Working people deserve livable wages

Working people deserve livable wages

The latest version of United Way’s ALICE report – released last week – shows the precarious economic conditions faced by more than half of Louisiana households. The vast majority of households are headed by working people, yet far too many of them have jobs that don’t pay enough to lift a family out of poverty. | The Baton Rouge Advocate notes in an editorial that the report is based on data from 2018, when Louisiana’s economy was near full employment, and that things are likely much worse today. 

Louisiana workers have in recent years enjoyed full or nearly full employment but something less than living wages. So many employees work jobs that, during the pandemic, have been deemed essential but which too often pay substandard wages. It is ironic that one could be essential yet little valued. … What might reverse their fortunes and Louisiana’s? Workforce training that leads to skilled employment and higher pay. But if a flat tire could derail a family’s finances, what might college tuition do to them?

The editorial fails to mention the policy change that would do the most to help ALICE families – a meaningful increase in the minimum wage, tied to inflation.


Revisiting a life sentence for hedge clippers
Fair Wayne Bryant, the Shreveport man who received a life sentence in 1997 for trying to steal hedge clippers, has been granted a new parole hearing. The news comes after Bryant’s appeal was struck down by the Louisiana Supreme Court in a ruling that drew national attention to Louisiana’s harsh sentencing structure for repeat or “habitual” offenders. The Lens, which broke the story, reports that Chief Justice Bernette Johnson wrote in her dissent about the correlation between poverty and crime

Such petty theft is frequently driven by the ravages of poverty or addiction, and often both. It is cruel and unusual to impose a sentence of life in prison at hard labor for the criminal behavior which is most often caused by poverty or addiction.”

Bryant’s latest parole hearing – his fourth – is scheduled for Oct. 15. 

Louisiana politicians think their constituents are lazy

Elected officials typically describe their constituents as “hard-working” and industrious – the type of people who deserve good representation in Washington or Baton Rouge. But the economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has apparently spawned a change of heart among some politicians, who no longer feel as warmly about the people they represent. The Illuminator’s Jarvis DeBerry looks at the unhelpful rhetoric surrounding the $600 per week in federal unemployment benefits that expired last month: 

In June, Politico quoted U.S. Sen John Kennedy:  “We’re never going to recover economically from the pandemic if everybody is at home watching Netflix.” Another bill paying out $600, he said was “Not going to happen. Nonnegotiable.” In a July statement, U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy started out with empathy.  “We have to take care of families as they struggle to keep their lives together,” he said. But he followed that with this: “But at the same time, we cannot incentivize people not to work. It’s not good for them. It’s not good for their job skills.” Describing them as couch potatoes? Paternalistically telling them that the money they want won’t actually help them?  Now, is that any way to talk about the hardworking folks from the great state of Louisiana?

National Public Radio’s Morning Edition looked at President Donald Trump’s executive order, which would temporarily restore part of the unemployment benefit, but would exclude the lowest-income workers who need help the most. Listen for a cameo appearance by LBP’s Jan Moller.


Black women deserve equal pay
If the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is how many people are performing “essential” work on the front lines for very low pay. This is especially true for Black women, who are paid just 66 cents, on average, for every dollar paid to a white, non-Hispanic man of the same age, education and geographic location. Valerie Wilson and Melat Kassa of the Economic Policy Institute look at the pay disparity in various occupations as America marks Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. 

Although Black women are employed in occupations that have been essential during the pandemic and are essential to the reopening and recovery of the economy, Black women experience large pay gaps across many of these occupations. Across the six occupations listed in the infographics, we see that occupation-specific pay disparities are largest among physicians and surgeons, and smallest among wait staff. Black women doctors are paid 73% of the average hourly wage paid to non-Hispanic white male doctors (a difference of $16.82 per hour). Black women wait staff are paid 89% of what non-Hispanic white men in that occupation are paid (a difference of $1.13 per hour).


Number of the Day
390,000 – Louisiana adults in households with children who reported that children in their households did not eat enough because their families could not afford adequate food, between July 9 and July 21. This represents 28% of all households with children in Louisiana. (Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)