Editorial: Minimum wage increase good first step

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A decade ago, this newspaper’s grand cartoonist, Bill Baron, depicted a Taoseño giving thanks for his multiple jobs.

Ten years later, little has changed.

Holding down multiple jobs to make ends meet remains common in this beautiful town, and we support a proposal by its leaders to seek the legal authority they need – known as “home rule” – to ease the financial burden ever so slightly.

Raising the minimum wage would be one important step to take in a place where the availability and costs of housing have steadily increased, along with the costs of food and health insurance.

Taos isn’t the only town where people have to work more than one place to pay the bills, put food on the table and try to save money for emergencies. But it seems the struggle has only deepened.

In the second of his two-part series about jobs in Taos, reporter Jesse Moya explores the problems for people who are willing to work, but gain little financially for their efforts. In his first part, Moya looked at the struggles of businesses to find and hang onto good, steady employees.

Is there a nexus between these two, a place where solutions could be found?

We believe there is.

Some businesses already pay higher than minimum wage and still struggle to keep employees. There are reasons for that, which we think could be addressed with measured steps.

Along with increasing the official minimum wage, we think town officials and business leaders should take the following actions:

• Work with University of New Mexico-Taos and Rocky Mountain Youth Corps and other trainers to create a core job training program for skills ranging from a good work ethic to how to interview well. Businesses should pay for this training once it is in place.

• Work with UNM-Taos to offer management training that looks at specific workplace issues, such as how to expect excellence from all employees – regardless of background – and how to show them respect at the same time.

• Put together a group of creative thinkers, builders, banks and designers to look at innovative ways other towns have addressed the need for affordable housing – both rentals and for home buyers – and consider what might work in Taos. Housing remains the biggest expense for many Taos families, with some people spending half or more of their earned income just to keep a roof over their heads.

We believe in the extraordinary ability of Taoseños to come up with creative, workable ideas. There’s no reason another decade should pass with so many still having to work multiple jobs and struggle to find a place to live.

Celebrate unsung heroes

On a final note, this week, we publish the 17th annual special section honoring people from around Taos County who’ve gone above and beyond the call to help their communities. They are our “unsung heroes” and “citizen of the year.” We thank them for all they’ve done and continue to do.

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