Eurekans might have seen signs calling for the end to poverty wages pop up on our daily commutes. This is a topic that LoCO has covered and St. Joe has taken out full page ads to tout how “generous” a partner it has been to our community.
The thing is, as always in our economy the generosity is blanketed on those with money and spread out with very careful accounting to the needy, while the middle class and the blue (and pink) collar workers are squeezed even further.
Below is a graph from the Union sponsored report LoCO reprinted. Notice the $10 wage (SJHE = Eureka’s St. Joe, RMH = Fortuna’s Redwood Memorial, SRMH = Santa Rosa’s Memorial Health, and MMC = Redding’s Mercy Medical Center). I can hear you saying, yeah but, we get paid less up here behind the redwood curtain and that’s just the way it is. Really?
It is the way it is, but why? I contend it is a conservative business and government governance we’ve simply accepted as fact. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Below is a quick tablenoting a couple of income indicators from the Amazing Census ™. Santa Rosa (SRMH above) does have significantly higher income indicators*, but Redding? Why do our workers have to suffer the indignity of low wages. I really don’t feel there are good reasons other than this region has been used to union-busting management for decades.
If you don’t believe me, you can just read it between the lines in St. Joe’s polished full page ad. It starts out with … (highlights mine)
“Recently, you may have read materials from large out-of-town union representatives that have misleading information about our St. Joseph Health, Humboldt County ministries — St. Joseph Hospital Eureka and Redwood Memorial Hospital. We want to make sure you hear directly from us on this important topic.”
It continues with this fun right wing canard – darn government regulations. They don’t seem to mention that these regulations have helped to expand Medi-Cal roles by 30% since the ACA began.
“While government regulations and economic pressures are reducing our reimbursements, and asking us to continue to provide better care, we have continually re-invested in our communities.”
“We want you to be well informed about our pay and benefit practices and to know how privileged we are to work with so many talented and dedicated individuals who do their very best to serve you”
If this is true, then how can we accept such comparatively low wages? Wages that are below living wages in a local economic sector that is flush with financial success? Any questions about that success – simply drive by the palace/hospital St. Joe’s has built itself in the past 5 years.
Is it just me, or should a religious institution be leading the way in the employee salaries, especially those traditionally lower-paid, while making capital investments only once the laborers are getting their fair share?
What can we do? Pass the idea of these yard signs forward. Continue to let friends and family know that we need to start fighting for living wages for our employees. Write letters to the editor. Start taking back arguments about the importance of private sector unions.
Eventually, we’ll be able to crack the rhetorical lock the right has and the 10% have on unions and living wages. We’ve bought into this rhetoric for years, but finally as we are confronted with reality their rhetoric will increasingly seem hollow and the simplest of remedies will finally, again, seem like common-sense.
We’ll get there.
* This also might be due to an interior Santa Rosa that is more well-to-do than its suburbs and exurbs. It’s very likely that the workers and community Memorial Hospital serves has household incomes more in line with Humboldt’s than Santa Rosa proper.