Vol. 11    No. 5
MARCH 3, 2016
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling
                                               A Significant Milestone
As I sit here in my office on early Friday morning, making sure that I don’t knock over the dishes that rest on my desk and make my way past the
empty fast-food bags that once held the empty-calorie food I consumed at my desk while still working on the paper, living a kind of hutong type
of existence where I live in one room for several days like the artists I saw in some of the old commercial areas of Beijing when I visited there
10 years ago.

And there aren’t any bells and whistles going off has I struggle to stay focused through the fatigue to put yet another issue of the paper to bed.
Only it isn’t just another issue. This issue, if the math in my feeble mind is correct, is the 260th issue of The Capital City Hues. This means that
we have completed a full 10 years of publication, 26 issues a year without skipping a beat — or an issue. In my estimation, that is pretty
significant.

Now I don’t know if I have it figured right, but according to my calculations, our March 17, 2016 issue will be our 10th Anniversary issue as our
first issue was released on March 22, 2006. Ten years! That’s a long time.

And in order to celebrate, our cover story will feature Mother Jackie Wright, just as we did in our inaugural issue. And if you want to email us a
note in celebration, we’ll print it in that issue. You can email me at gramling@capitalcityhues.com and say 10th Anniversary Message in the
subject line.

But we’ll talk more about that milestone in our next issue.

***
The NAACP Dane County Branch held a Black Workers Forum last week at the Labor Temple. And it made me reflect back on the imagery of
Black blue-collar workers in the media, including mine. And I realized that there were very few positive stories about them. I do read more
abstract stories that cite statistics that service workers and blue collar workers are falling far behind in wages, that they make less in real
dollars than they made in the early 1970s, I believe and that this contributes to the deep gulf of an income inequality divide that we are
experiencing, a gulf that gets wider as each day passes.

But let’s face it, we are economically — and racially — segregated in this community. There are a lot of folks whom I don’t run into because of
where I live and I know there are some folks who don’t run into me because they live in very pricey homes a couple of miles west of West
Towne.

And when I do meet service workers, let’s say a fast food employee, our conversation runs the gamut of, ‘I’ll have a Number Five and can you
supersize that?’ ‘Your total is $6.00. Drive over to the side.’ And I might get the obligatory, ‘Have a nice day’ as they give me my order. And that’
s it. It is conversation on a food assembly line.

And there really is no way for me to find out that she is working three jobs because no one will give her anything close to 40 hours, which could
get pushed into overtime if she has to work late one night. And her $8 per hour means that she has to work 80 hours to get the money that she
needs to make in 40 hours. And she doesn’t get any paid sick leave when she or her child needs to see a doctor. There is no retirement and no
meaningful health insurance. She is living just this side of impossible and somehow making it work.

And her older child is acting up and not doing that well in school, but she is at work, transitioning or in the bed and doesn’t have the time,
energy or focus to do much about it. And who has time to go to technical school — or the money for that matter — when survival seems to be
the only option?

And it seems that the media doesn’t help in this survival at all or helping low-income or no-income people see realistic role models who can
help point them in the right direction. It doesn’t portray low-income people in a very dignified manner the way that Good Times portrayed John
Amos and Esther Rolle — I’m purposely blocking out Jimmie Walker’s character. Instead we get bickering people cussing each other out,
arguing about who had whose baby and the like. It portrays low-income people as ignorant, people who are deserving of their low lot in life.
And if this is who low-income Black people are, according to the media, why should anyone support their efforts to increase the minimum wage,
secure health insurance benefits and paid leave and enough hours to work at only one job?

While there are a lot of low-income people who have issues — who wouldn’t with all of that constant stress going on — the media blocks them
from getting any kind of relief in terms of government policies. In essence, they are invisible and they will increasingly become a permanent
underclass.

And we do need them in their present positions. I doubt if society is going to close down all of the fast-food restaurants because the folk who
worked there went to technical school and college and there is no one left to work there. In producing this paper this week, I had fast food in
some form at least five times. And I’m not the only one in the drive-thru line.

There will always be a demand for low-wage workers, or should I say a need. Everyone else benefits from their low wages and society could
not exist without a class of people who can fill all the holes in the labor supply, all of those temporary, seasonal jobs.

So my question is, at what standard of living should these people and their children have? It’s not an easy answer.

And I wonder what would happen if they had the time and resources to take better care of their families and children. Would it save our society
the cost of maintaining prisons and running expensive social service programs? How does this affect the bottom line of society and our
humanity? I can’t help but wonder. Do you?