Sunday, June 8, 2014

Minimum wage changes coming to the mitten state



On the road to riches…well not quite, but it does seem that a majority of the women in Michigan will see a positive change in their paychecks courtesy of a minimum wage increase happening over the next 3 years.  
                
We have seen the stats before; in Michigan women make up more than 6 of 10 minimum wage workers (1). Beyond standard minimum wage employees, women also make up an even larger majority of tipped workers. Nationally, women fill approximately 75% of these tip based positions (3).  Currently, in Michigan, tipped employees make an hourly wage of $2.65 (2). Many of these women also find themselves raising a child or children on these wages. Nationwide, as many as 1 in 5 of these women are also working mothers (4).

Michigan is not the only state in the spotlight looking to make waves with increasing minimum wage. Beyond the state level there are also local municipalities seeking to make headlines and history as they push their minimum wage rates to record highs. Arguably: the most notable being Seattle, WA. The city of Seattle has officially approved an increase taking their minimum wage up to $15.00/hour over the coming years. Many hail this as a victory which will spiral across the country impacting other impressionable cities.

If you have been watching or reading the news of late, you may recall that in addition to the bill which recently passed through both the Michigan House and Senate, there had been a ballot initiative in the works. That ballot initiative was seeking to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 (6). With Governor Snyder having signed the $9.25 increase into law it effectively has put to rest the alternative. Even those who were opposed to a hike in general, found themselves supporting the successful bill out of fear that the alternative would have been worse for the economic standing of the state. Regardless, minimum wage employees in Michigan will start to see increases in their wages as early as September (5).

Personally, I remain pretty torn on the minimum wage issue as I understand how complex it can be. I have heard the arguments for and against time and time again. I worry that the overall number of positions will be affected by what an employer feels he/she is able to afford with the increase in expenses. I also understand that on the most basic level a minimum wage position may not be designed to make a living on. There is a problem with that argument though. The world is not perfect and this is not a perfect economic market. Men and women alike are finding themselves in minimum wage positions for extended periods of time simply because that is all there is right now. Additionally, many of these working mothers find themselves in the positions simply as a result of needing to be able to care for their child and the schedules better allow for that to take place. Should people be able to get rich while working within an entry level position? The answer is of course not, but there is certainly no reason that those affected should not be able to provide the necessities for daily living.  

Is there a perfect balance, a solution that will make everyone happy? Let’s be realistic, probably not. I do however feel that this middle ground is not a bad option for those on both sides of the isle. The increase may not be as high as what was initially desired but it is reasonable and will still have a positive impact for many Michigan residents. In the meantime, we can make our voices heard. Tell your legislative representatives what you want. If the men and women serving now are not serving your interests, show up to the polls next time around and try to make a change.

What do you think, is this the right move for Michigan? Should the increase have been more substantial as originally proposed? Or is this increase, despite its undeniable benefits to women, not worth the economic risk? 

- Cat Griebe

Resources

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

What kind of feminist are you?

While surfing the web as part of my daily news check the other day I came across a piece by one of my favorite feminist authors, Jessica Valenti. The piece was entitled ‘Why it’s OK to be a bad feminist.’’ Within the article, Valenti interviews Roxane Gay, author of an essay collection entitled ‘Bad Feminist’. This piece immediately got me thinking about the kind of feminist I am; as well as, what type of feminist I strive to be.

The question was posed “What’s a ‘bad feminist?’” The answer spoke volumes to me. Gay responds in part, ‘A "bad feminist" started as a tongue-in-cheek thing but beneath the humor, the term acknowledges that it is hard to be an ideal feminist with perfect politics.’ This statement is incredibly accurate. I know that I care for the environment and strive to be a part of the solution, not the problem yet I find myself knowing there is always more I could do. Does that mean I am any less of an environmentalist? In my mind, the same lesson applies to being a feminist.

I am an imperfect human being; I am the first to admit that some of my taste in things such as; popular music or movies for example, do not exactly align with my feminist ideology. I envision a world where women and men are treated equal on every level imaginable. I would love to live in a society where rape ‘jokes’ are not common place and where no matter your sexual orientation you can acquire employment and not fear unjust termination. The picture is not completely bleak however, we should be proud of the immense progress that we have made in recent years. Despite said progress, we do have a long way to go before we achieve a truly equal society. Knowing that, we should all strive to be at our best each day. Moreover, we should be reaching for improvement on a daily basis.

I have my flaws (Lord knows, my friends and family will ever so kindly remind me of them), but at the end of the day I know what I believe is right. Being a feminist means being a part of something so much bigger than little ol’ me. I think that recognizing my flaws will make me a better feminist. It is easy for me to view a commercial and see a company using sex to sell an item and be disgusted. However, it may take a deeper level of thought to view a movie where I am biased because my favorite actor/actress is in it and notice the sexism underlying. Furthermore, once noticed shouldn’t I take some course of action to vocalize my distaste. The reality is that I likely would be unable to avoid using all products that are sold through ‘sex’ based advertising; however, along the way I could make a conscious effort to be better.

I don’t think the question is one of whether or not I am the perfect feminist. I believe it is one of whether or not I care enough to want to be a better feminist. It is my belief that recognizing just that will lead to vast personal improvement. If we all challenge ourselves to be better feminists than I think we can make great strides towards an ultimately more equal, feminist friendly society. So ask yourself, ‘what can you do to be a better feminist today?’


-Cat Griebe

*The article referenced was published on May 9th in The Guardian and can be found here: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/09/roxane-gay-bad-feminist-interview