One of our veteran editors wrote an article several years ago describing the extreme hardships a family in Johnsburg was enduring as the parents were working long hours at minimum-wage jobs.
Hard-working and committed to their children, the man and wife headed out each day in an effort to provide their family with safe housing and a decent start in life.
Yet with burdensome home heating costs and sky-high vehicle fuel and insurance expenses, their minimum-wage earnings were nowhere near covering the basic necessities for their family. To survive, they were forced to depend on a variety of government programs.
Since then, the situation is even worse for thousands of families in the Adirondacks who rely on minimum-wage employment for their income.
Decent jobs are rare in the central Adirondacks, and we see the result: many local residents, whose families have lived here for generations, are leaving so they can make a respectable living elsewhere. Over the past 30 years the population of core Adirondack communities has declined by 30 percent or more.
In 1973, this Denton editor reports, he and his wife both worked for a salary just above minimum wage, or $1.60 per hour, and we were able to pay for not only their housing costs, food, insurance on three vehicles — and their health insurance premiums (only $85 per year full cost for a policy) — they also had cash left over for vacations and non-essential purchases.
Now, people earning minimum wage have no such ability. The total cost of a health care plan alone can exceed a minimum-wage worker’s entire annual salary.
Those working at the 2014 minimum wage rate of $7.25 have far less buying power than workers earning $1.60 per hour in 1973.
Since 1970 or so, the average pay of top executives nationally has increased a thousand-fold, while wages for working people haven’t even kept up with the rising cost of living.