The right to earn a living

Last night I was awarded the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award by the Kent-Ionia Labor Council. This was in recognition of the work I have been doing for three years along with the president of the Labor Council, the mayor-elect and other community leaders to get Grand Rapids to accept a Livable Family Income Incentive Proposal. Our proposal is a modified version of a living wage ordinance which is much less restrictive, rewards companies with good business practices and levels the playing field when bidding on city contracts. After three years, we have the support of one city commissioner who is a union man.

Yet right before going to the awards dinner, I was reading the GR Press on line and came across an article City creates public works incentives for minority hiring. This made me very angry since it employs similar bid discounts like we are proposing for businesses “who hire minorities and women for city public works projects.” They even offer a discount for “Participating in an Adopt-A-Stream program.” Now this tells me the city has a structure in place to monitor this program and audit contractors to insure that the hiring practices and stream cleaning are being done. Meanwhile, we were told that it would be too expensive to monitor contractors to see if they provided a livable family income for their workers. Sounds like they want to give women and minorities equal opportunity to earn low wages. Just don’t ask businesses to give their workers a fair deal. I’m all in favor of giving a break to women and minorities. I also think everyone deserves a livable income. I don’t see a contradiction between the programs. Rather, I say why can’t both programs work together. Just add on discounts for businesses who provide a livable wage, health care and other family friendly benefits.

It makes sense to me. It made sense to folks at the union hall last night when I made my acceptance speech. Does it make sense to you?



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