Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Cleaning for pennies

Welfare was never meant to be a permanent fix. It was intended to be a temporary assistance program to help those who lost their jobs or their means to earn a living. Those folks collecting that monthly welfare check need to get out and get a job or their benefits should be cut.

So went the logic of the right back in the 1980's and 1990's when the nation's welfare laws were changed. President Clinton was the man who signed the so-called welfare to workfare legislation into law.

Of course no one looked at what entry level jobs were paying and whether or not one could raise a family on the paltry wages.

In Houston striking janitors have just ratified a new contract with building contractors to clean office buildings  in the downtown business district. The janitors had been out on strike for six weeks before the new contract was ratified.

When the janitors walked off the job in early July they were making $8.35 an hour. The contractors were offering a $.50 raise over five years while the janitors were demanding a raise to $10 an hour over a four year period.

Now let's take a look at the reality of $8.35 an hour. If a janitor worked 40 hours a week, he or she would make $334 a week. That works out to a little less than $1,450 a month. Just how easy is it to survive on that? There's taxes, rent, transportation expense, groceries and clothes. Maybe there'll be a little left over for a night out. And don't even think about health insurance.

The new contract will raise janitors' pay to $9.35 over the next four years. So, when the next presidential election rolls around these men and women will be making all of $1,620 a month. That's not taking anyone out of poverty.

And so, while Mitt Romney and President Obama are arguing about tax cuts for the wealthy, health care, unemployment and other issues associated with the so-called middle class, no one says a word about the plight of the working poor. No one says a word about raising the minimum wage and reducing the tax burden on those who work but will never have any kind of financial security.

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