How We Talk About Wages – It Matters

ICWJ Executive Director Becky Schigiel wrote this message in response to a Wisconsins State Journal editorial on livable wages.

We need to talk – about how we talk about wages.

I don’t fault the State Journal for calling out the co-op on walking its talk in your editorial on “Co-op shows the difficulty of livable wage,”   As a member, I welcome the full conversation.  How can we raise wages more quickly, sustain the stores, and welcome shoppers who work for less elsewhere?  

We have grown accustomed to talking about wages as if they exist in isolation, only affecting one business.  We all pay more for those goods somewhere – trying to provide the basics that workers cannot afford.  The human cost is paid by those who know they cannot work enough to make enough.

I am most concerned about the editorial’s tone. This was an unhelpful Aha, Gotcha! moment, nearly gleeful about proving that no one can really pay a living wage. See Do-Gooders, we told you so.

Where is the satisfaction in that? Rather, where is your dissatisfaction with a local economy that cannot support its workers?  At stake is a much larger and very real cost of our collective shrug when faced with the poverty of working people, as if wages have nothing to do with it.

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