The facts 

I am writing in response to an article written by Richard Shumate titled "Atlanta can't afford Santa Claus economics" (Ruffled Feathers, June 12). "There are things about which reasonable people may differ," according to popular wisdom. But in making a case on a controversial subject -- even in an op-ed piece -- there are standards of accuracy, and an obligation to present factual material, that Shumate does not come close to fulfilling.

For example, Shumate implies that the Atlanta ordinance would include teenagers working summer jobs. This is not true. Teenagers under 18, college students and interns are exempt from this ordinance. This lack of regard for fair factual reporting borders on misinformation and intentional misrepresentation of the ordinance.

I am the co-chair of the Atlanta Living Wage Coalition. Shumate's inaccurate depictions of the ordinance here, and of the results of similar laws elsewhere, disappoints and anger me. He is "on the attack from the right," of course, but I didn't think that gave him a license to mislead. For example, there have not been any significant job losses in any of the cities studied. However, his article suggests that it is a real problem. At best, his statements about the law proposed for Atlanta are false. The arguments about likely impacts of the law are clever attempts to play on paranoia. They lack any credible data to back them up.

Before we ever thought about a statute, the ALWC conducted 18 months of research into living wage laws and their results in other jurisdictions. Over 90 municipalities and institutions have now passed such bills.

As we provided data and research to Mayor Shirley Franklin and the City Council, ALWC introduced Robert Pollin, a University of Massachusetts economics professor, to Atlanta. Pollin has studied living wage laws and their aftermath. He has collected data and examined much of the research on this matter for several years. His work clearly shows that living wage ordinances have had a positive impact. Employers did not flee, nor did they cut jobs; costs did not skyrocket; competitive bidding actually resulted in improved participation. Most important, low-wage workers got significant raises. And in some ways, businesses actually saved money, due to such factors as lower turnover, less theft and enhanced job performance. Operating costs increased less than 2 percent. These facts are based on real experience, not fear-mongering with no basis other than a reactionary political agenda.

Shumate's rhetoric is ironic. It advances the cause of the wealthy by depriving those who have next-to-nothing, when in reality the riches of the few always depend on the work of the many who are poor. Your reading public deserves the opportunity to hear honest evidence about this matter, instead of distortions and misinformation. In fact, I challenge Creative Loafing to sponsor -- and Shumate to participate in -- a debate of the following proposition: "Resolved, that since the overwhelming experience of living wages has been positive, that Atlanta adopt a Living Wage Ordinance ASAP."

-- Sandra Robertson, co-chair, Atlanta Living Wage Coalition

Small price, big payoff
At the end of the article titled "Atlanta can't afford Santa Claus economics" (Ruffled Feathers, June 12), Richard Shumate spurs his fellow Atlantans to charge down to City Hall bearing archaic pitchforks and muskets in order to maintain an equally archaic problem: poverty. In my opinion, the article makes several false claims and misrepresents what is included in the Atlanta Living Wage Ordinance.

The Atlanta Living Wage Ordinance will not simply apply to "any firm doing business with the city." It will apply to service contractors and companies receiving $50,000 or more in grants and/or $100,000 or more in development funds, and exempts small businesses, summer jobs, youth employment, etc.

Shumate asserts that the cost of the living wage increase will "come from the pockets of city taxpayers." However, the cost to taxpayers, based on studies in cities with their own living wage ordinances in effect, is about 1 percent to 2 percent of the total city budget. It seems such a small price to pay for the profound impact it will make on the livelihoods of our fellow Atlantans.

We hope you will give the supporters of the Living Wage Ordinance the opportunity to correctly inform your readers of its benefits for all of Atlanta. Isn't it time for the taxpayers of Atlanta to insist employers provide a decent living for decent labor?

-- Courtney Jones, Atlanta

Do the right thing
Richard Shumate is only one of many voices I've heard recently that are terribly misinformed about living wage issues and would rather spread their ignorance than research reality (Ruffled Feathers, "Atlanta can't afford Santa Claus economics," June 12). The Confederacy may have lost the war, but slavery is alive and well. Rather than picking cotton, modern slaves clean toilets, plant gardens and serve cheeseburgers. Modern slave quarters are the ghetto, and food is supplied through EBT cards. Meanwhile, business owners get fat in their four-bed, three-bath plantations. This is reality.


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