Issue One: The minimum wage

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Lives upended

It is tempting to refute the Dec. 9 letter (“People Can Improve Their Own Futures”) labeling low-wage workers as slackers by arguing the stereotypes about the quality of scholarship of community college graduates. Clearly, the letter neglected two basic thesis proofs: The personal is not the universal, and stereotypes are not facts.

The writer was able to “improve” herself by working hard and going to college, and wonders why others do not eat the same cake. Many minimum-wage workers have college degrees but are unable to utilize them due to circumstances beyond their control. Witness the dramatic job losses across economic sectors, forcing people to take jobs far below their levels of expertise and that pay poverty-inducing wages. Perhaps they can’t “improve” themselves by going back to school because they are still paying off their own student loans, caring for an elderly parent, sending their own children to college or are recovering from a catastrophic uninsured illness.

Then there is the minimum-wage worker demographic stereotype. In reality, most low-wage workers are over 30 and have families. Some have advanced degrees. Many are victims of the Great Recession or of corporate shenanigans that have upended lives.

This paper reported recently that most Americans will live in poverty at one time or another, which is the reality for many who now work minimum-wage jobs. In the letter writer’s opinion, these people deserve no better. If one day she faces the same fate through no fault of her own, one can only hope that the disdain she heaps upon the less fortunate will not be revisited upon her.

North Versailles

Lift up others

I read the letter “People Can Improve Their Own Futures” (Dec. 9) about the success the letter writer has experienced in her life and am sorry for her apathy toward her fellow man.

I was living in New York City in 1949 when one of the large news outlets tried an experiment to see how people who “make it” treat people who are struggling.

A man, who was a reporter dressed as a homeless person, begged for help. Those who helped this person were not the well off but people who know how hard life can be.

The reporter told how he was helped only by other poor folks or just hard-working people like himself. Is this a surprise? No.

So I ask any person who has “made it,” why would you not want people who work the same eight hours as you not to make a living wage? Some of these people are working two, sometimes three, jobs just to put food on the table or buy clothes for their kids. So let’s not put down those among us who are working and trying so hard to “make it.” Why not support them in their efforts? Now there’s a novel idea.


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