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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Lily Gouin
Lily Gouin
Assistant Sports Editor

Hi! My name is Lily Gouin I am in my third year here at NMU. I am from Appleton, WI majoring in communications and double minoring in multimedia journalism and public relations. In my free time, I like...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

In the Left Corner: Minimum wage increase debated

Despite the common tripe about minimum-wage workers being part-time, under 18 and undereducated, the average demographic of minimum-wage workers in the United States is mid-30s, working full time and the primary income-earner for a household, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Michael Williams
Michael Williams

Based on the same research, the current national minimum wage, at $7.25 per work hour, is $3 less than that of 1968 ($10.69 per work hour).

Social equality has come a long way since the 60s, in part (if not totally) due to the social movements of the era when realizations of people-power moved from fringe to mainstream.

Indeed, these movements were centered around racial and sexual equality, as well as in opposition to the Vietnam War, but income equality (particularly related to Civil Rights) was central too.

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Now, in 2014, the United States is seeing the largest wealth disparity in its history, where the richest five percent of Americans own 72 percent of wealth.

This is a new form of segregation, where two classes are radically disparate from each other.

I went to Chicago over spring break and found myself talking to a man named Dominic, who lives under a bridge.

Dominic told me that his retail job couldn’t make ends meet and that when he lost it, the pieces quickly fell apart. He had a degree from Harold Washington University, but he pushed clothes at a retail chain. He is 27 and lives the effects of rampant inequality. I gave him a cigarette, then met a friend at a bar.

Currently, Washington, Oregon and Vermont respectively rank the highest in the Department of Labor’s list of highest minimum wages.

According to the national census, Washington’s rate of people living below the poverty level is two percent less than the national average, which is 14.9 percent. Vermont’s rate is 11.6 percent, well below the national average.

Law is meant to be a common denominator between every social demographic. While some can afford to bypass law (like Wells Fargo, money launderers), the purest spirit of regulation is acting as a bulwark to abused private power.

The minimum wage was created in 1938 through the Fair Labor Standards Act. The intention was to provide balance in the employer-employee power relationship. It’s implementation was a federal acknowledgment that low-wage employees hold the short stick in bargaining power.

Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 would lift nearly five million people above the poverty line, according to an independently-researched report published by the Department of Labor.

The report notes that the raising the minimum wage would not require governments to increase taxes, spending or borrowing, thus not adding to the increasing federal debt.

Often, employers factor federal and state benefits into their wages, assuming that individuals who qualify for entitlements will inevitably reap them. This mentality does nothing to improve labor power.

Workers’ rights are at the heart of this argument. The ability to demand a fair wage, adjusted to living costs, is the ability to exercise the individual and collective rights to survive in this society.

While raising the minimum wage veils the real problem of disproportionate taxation (or rather, lack of taxation for the super-wealthy who are deemed “job creators”), it is a healthy step toward remedying this egregious gap.

The 21st century has brought an onslaught on economically marginalized populations.

The Bush tax cuts for the super-wealthy have put the burden of increased federal spending (in the Wars on Terror and Drugs particularly) on the very populations who cannot afford such idiotic budgetary uses.

Dominic needed a higher wage. His story is common nowadays. Without protection from employers cutting costs, it will inevitably become more common if gross inequality goes unaddressed.

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