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Tue., April 30, 2013

Living wage helps all

In 1944, I was employed by Western Union for 65 cents per hour, while union railroad telegraphers earned 86 cents to $1 per hour. I moved over to Great Northern Railroad.

When I started, Great Northern employees worked 12-hour days, seven days a week, but within a year our union negotiated a six-day week, with no wage loss. In a few years, we received a five-day week and cost-of-living increases.

Unions protected workers with fair wages and hours, and improved health and safety regulations.

Some people, accustomed to union benefits, believed that under right-to-work laws they would receive union benefits without paying union dues. However, right-to-work laws allowed employers to receive more profits, while wages sank to less than a living wage.

Often no consideration was given workers who provided the profits. One instance is miners; not much mining would be done without those who risk their lives in which management ignores unsafe conditions.

Henry Ford recognized that paying a living wage allowed workers to buy his cars. This helped Ford Motors thrive. His motto, “A Ford in every garage,” proved the maxim that all ships rise with rising water.

June Petersen

Newport, Wash.

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