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Opinion: Prosperity for all begins with taking care of our workers

Jeremy Sprinkle
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Almost half of all NC workers make less than $15/hr

Chapel Hill resident, ardent AFL-CIO supporter and grandmother, Miriam Thompson, wrote an excellent op-ed published recently in the News & Observer, in which she asks a question that used to be the cornerstone of the American social contract, "How can we build a better future for my children and grandchildren – and yours?"

Since the 1970s, working North Carolinians have become more and more productive, only to watch their share of the wealth they produce diminish. For the last five decades as a union and community activist, I’ve witnessed an economy that instead of serving the people’s needs serves the privileged few.

As a mother and grandmother, I am deeply concerned about the future my grandchildren can look forward to. They face an unstable job market at corporate-controlled low wages, uncertain access to health care, the ever-rising costs of higher education and the burden of debt upon graduation.

How can we build a better future for my children and grandchildren – and yours? We need to lift workers’ wages and benefits to a level that allows them to support themselves and their families, earns respect for their labor and recognizes their contribution to the North Carolina economy.

The answer, says Miriam, starts by empowering workers, including home care, child care, fast-food workers, and adjunct faculty to organize themselves to win increases in the minimum wage and the protections only a union contract can give - work being done in North Carolina by the Raise Up for $15 and NC Faculty Forward.

It continues with fixing upside down tax policies that demand less from the most and more from the rest, making it impossible to fund quality public education and infrastructure projects that we know from decades of experience until 2010 serves the good of the whole.

And it requires us to challenge the dominance of a wealthy few and big corporations over our political process.

With nearly half of all North Carolina workers now making less than $15 an hour, taking care of workers - and by extension, the economy - starts with raising wages:

To create economic health, we need to get started on treating workers justly. That starts with raising wages for average people in North Carolina.

A healthy state economy relies upon a workforce that enjoys a living wage so that we all prosper.

Read more: For North Carolina to truly prosper, we need to take care of our workers | News & Observer

Pictured: Child care worker speaks to supporters of and striking workers in the Fight for $15 at November 10, 2015 rally in Durham.

#FightFor15#VoteFor15@RaiseUpfor15 in Durham, across North Carolina, and everywhere in the United States!

— NC State AFL-CIO (@NCStateAFLCIO) November 10, 2015