Thursday, February 17, 2011

Legislators trying to repeal living wage ordinances you won

   You gave countless hours of your time and donated countless dollars of your hard-earned money to make sure the Memphis and Shelby County living wage ordinances passed.

   Now state legislators who don't have a clue about working poverty are trying to repeal the laws you got passed locally.

   We've defeated these kinds of proposals in past legislatures. But make no mistake about it, this will be our toughest battle yet. And I need every one of you to take action to make sure that no worker has to face up to a 43 percent pay cut in this tough economy.

WIN members celebrate the passage of the City's living wage ordinance in 2006.

   The Memphis City Council passed its living wage ordinance in 2006, after years of your activism. It makes sure that the City of Memphis only contracts with businesses that pay living wages.

   After all, why should our City government give away our tax dollars to companies that create poverty jobs? Memphis certainly has enough of those already. In 2007, the Shelby County Commission also passed a living wage ordinance for its contractors.

   These ordinances are a great success. Workers are able to move out of poverty and meet their most basic needs. Neither the City or County has had problems with attracting qualified contractors. In fact, the City Council even expanded its living wage ordinance in 2008 to include the contractors of Memphis Light, Gas, and Water.

    So why are Rep. Glen Casada and Sen. Ketron trying to destroy these laws that are working just fine for Memphis and Shelby County government? They claim that it's just too confusing for companies to have living wage standards to keep up with in some situations and not in others. 

    Do they really expect you to believe that businesses that have to fill out the numerous records involved in becoming a city contractor can't keep up with two different pay rates? For all their talk about protecting businesses, Casada and Ketron must not think businesspeople are very smart.

   And Ketron and Casada must think that Memphis and Shelby County are not capable of running their own governments. The last time I checked, determining who gets local government contracts, and for what reasons, should be decided at the local level. 

   So, what's our plan for action? What can you do to protect the living wage and all the workers who depend on it for survival?
   Is it discouraging to have to face legislators from outside Shelby County every year who try to undo the good work we've done? Yes.

   But I find encouragement and hope in Psalm 140:12, which tells us "I know that the Lord maintains the cause of the needy, and executives justice for the poor." May we do the same ourselves.

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