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Solve shortage with better pay

My dad, two brothers and I worked at Oscar Mayer in Madison back in the '60s and '70s.

Work in a meat processing plant was the kind of work that made you want to "stay in school," as my dad would say. But it was union work and it paid good money, and we were glad to have it.

Work in a chilly, smelly meat processing plant is not a problem for me. So it is hard for me to get my mind around the worker shortage at the Turkey Store and many other factories around here. Why are there four pages of help-wanted ads in the paper; why is everyone so desperate for employees?

Bring up that question with business owners, and you'll quickly hear that they blame it on workers. They say that people around here "don't want to work anymore" because they'll lose their BadgerCare or other benefits. They then go on to blame the drug epidemic, pointing out that many job applicants fail their drug tests.

Maybe businesses around here ought to try something that helped me get through those long shifts in a meat processing plant decades ago — I was making really good money, more than $24 per hour in today's dollars.

I think $24 per hour, or even $15 per hour would take care of the labor shortage problem in Barron County.

It's not a crazy idea. Foxconn Corporation is saying unskilled labor at their new plant in Kenosha will start at $15 per hour.

Back in 2014, most retail workers around here were making minimum wage, around $7.25 per hour. Then in 2015, Walmart announced that all new hires would start at $9 per hour that year and $10 the next, and everyone would get better hours, health insurance and a retirement plan. Suddenly all the other retail shops needed to respond. By the end of the year, one fast food shop was using its billboard to advertise $10 per hour jobs, and even Menards added a buck or so to hourly wages.

By itself, Wal-Mart triggered a 30 percent wage increase in retail worker wages in Rice Lake.

Conservatives tell us that earnings adequate to support healthy families will be a "job killer." I think they always say that. I wouldn't be sympathetic with any business that had to close up because of Wal-Mart's wage increase. It can't be much of a business if it does well and its employees don't.

And as to the other excuses, I say try $24 per hour or even $15 per hour and watch the welfare and drug problems disappear.

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