,080/year) is $1,000 below the federal poverty line for one adult and one child. In other words, a single parent working full time at this rate cannot raise even one child out of poverty. A family of three requires at least $21.95/hour, along with a frugal budget, in order to sustain themselves without public assistance.
Especially in Asheville, where ongoing positive publicity has been drawing in tourists and new residents with ever more potential for growth and wealth, it is necessary that this prosperity is intentionally, systematically and consistently shared with all who are employed in the region.
The first step toward change is to petition state legislative leaders. Cities and counties cannot increase the minimum wage at the local level; it must be a statewide effort. Sign the petition at raisingwagesnc.org. There you can also get facts and stories.
Poverty can be an isolating, vulnerable, stressful position; try talking to your co-workers, neighbors and community contacts. What are their experiences? Does your manager or boss know how their employees are living? Economic progress coexists with social, environmental and racial justice.
One example: The minimum wage in 1968 was $1.60/hour ($11.64/hour in 2017 dollars, using the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ inflation calculator). This inadequate pay, along with unsafe conditions and racial discrimination, led to the Memphis sanitation strike — a now-infamous event in the civil rights movement and one we remember 50 years ago to the month.
In solidarity, as a community, let’s make economic stability a reality.
— Danielle Burke
Editor’s note: We appreciate this suggestion. As you write in your letter, the minimum wage is established by the N.C. General Assembly, and municipalities do not have the legal ability to set different standards within their jurisdictions. Thus, as a locally focused publication, our ability to report on the policy aspects of this issue is limited. However, the local implications of the existing minimum wage is a topic we may explore in the future; thank you for highlighting it.