Higher wage benefits employers, too
I would like to share a firsthand account of one employer's experience in voluntarily raising the minimum wage for its work force. The employer is one of Kentucky's most highly regarded institutions, Berea College, which has been making history in Kentucky since its inception in 1855.
I served as director of people services (human resources) for 14 years and, during this time, we set out to increase our minimum wage beginning in 2002 when the federally mandated minimum was only $5.15 an hour.
We first raised our minimum to $6.50 an hour; six months after that, it went to $7 an hour. Later, when the federal standard was finally changed to $7.25, Berea College was already paying $9 an hour.
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In 2010, the college offered all benefit-eligible employees a new minimum wage of $10 an hour; that number is now $10.30.
The effect these changes had on the college included:
■ Increased employee morale and commitment.
■ Slowed employee turnover in the lowest-paid positions where 25 cents an hour is enough to make someone look for another job.
■ Decreased recruitment and training costs.
■ Decreased management time necessary to orient new employees.
■ More experienced staff and invaluable consistency in how work was to be accomplished.
I urge readers to follow Berea College's example in providing a living wage to your employees. It's good for all Kentuckians.
Beshear disappoints on higher ed
Gov. Steve Beshear's proposed biennial budget includes a dramatic and overdue effort to reverse the effects of repeated cuts in funding for K-12 education.
But his proposed cut to public universities makes no sense when you consider the growing gap between the rich and the poor.
A public K-12 education remains free for everyone, as always, but a university education is becoming less and less affordable to those who need it the most.
Tuition is so high at our public universities because costs have been systematically shifted: in the early 1990s, state appropriations covered about 65 percent and students covered about 35 percent, but now those figures are reversed. We cannot expect our children and our neighbor's children to be successful in a future uncertain economy unless we make public university education affordable to everyone.
Frivolous lawsuits fuel medical costs
AARP isn't the only senior advocacy group in Kentucky that has an opinion on proposed legislation to implement medical review panels. The Association of Mature American Citizens focuses squarely on protecting the interests of America's seniors and supports Senate Bill 119.
AMAC supports SB 119 because the review panels would protect consumers. Frivolous lawsuits play a major role in driving up health-care costs and will provide new legal accountability while enhancing high standards of medical care.
In fact, AMAC held a series of workshops, at the request of a congressional caucus, to examine methods for reducing health-care costs while delivering quality care. Review panels were among the ideas that emerged from this forum.
Also, a recent poll conducted by AMAC indicated that 91 percent of respondents support the implementation of review panels as a means to cut down on meritless litigation.
As the fastest-growing alternative seniors organization in the country, I am proud to be a member of AMAC, an organization that remains committed to ensuring that all Americans have access to high-quality, affordable health care.
Students standing up for better future
Over the last four months, I have worked to increase renewable energy in Kentucky through the Clean Energy and Opportunity Act. It has been one of the most difficult things that I have done so far, but also one of the most rewarding.
I've watched as cities were destroyed in the Philippines due to increased extreme weather from global climate change. I have seen West Virginians' water poisoned and watched as the same contamination washed down the river in my hometown. I even saw my brothers and sisters were denied the right to speak with their legislators and participate in the democratic process because they were 17, the same age I was when I enlisted.
Through all of this, I did not lose hope; my resolve was strengthened and so has the passion of other youth in the state.
We are tired of watching the world be destroyed around us and tired of feeling like we do not have a place that we belong. Every day I talk with other students who are standing up to create the world that they want to be a part of and it gives me hope for the future.
Stand up for Ky., defeat AT&T bill
According to company reports, AT&T had billions in cash flow in 2013, not to mention the greater billions paid to shareholders as dividends. It appears that AT&T does not need to terminate land-line service in Kentucky in order to move forward with its planned upgrades.
The company has the money and is not unduly suffering. The General Assembly needs to stand up for Kentuckians for a change and defeat the AT&T bill.
Eminent domain for pipeline theft
I was in Frankfort the other day when I thought I heard my dad — a union man, a trucker — roll over in his grave.
The House Judiciary Committee was considering House Bill 31 to prevent a private company called Bluegrass Pipeline, LLC, from taking land from hardworking Kentuckians to hand over to an out-of-state project hauling toxins through our communities for export in the Gulf.
"Jobs" was one defense of such theft. But my union daddy (I swear) rose up out of his grave and asked them (they all didn't hear; some don't listen well): "How can you take one person's livelihood to give to another and call that job creation? We used to call that communism. Don't we still?"
There was also some sobbing going on about the company's investment though we didn't ask them to come. We asked them to leave. Poor manners aside, what of the investment of generations — of blood and sweat, births and work, of tears and graveyards in that land they want from us?
"You know what's right," my daddy's voice said to me. "And they do too, these lawmakers."
But will they listen?