Mark Trahant: It's time to let the workers win

"Consider the rhetoric surrounding the State Children's Health Insurance Program. One of the House Republican goals is that: "SCHIP should not replace or significantly impact those who already have private health insurance with a government-run program."

That's the nice way of saying it. I've also heard a more coarse variation that essentially says people make choices -- and if they choose not to buy health insurance for their children, well, then, that's too bad.

Some win, some lose. If you are fortunate enough to get the right job, you are paid well, get a health care plan, even retirement. But often in the same building, the workers who clean the offices, feed or wait on us, or provide other services, get too few hours, lousy schedules (split shifts, anyone?) and low pay. And if benefits are available at all, the worker is required to pay for much of the coverage.

A new report by the Center for Economic Policy Research calls this "the hardship gap."

"These families work, but their earnings and work supports do not raise them to a basic standard of living, based on expenses in their local area," says the report, "Bridging the Gaps: A Picture of How Work Supports Work in Ten States."

The report says 41 million Americans find themselves in this hardship gap and affect nearly one of every five workers in Washington state. The hardship gap is more accurate than the federal poverty standard because it measures the difference between basic needs -- bare bones food, rent, child care, taxes, transportation and other essentials -- compared with wages. "For these families, the answer is finding a better job, or accessing public work supports to fill in the gap between earnings and needs," the report says."

Get the Story:
Mark Trahant: A subsidy so workers can start 'winning' (The Seattle Post-Intelligencer 10/14)

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