One hot topic for Labor Day: Wages

2013-09-02T18:46:00Z 2013-09-02T22:50:04Z One hot topic for Labor Day: WagesDeirdre Cox Baker The Quad-City Times

The American worker was celebrated Monday, but much of discussion on the Labor Day holiday and in recent days focused on wages.

Five days after the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King's famous "I Have A Dream" speech, the sentiment for a higher minimum wage continues.

The march in 1963 was known at the time as the "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom," and King advocated for a increase in the federal minimum wage of $2 per hour.

On Sunday, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn continued his fight to raise the minimum wage to $10 per hour in Illinois while on Monday, a local employer voiced his objections and some workers said there was room for wage improvement in today's economy.

Along Monday's Labor Day Parade route in East Moline, the assessment of the economy was mixed. Some people said the situation has been improving overall. But some said they were worried about the level of pay that comes with the jobs that are open.

"We’ve got a lot of jobs around here, but they don’t pay squat," said Lloyd Roberts, a truck driver from Bettendorf.

Stacey Gates, of Colona, works in the health care industry. She said she and her family are doing well, but she sees others struggling.

"They say it’s turning around, but I think it’s slow," she said. "I see the kids trying to start out with the wages they have, trying to buy homes and the cost of things for them. I think it's more difficult for the kids who are graduating and starting out in the world."

Employer Pryce Boeye takes a different view, Boeye, president and chief executive at Hungry Hobo in the Quad-Cities, is against raising the minimum wage at this time.

"Especially as we are still looking to see how the Affordable Care Act is going to play out," he said of federal health care legislation.

Owners of this business that employs 200 people always have been against significant or aggressive wage increases, he said. The increases force an employer to pay an artificially higher wage to a person who is relatively unskilled and new to the job, he said.

"That ends up hurting current employees in terms of possible raises and bonuses and further job opportunities in the company," he said.

Dino Leone does not see it that way. Leone, president of the Quad-City Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, termed the minimum wage a "poverty wage" and noted that when it goes up, no jobs are lost. "If anything, it creates jobs," he said, noting that workers spend their additional income in local businesses.

"This would not hurt McDonald's or other fast-food corporations one iota," Leone said. "It might hurt the top 1 percent of Americans, but then, so be it."

Leone said some of the lowest-paid workers in America are certified nurses assistants, or CNAs — a direct-care provider in the health industry.

Cheryl Ballantyne, coordinator of the nursing assistant program at Black Hawk College, Moline, said she thinks most CNA jobs pay higher than the minimum wage.

"We would all love to have more pay, of course," she added.

However, some of Ballantyne's students are in her classes to get away from jobs that pay minimum wage. "They just can't make a living or pursue a job they want on minimum wage, so they get the training as a CNA and use it as a springboard to move up in a health career," she said.

The enrollment in the eight-credit college program has stayed steady over the past few years, Ballantyne said. "Students who have finished the program ... tell me they now can afford to have an apartment and bedrooms for their children," she said.

The job choice "definitely helps them," she added.

Quinn is advocating for the state's minimum wage to increase from $8.25 to $10 per hour. He noted in an appearance Sunday at the Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church In Chicago that a full-time minimum wage worker in Illinois earns $16,600 annually, which is below the federal poverty threshold of $23,550 for a family of four.

In Iowa, the minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, and Boeye said the state's business climate is much better than in Illinois. In fact, he said his business growth is currently only in Iowa because of a lower minimum wage, employment insurance and worker's compensation insurance, as well a recent legislation that lowers some commercial property taxes.

In October, Boeye is opening his 13th Hungry Hobo, in Eldridge.

"Companies that sit on a border, like us, have to make a decision on where to deploy capital," Boeye said. ""Right now, you'd be hard-pressed to make the case for the State of Illinois," he added.

Boeye added that Hungry Hobo only uses the minimum wage as a training wage, and individuals who have drive and ambition quickly can earn much higher wages in the company.

Leone, at the labor federation, pointed out studies that show wages have stagnated in Iowa. 

An annual assessment of conditions for working people by the Iowa Policy Project published recently said wages for people have stagnated for at least 30 years.

Full-time workers with children deserve a living wage, Leone said. "Let's make the American dream a possible dream, not an impossible one." 

(Quad-City Times reporter Ed Tibbetts contributed to this story.)

Copyright 2015 The Quad-City Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(10) Comments

  1. Bobby Vee
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    Bobby Vee - September 04, 2013 1:26 pm
    Raise the cost of labor and the employers will install more automation which will result in fewer jobs.
  2. longjohn412
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    longjohn412 - September 03, 2013 10:33 am
    Well they are made in China now and owned by Acer

    They are complete junk compared to the Gateways made in Sioux City in the late 80's and early 90's

    Gateway once ran on the Model of Engineering first, cost secondary but after their IPO and the MBA's took over it because cost first Engineering second and down the tubes they went .... Apple was going the same route at the same time for the same reason, the MBA's philosophy of cost first and engineering second based on the dumb theory that people would rather pay less that pay for quality ...

    Steve Jobs turned that back around to the way it should be when he was begged to come back Engineering first and cost second and people gladly pay out 20% more for an Apple device than a comparable model from a competitor because THEY JUST WORK ....

