to RAISE or not to RAISE

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Dennis Phillips / Robertson County News

It is a debate that pops up from time to time, mostly fueled by a president. This time is no different. President Barak Obama, in his state of the union address of February, suggested raising the national minimum wage from the now $7.25 an hour to $9.00. This is a $.50 decrease from his campaign promise of 2008 when President Obama pledged to see the minimum wage increased to $9.50 an hour by 2011. The White House has failed to act on that promise.
The increase has been embraced by democrats as expected, touting the increase will help raise full time low income workers above the poverty level. Republicans in historic fashion have rebutted that an increase will only cost employers more and discourage hiring unskilled workers driving the unemployment rate even higher than the national 7.0%.
This proposal, overall would affect an estimated 15 million workers in America. Most of these individuals are a part of the vast fast-food industry.
In New York along with several other major US cities, minimum wage fast-food workers have begun to demonstrate, protest and strike. These actions have caught the attention of the mass media, setting the minimum wage debate front and center once again.
Without a doubt, non-unionized workers in this country have the right to demand better pay, better working conditions and fair treatment; many fear retaliation from the fast-food industry for their outspoken demands. Let’s face it, Taco Bell is not happy about the negative press they might sell fewer nachos.
While I agree with the right to strike, my father was an industry worker and strikes were just part of the deal, I think this one might be asking too much. Workers are demanding a raise to $15.00/hr.
Many economic analysts suggest this would bankrupt an industry that marks its ledgers in the billions annually.
But what is an unskilled, younger worker to do? Clearly $7.25/hr. is a low wage in this economy but you can rest assured that the fast-food industry will not alter the wage without a forced hand from congress.
After hours of research on the subject I have to give kudos to the organizers of the protest. I love a good slogan and these strikers have a few good ones to choose from. Strikers could be heard shouting, “hold the burgers hold the fries, make our wages super-sized!” and “We’re not lovin’ it.”
While major metropolitan areas like St. Louis and New York have a higher cost of living than that of most major cities in the US, Texas overall is in better shape, though no where near where we were.
In Jan. 2008, President Obama took control of the White House and the Texas unemployment rate was at our second lowest at 4.4% (our lowest 4.3% in July 2007.) Today we face unemployment or 6.4%, still .6% better than the national average. This is down from an all-time recent high of 8.3% in March 2010.
So where do we fit in the picture.
So in our county neighbor region, Robertson Count included we are looking at a 6.8% unemployment rate, .4% above the state low of 6.4%, but still below the national rate of 7.0%.
In other words folks, we are doing fine and our local economy is getting better everyday. Local efforts to encourage job growth are paying off.

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