Yes we can—and should

I want to pass this along to City Council because it’s high time they stand up and really start working on a living-wage ordinance in Asheville, instead of just talking about it. The situation for so many workers is worse than pathetic, and it keeps growing. I’ve been here for four years, and—coming from Santa Fe, N.M., where we passed this in 2004—I’ve seen little progress here. In Santa Fe, companies with less than 25 workers are exempted, which takes some of the pressure off the smaller businesses, but the bigger businesses—including government subcontractors—need to comply. This year, the wage rate went to $10.50 hourly, which is hardly a bonanza since it is really just where the minimum wage should be.

As the cost of living has skyrocketed, wages have not changed one iota in Asheville, and if you want to leave it up to big-box retailers to take notice of the suffering of all their adult workers and commit to the their welfare, you can wait till the polar ice caps freeze over again. Workers are starving here. Now that the economy has contracted and the labor pool is desperate, employers are having a field day: deliberately short-staffing, with ever-increasing pressure on workers to increase production, while labor laws and protection for workers in this state remain feudal. I keep thinking that we are still living the plantation mentality here. Most hourly wages have been frozen. Health care is almost a non sequitur, and the fact that workers can be classified as part-time [but] work a 40-hour week, not qualifying for any benefits, is intolerable.

We have new leadership at the federal, state and local levels. We need Council members that can stand their ground. I can think of three that already oppose this measure. If we can get out there and support this grassroots movement to elect new leaders in Washington, we must do the same in Asheville and raise the level of these poverty wages that are pushing more and more people into desperate straits. Enough of Pack Square!

— Ed Krasner
Swannanoa

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