Labor Day, Unions and Wages

The first Monday in September has been celebrated as Labor Day for over 100 years. We've come a long way in this time. Thanks to unions we have Child Labor Laws, and all children in the United States now receive an education. Thanks to unions Congress established an 8 hour work day. Thanks to unions Alaska's minimum wage has risen from $7.75 in 2010 to $10.19 in 2020. Even if you or your parents were never members of a union, chances are your family has benefited from their work.


It was more than disheartening to read that the Haines Sheldon Museum plans to separate its staff from the borough. After the last minute amendment by Brenda Josephson to slash the museum's budget, I went to work and raised funds to cover the gap through June 2021. It was important to provide benefited positions to the hardworking museum staff, of whom I am extremely proud. Please note that the hourly wage for each of the current staff is below the suggested living wage for Alaska ( https://livingwage.mit.edu/states/02 ). The museum board's new narrative that the museum budget wasn't "sustainable" is debatable and their future plans cast a real pall on this year's Labor Day.


A living wage is important for a vibrant, sustainable community. Currently the 100 boxes of food provided weekly by the Salvation Army are quickly snatched up. We have 22-27% unemployment. The U.S. has 8.4% unemployment. There Haines economy does not have enough job diversity, so that the unemployed have difficulty finding jobs that pay a living wage. Yet our current assembly felt it was appropriate to slash borough positions and to run out three strong and competent leaders - Margaret Friedenauer, Debra Schnable, and myself as the Museum Director. The assembly insisted on a 50% loss projection for tax revenue. The first six months of 2020 show the tax revenue loss to be 23%. This means the cuts demanded by the assembly were unnecessary and cruel. Especially in light of the CARES funding which could have supplemented salary cuts, since the primary purpose of the money is to keep people working. A vibrant economy has never been created by slashing budgets. A vibrant community has never been created by people refusing to pay for the services that make the community function. It is time for a change in how we approach the challenges we face. Times are tough. So am I.

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Helen Alten

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© 2020 by Helen Alten.

P.O. Box 691
Haines, AK 99827


helenalten99827@gmail.com

907-314-2073