Valuing Work & The Minimum Wage

Arkansans work hard, and we don’t ask for much. It’s just not in our nature to be asking for handouts, or to take them. But we do believe in giving someone a hand up. We expect for each one of us to earn his or her keep.

That’s a good thing. It’s good we know the value of hard work. It’s good we know that we all need to be responsible, and able to provide for ourselves and our families.

But sometimes, and we’ve seen in this in Arkansas more than many states, people just don’t get the pay that they’ve earned. Hard work is not always fairly compensated, people are not always valued like they should be.

When I was growing up you could work part time and put yourself through college. You could make it work without student loans.

I worked the night shift in a foundry and commuted to college during the day. It was hard work. But I did it, and I’m glad I did.

But nowadays someone who wants to do that, someone who wants to work and better themselves, is one flat tire or transmission problem away from having to drop out.

A tire was $60. Now just one tire could at up an entire weeks pay. There’s a lot of things besides tires that have gotten more expensive since I was working my way through college, through fundamental early years.

But one thing that hasn’t changed all that much, is the minimum wage. And that’s not okay. We’re asking people to do the same jobs, put in the same labor I put in all those years ago, yet they’ll have less money at the end of the week than I did. Our state can do better, we can value working people, we can reward people for their work.

And that means making sure we have real wages in Arkansas, wages that actually pay people a little bit of money for their time and labor. It’s the right thing to do, to reward work.

The people of Arkansas overwhelming support a basic minimum wage, that will let working people be able to pay at least some of their bills. About 70 percent of voters approved raising the state’s minimum wage in 2014, and then again in 2018.

Those votes mattered, those elections mattered. The people of Arkansas spoke overwhelmingly, and said that work deserves pay, and that working people ought to be able to provide for their families.

But now – there’s an effort in the Arkansas Legislature to undo the people’s work. There’s an effort to literally cancel and take back raises in the minimum wage. There’s an effort to go directly against the will of the people – who just approved a higher minimum wage.

We have representatives at the state Capitol in Little Rock for the next several weeks. There’s a handful of Republican lawmakers who filed legislation to make sure than about 250,000 Arkansans will be denied their minimum wage raise.

Arkansans know nothing is easy. Arkansans know anything that’s any good requires hard work. And now our work is making sure that the lawmakers we send to Little Rock know better than to take money from our wallets, than to take away the voter-approved minimum wage.

You know where I stand, do you know where you state Representative or state Senator stands? Let’s reward work, let’s give people a decent minimum wage, and let’s give people a shot at providing for themselves and their families.

I’m Michael John Gray, Chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas.”