Friday, July 31, 2015

Poverty Wages in Mariposa 1: Who is our neighbor?

Neighbors, friends, I was shocked recently to learn of the great number of minimum wage jobs in our county. Not only poverty wages but unemployment at least double the national rate. A report in the Mariposa Gazette said that Mariposa was 57th in California in wages and had been so for 3 years! 57th! Now I’m not a 57th kind of person and I don’t think you are either. This abuse of workers, all of whom are our neighbors, doesn’t compute; it doesn't make sense.

I see many businesses, large and small, in the Yosemite-Gold Country community profiting from a unique and booming tourist environment that brings over 4 million visitors to our area every year. I had to ask myself, how does all this prosperity get turned into poverty wages and unemployment for, literally, thousands of my neighbors? I decided to look into it and have spent much time in the last few months in my search. I was so blown away with what I discovered that I've produced 7 videos to tell you what I found in the hope that you will join me to stand with and back our workers, our neighbors, who all work hard and play by the rules but still receive poverty wages with virtually no benefits! And 800 other neighbors have no job at all!

When we examine the distressed condition of so many workers in Mariposa County, it seems to me that a central question we need to consider is, who is our neighbor?

In other words, to whom do we as a community owe our concern, our allegiance, our support? Is our neighbor the young person who grew up here, attended local schools, may even have risked his or her life in our military, and is now working for minimum wages? Or is it that young family whose wages are so low that Mom has to work, Dad has to take two jobs, and they still have to receive food stamps to feed their kids? 

Or is our neighbor, Burger King, Subway, Rite Aid, Delaware North, or, perhaps, Aramark, the Philadelphia mega-corporation that just won the bid to replace Delaware North in Yosemite?

All of these are huge foreign corporations, that is, corporations registered in other states.

 I don't believe our current 4 corporations pass the Neighbor Test because, clearly, Burger King, Subway, Rite Aid and Delaware North:

1. don’t live here
2. don’t participate in our community life,
3. are all members of the 1 Percent Club a great part of whose wealth comes from paying poverty wages to our neighbors,
4. send and spend all or part of their profits out of our county, and then
5. they expect us to make up the difference.

Now, us making up the difference for foreign corporations is no small matter. It's something most of us don’t even think about when we hear that a company pays workers minimum wages. We may be more familiar with it when Walmart does it.

It goes like this: when our workers can’t survive on poverty wages, they apply for food stamps, medical care, welfare, low income housing, income tax credits, help with childcare and more. In other words, when our four foreign corporations, who earn great profits in our community, get away with paying poverty wages to our neighbors, you and I pay the difference with our taxes and with the help we give to community organizations to help our neighbors survive.

A clear example of this here in Mariposa is our frequent fundraisers to help pay a neighbor's medical bills. It’s always a privilege to help a neighbor but why should someone who has worked all his life have to depend on neighbors to pay medical bills?

But this is only part of us making up the difference for these corporations. When our local merchants earn profits, they buy homes here and groceries and lumber and they eat in our restaurants and give money to their church and they sponsor the Grizzlies and the Butterfly festival and pay accountants, doctors and dentists: all this spending creates jobs. When our foreign corporations make profits, they ship their money back East or north to Canada. Their profits create jobs in other places instead of being used here to eliminate unemployment. 

So, on this question of who is our neighbor, I say our local people are my neighbors and I stand with them. And I expect you will, too, because I'm sure you believe as I do that good neighbors are especially important here in our mountains. Every neighbor is a member of a sacred circle that surrounds every other neighbor and keeps us and our values safe in an unsafe world.

And I also am sure that you agree that anyone who works hard and plays by the rules should earn a living wage and should not have to depend on others for his or her livelihood. Too many of our real neighbors are paid poverty wages by foreign corporations, corporations that don't act like and, in fact, are not, our neighbors.

So, neighbor, what do you think? Is it time for us to love and care for ALL our neighbors?

We are ALL Mariposa!


Please share this blog and the video with everyone who believes that those who work hard and play by the rules should receive a living wage. Also, see our 7 videos + Trailer on Poverty Wages in Mariposa on youtube. And visit our website at for ways to become active in supporting our worker/neighbors.