    I have a Gateway motherboard in a computer upstairs that replaced one that wnet bad. The sleep mode crashes the computer and messes up the hard drive and it never once had the BIOS updated to fix the sleep or other incompatibility problems it has .... I also had to replace a Gateway Motherboard that was 4 years old in a friend's computer caused by about a buck's worth of bad ChiCom capacitors

    Gateway and most Communist Chinese manufactured computers are designed to last 2 years and not much longer. Compare that to an industry standard of 10-20 years just a decade ago ... I have 2 Commodore 64's and an Aple IIe and they all still work but I don't think I have anythiong older than 10 years that was made in Communist China

    See you and most younger people are so used to low quality that you don't even question it anymore. So what if 10-20% of a computer line has to be returned for defects as long as it's free to return ... but returns never are free, they are a loss of time and money to the consumer not to mention a major inconvenience. Merchandise warranty returns are a poor substitute for true Quality Control but that's what we have today just like no one Beta test software anymore, they just get it close and the Consumer gets to be the beta tester

    Speaking of Beta Software, how's that Windows 8 working out for you? The only thing dumber than trying to make a desktop OS run on a tablet is trying to run a Tablet OS on a desktop computer ....
  3. longjohn412
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    longjohn412 - September 03, 2013 10:00 am
    The Errors are at the Federal Reserve Level and have been since Reagan appointed Greenspan who pushed Supply Side Theory which F-A-I-LO-E-D and always will F-A-I-L

    THAT has to be fixed by Congress, the President is powerless to get rid of or modify the PRIVATELY RUN Federal Reserve Corporation .... Greenspan and Reagan made sure of that
  4. atlasshrugged
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    atlasshrugged - September 03, 2013 9:04 am
    Just keep voting for the Democrats Illinois, that's what you're good at....
  5. snowman05
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    snowman05 - September 03, 2013 8:40 am
    I'm sure contempio, the union was listening to right being propaganda. Lol. Isn't that the default response when anyone questions obamacare?
  6. Mark Riley 4 State Senate
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    Mark Riley 4 State Senate - September 03, 2013 8:38 am
    Thats amazing! As a BLET member working for CP Rail I have wondered when my membership would see the massive tax coming down to middleclass workers like myself from Obama Care. Unfornuatly Union workers are stuck between Supply-side, Free market GOP ideology that wants to bring back the feudal system with Corporations acting as the new Barons and we the workers as peasants gratefull to work for their enrichment and receive their protection as long as we have economic value. Morality be dammned let A-moral economic ideas reign protected by the legal system, political system and a bevy of Shylock lawyers.
    The Deep Blue Sea is the Democratic policies of Goverment is the answer, wealth redistribution, payoffs to political voting blocks and moutains of unsustainable debt to keep those promises. Their promised Utophioa is a bankrupt Detroit, bankrupt states, and the City of Chicago with 2500 public employees making over 280,000 a year and an unsustainable pension fund. The focus must be on the equal and just oppertunity for a person to sell thier labor to make a living that is upward in its mobility. Time to focus on workers and not Investors.
  7. snowman05
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    snowman05 - September 03, 2013 7:39 am
    Littlejohn, Such a classic liberal, blame the 80's, you forget 8 years of Clinton, and now 8 years of President Obama, to fix Reagans errors? I know GOP in congress. But Reagan had Dems in both the senate and house controlling both. Then it was Clinton that passed NAFTA.

    You remember Carter right and his 15% plus interest rates, high unemployment, and rapid growth in inflation right?

    Move forward your leader is begging you to!

  8. Contemptio
    Report Abuse
    Contemptio - September 03, 2013 6:53 am
    Don't expect wages to increase under Obamacare.

    The 40,000-member International Longshore and Warehouse Union has dropped its ties to the AFL-CIO in a letter that partly blames compromises over Obamacare

    Read Latest Breaking News from
    Urgent: Should Obamacare Be Repealed? Vote Here Now!
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    Urgent: Should Obamacare Be Repealed? Vote Here Now!
  9. ttdad
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    ttdad - September 03, 2013 6:14 am
    I just bought a Gateway and like it. I didn't know they started in Iowa.
  10. longjohn412
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    longjohn412 - September 02, 2013 11:30 pm
    Wages have stagnated since the advent of Supply Side Economics Theory in the 1980's

    Just as many of the more astute Economists predicted at the time ......

    Also as predicted People just went further into debt in order to maintain the same Standard of Living their Parents enjoyed so the increased levels of Personal Debt mirror the Federal Debt almost dollar for dollar .... and that's no mere coincidence

    But our biggest problem is we educated way too many Bean Counters (MBA's) and not nearly enough Engineers and Scientists (A dirty word amongst Republicans since the Gingrich Congress of the early 90's) to compete

    Gateway Computers which originated here in Iowa in the 1980's is a good example of what happens when Beancounters start thinking they are educated enough to make Engineering decisions ..... Gateway went from being the most compatible Computers on the market to 3rd rate junk in the matter of just a couple of years and it wasn't because of Gateway's Engineering Staff
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