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Minimum wage 2020

Get rid of all the cleaners, rubbish collectors, supermarket checkout staff and secretaries, for example, and society will very quickly grind to a halt. On the other hand, if we woke up one morning to find that all the highly paid advertising executives, management consultants and private equity directors had disappeared, society would go on much as it did before: in a lot of cases, probably quite a bit better. So to begin with … workers (must make) the case that the wages and conditions of low-paid jobs must be improved in order to reflect the importance they have in our lives.” – Chavs: the Demonization of the Working Class, by Owen Jones, published in 2011.

This was not a lucky prediction; it was – and is – a statement of fact. We have wakened to this reality. Fortune Magazine, among others, just published a list of what the federal government considers “essential workers” as we respond to the coronavirus pandemic. Echoing Jones, this list includes health care, construction, sanitation, utility and grocery store workers; newspaper, funeral home, and post office personnel. Most of the jobs in direct service are among the lowest paid in our state. Nowhere do we find hedge fund managers, CEOs or corporate lobbyists.

We who are privileged to do our part by staying home have been sent to our rooms to think about what we have done. We are called on, at the very least, to use this time to learn important lessons about big issues, including what’s truly valuable to us personally, as a nation and as a state. As just one example, consider New Hampshire’s $7.25 minimum wage. It is not even half of a living wage, and it is an insult to workers. Shamefully, the people who are risking their lives for all of us in grocery stores, restaurants, hospitals, nursing homes, clinics and in-home care are among the lowest paid of all. Last year, our Legislature passed a bill to increase the minimum wage to $15 over three years. The governor vetoed it. Publicly, of course, he declared, falsely, he was just bravely saving people’s jobs. Behind closed doors, he and his wealthy donors had a good chuckle about all the bills he vetoed meant to increase support for working families.

Some want us to return to “business as usual.” This would be a terrible waste of the insights this moment in human history has provided. To ensure that in the future we finally compensate workers fairly for the vital roles they play in our individual and collective lives, we must replace Gov. Chris Sununu with a Democratic candidate who supports a living wage. We must hold legislators who voted against last year’s minimum wage bills accountable by finding and voting for suitable replacements. Front-line workers who are putting themselves at risk for us deserve more than words of appreciation. We must show our respect by doing all we can to ensure a living wage for New Hampshire workers.

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