Dr. Mitchell favors "Living Wage" concept - UK professor takes his cause to Lees students
Writer: Jeff Noble
Breathitt County Voice (Jackson)
Telling students that "people who work full-time should not be poor", a University of Kentucky professor with a long record of social activism took his cause to Jackson last Thursday.
Invited to speak at Professor Marilyn Brown's Social Inequality class at the Lees College Campus of Hazard Community and Technical College, Dr. Richard Mitchell explained to students what a "Living Wage" is, and why it's become his life's passion.
"It is a wage that makes the worker and their family self-sufficient. That way, the worker is able to pay for necessities like housing, food, clothing, medical care and transportation," said Dr. Mitchell, who is a biomaterials teacher at UK's College of Dentistry in Lexington. "It's a wage that is 15 per cent above the poverty level for a family of four."
In his presentation that was called, "The Living Wage - Reality, Impact and the Working Poor", Dr. Mitchell gave a PowerPoint presentation to the Lees Students, showing them the advantages and misconceptions about the concept, which has been passed in over 140 cities across America. Dr. Mitchell is part of a group called the Lexington Living Wage Campaign, which is wanting to do the same in that Bluegrass city to our northwest.
"We're trying to get a Living Wage Ordinance passed in Lexington, which would require the local government to pay workers a Living Wage," noted Dr. Mitchell in a question-and-answer session after the class. "It usually requires a health benefits plan, as well as a cost of living increase." When asked by a student what the proposed living wage would be in Lexington, Dr. Mitchell replied, "Given the research we've done on this, the proposed Living Wage in Lexington would be $10.70 an hour."
In his talk which went just over an hour, Dr. Mitchell said that employees would benefit from the program, because it was self-sufficient, and that employees wouldn't need public assistance, and they would be protected against "outsourcing". He also said employers would benefit because it reduces employee turnover and absenteeism, increases productivity and morale, plus it lowers recruitment and training costs. "In general, everyone benefits because it lowers welfare costs, you have lower health-care costs because people go to the doctor before emergency treatment is needed, and parents are able to supervise teens, so there's lower crime rates."
Dr. Mitchell pointed out some misconceptions about the program, such as one that Living Wages discourage new companies from coming into an area. "That's not true. Those businesses that refused to come are those jobs, and they were low-paying jobs, were subsidized by taxpayers in the form of social services. Contractors have continued bidding on contracts, and their business has flourished."
He finished the session by asking students to get involved in the campaign, which is also going in Louisville and Knoxville, Tennessee. "You can tell your friends and neighbors about the problems caused by low wages, and you can help us get the word out. By all means, you can volunteer by joining our campaign." Dr. Mitchell closed his time with the class with a quote from former President Franklin Roosevelt. "No business that depends for existence on paying less than living wages has any right to continue in this country...and by living wages I mean more than a bare subsistence level. I mean the wages of decent living."
A very important campaign: for more info
Let Justice Roll: Living Wage Campaign
Kentucky Jobs with Justice
National Education Association (NEA): Reaching for a Living Wage
NEA: Living Wage Organizing:
Back to the Grassroots in the Bluegrass State
Universal Living Wage
Find the Minimum Wage Law in Your State
Economic Analysis and Research Network (EARNTOC): Documents from Around the Nation on the Importance of the Living Wage Campaign and Raising the Minimum Wage
Religious Support of the Living Wage Campaign