(Columbia, SC) – Today, Charles Brave, president of the South Carolina American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations called on the South Carolina General Assembly to take action and establish a living wage benchmark in the state. Brave’s remarks come in the wake of South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster’s decision to eliminate the federal unemployment subsidy for working people in South Carolina next month.
“McMaster’s decision to terminate the federal unemployment subsidy once again proves he values the business community in South Carolina more than he does communities of people. If an extra $300 a week in unemployment is more fruitful to you than returning to work, what does that say about the wages we pay working people in general across this state?” Remarked Brave.
Several bills have been filed in the South Carolina General Assembly in recent years which would establish and set a minimum wage in the state. None make it out of the sub-committee level. Recently, Senators John Scott (D-Richland) and Kevin Johnson (D-Clarendon), from the South Carolina Senate floor called for their colleagues to take action and raise wages for working people across the state.
“The SC AFL-CIO fully supports the comments by Senator Scott and Senator Johnson. It is time the General Assembly take action. Where can you live in Charleston, Columbia, or Greenville on $7.25 an hour? Better yet, where can you live on $9.00 or $10.00 an hour? You can’t. It’s just that simple,” said Brave. “I’ve attended many minimum wage hearings in the General Assembly over the past several years and it’s always the business community who shows up and testified against working people earning a living wage. It’s no secret why they do it, the less they can pay working people the more they can return to their senior executives and shareholders. The current leadership in the General Assembly has let them get away with profiting off of the back of working people for too long without sharing in the rewards,” continued Brave.
The service and hospitality industries have been hit particularly hard during the pandemic. Workers in those fields often earn less than the federally mandated minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Currently law allows employers to pay tipped workers an even lower wage, $2.13 an hour, because it’s assumed tips will make up the difference. The federal unemployment subsidy has help many service industry employees pay basic bills and keep food on the table over the past year. Forcing them to return to an industry that requires them to interact with the public while the United States has not reached heard immunity is reckless and dangerous.
“Governor McMaster’s move yesterday proves he’s more out of touch with the lives of working people more than ever, especially with those in the service industry. How are we going to continue to pay people $2.13 an hour to wait and clean tables while we subject them to the abuse and goodwill of the general public, many of whom might I add refuse to get vaccinated” said Brave. “All you need to do is scroll the pages of social media to find countless posts of service industry employees who are often stiffed or tipped well below what they should have earned because the customer is upset over something they server had no control over. It happens all of the time and we can put a stop to it. It is past time we require the service industry to pay people fairly.” remarked Brave.