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Letter to the Editor: Unions pushed for wage standards

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

To the editor:

I would like to respond to a recent Speak Out comment about the minimum wage.

A minimum wage rate of 25 cents an hour was adopted by Congress in 1938. Sixty-eight years later, it has increased 19 times. In 1997 legislation was signed to raise it to its current rate of $5.15 per hour. States have the right to set their own wage rates higher than the federal level. Missouri is not one of those states.

Eight years ago, approximately 16 percent of all wage earners would have been affected by an increase in the minimum wage. I do not agree with the assessment that only 4 percent would be affected today.

Teenagers make up about 7.5 percent of those workers, while women make up a little over 62 percent. Retail trade workers account for the majority of the jobs affected, with the service industry following at a close second.

The comment was incorrect when stating that a raise in the minimum wage is a sneaky way for unions to get a raise without having to negotiate for it. All union contracts are negotiated. Nothing is automatic. The Department of Labor governs what unions can and cannot do. They monitor this closely.

If individuals are fortunate enough to be earning a living wage with decent benefits, they should be grateful to the union workers who have earned those standards for them. They should be thanked, not judged to be sneaky, by those who appear to be unknowledgeable about the subject.

JERALD HILLMAN, Scott City