Lend a helping hand: Keep giving all year by supporting a raise in minimum wage

The holidays bring out the best in everyone. Charitable contributions always increase during the Christmas season as many people are reminded of the “true” meaning of Christmas-helping the less fortunate.

In a recent Chronicle article, columnist Ed Stevenson talked about the importance of charitable giving. Indeed, such efforts to encourage people to give to the needy or those in debt are important and needed.

In the course of helping others and exhorting our peers to do the same, we must not start to think that the giving must end at Christmas.

Charities all over the country go months with little help but receive tons of contributions come holiday time. The true spirit of Christmas is not just about giving. To truly help those in need, or those in debt, we need permanent solutions, not temporary fixes or once-a-year donations.

The true spirit of Christmas for us in Utah should be to support a bill coming up in the next legislative session: increasing Utah’s minimum wage. All of Utah’s major newspapers have recently reported that Utah is ranked No. 5 in food insecurity in the nation. The United States Census Bureau reported that almost 11,000 Utahns live below the poverty line.

If poverty in this state is to desist, and we are to regain our equitable heritage, strong policy measures must be sought and applied.

A substantial number of the work force is employed at or near minimum-wage salaries. Today, the inflation-adjusted value of the minimum wage is lower than it was in 1957.

The purpose of the minimum wage is to lift people out of poverty through work, as opposed to through government handouts. The current minimum wage is $5.15. In order to get millions of American citizens out of poverty, we must raise the minimum wage to $7.00. Statistics show that 13.8 percent (125,000) of the work force makes more than $7.15 per hour. Utah Issues, a local anti-poverty group, says 19 percent of Utahns would be affected by a minimum wage increase to $7 per hour.

A bill sponsored by Sen. Ed Mayne, D-West Valley, would do just that this upcoming legislative session. If that fails, Mayne intends to take this issue to a public vote next election year. A minimum wage increase is not likely to pass this legislative session.

However, if the issue is put to the voters, it will be up to us. Many U students earn minimum wage and would stand to gain from an increase in wages. Other states, like Washington, have done it and have had success at reducing poverty.

Make this holiday about permanent solutions, not temporary handouts. Let’s help our state move away from what the band Operation Ivy calls the “dollar-sign value system,” where grabbing onto wealth is the only guarantee of freedom peace and health.

Happy Holidays.

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