The economic challenges facing everyday Montanans are daunting. With skyrocketing real estate prices, working-class households, who don’t already own their home, have little hope of purchasing one. For renters, an increasing share of their take-home pay goes toward rent. The people that we depend upon, like caregivers at our nursing homes, firefighters, policemen and cashiers at the local grocery store, are being pushed out of high-growth communities. Everyone deserves to make a live-able wage in an economically healthy country. Here’s how we get there:
- Increased Minimum Wage: The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 hasn’t been raised since 2009. Who can live on that? Adjusted for inflation the federal minimum wage peaked in 1970 and has trended downward ever since. Here in Montana, doubling the federal minimum wage is necessary for lower-income workers to make anything close to a reasonable living in most communities.
- Changing Corporate Executive Pay in Relation to Laborers: In the 1960s, the average CEO of a major corporation made 15 to 20 times as much as the average worker. Today it might be 250 times as much. Business success isn’t just a product of management. Laborers deserve a fair share of the profits. This might be accomplished by levying tax penalties for corporations in which the maximum paid to one employee exceeds the minimum paid to another employee by a certain ratio.
- Strengthening Labor Unions: Many of the good-paying jobs in Montana share one thing in common. They are either union jobs, or they are in sectors of the economy with a history of union involvement, such as mining, skilled trades and energy. The basic principle of labor unions recognizes that employees can more effectively bargain for fair wages as a unit versus as individuals. But let’s also champion the idea that union labor should mean more than just collective bargaining. Unions will be most effective when they’re the model for a superior workforce. “Union Made in the USA” is a great slogan when it means contractors can count on the job being done right the first time and when consumers can buy a product confidently knowing it will function properly and the directions for assembly can be understood by the average person.