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Location: Flat Creek, Alabama, United States

A dear friend of mine once said, "I've been around this rodeo enough, to enjoy life as it is dealt to me each day." It has given me an entirely new perspective on life. To describe myself, … I am an easygoing, very low maintenance, down to earth kind of person. Keywords are honesty, truth and integrity. What makes me tick? I guess you could say life. I am a spiritual, but not religious. I do not believe any one set of people, beliefs or teachings have the sole method of what is truth. I accept and respect all beliefs. I believe that is more important to walk your path, than it is to talk your path. Personally, I am more "aligned" with what can be called the "natural-way" or the Ancient and Olde Way.

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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Issue: The Living Wage ... A wake up in the real world.

Two years ago before leaving California and moving to Florida I had the opportunity to work with a friend of mine as a Legislative Advocate (Lobbyist). While there the issue were working on was the strengthening of California's version of Megan's Law.

On May 17, 1996, President Clinton signed Megan's Law . Megan's Law goals include:

1. Sex Offender Registration - Each state and the federal government are compelled to register individuals who have been convicted of sex crimes against children. Sex offender registration laws are necessary because: sex offenders pose a high risk of re-offending after release from custody; protecting the public from sex offenders is a primary governmental interest; the privacy interests of persons convicted of sex offenses are less important than the government’s interest in public safety, and release of certain information about sex offenders to public agencies and the general public will assist in protecting the public safety.

2. Community Notification - Each state and the federal government are compelled to make private and personal information on convicted sex offenders available to the public. Community notification is based on the presumption that: it will assist law enforcement in investigations; establish legal grounds to hold known offenders; deter sex offenders from committing new offenses, and offer citizens information they can use to protect children from victimization.

But Megan's Law is not the topic of this post. While participating in the legislative proceedings at the California State Capitol, I was also introduced to the topic of "The Living Wage". For the previous 25 years I had worked and comfortably compensated as a federal air traffic control specialist. I had an eye opening to what was really going on around me in the "private" sector.

By far the most realistic standard of what constitutes "real" poverty would ask what income would be required to survive at normal rents, food and transportation costs, etc., without any form of public or private "welfare" assistance. Such a standard has been compiled for Florida – it is known as the "self-sufficiency standard." The self-sufficiency standard was developed as a means to measure, based on family size, age of children where applicable, and location (counties or selected areas within counties), how much a family must earn to afford housing, transportation, food, child care, health care, and other essentials without the assistance of public or private entities. The standard assumes that children and adults do not share a bedroom and that there are no more than two children in one bedroom.

In most cases, the self-sufficiency standard for Florida is approximately twice that of the federal poverty thresholds for similar family types. For example, in 2004, the poverty threshold for a family consisting of two adults and two children under the age of 18 was $19,157; however, according to the self-sufficiency standard in 2004, the annual wage needed for a working family consisting of two adults, one infant, and one preschooler was $33,226 (close to double) in Jefferson County, Florida and $50,963 (more than 2 ½ times) in Broward County, Florida, respectively the lowest and highest self-sufficiency standards for this family type in Florida.

One of the typical ways to define what qualifies as "low-wage" is to choose the 20th percentile wage, which is the wage at which 20 percent of the working population makes less and 80 percent of the working population makes more. Analysis of the Current Population Study (CPS) indicates that the 20th percentile wage in Florida for 2004 was $8.23 per hour. Thus, the beginning definition for low-wage workers is those who make below the 20th percentile wage, or $8.23 per hour. (Note: The newly enacted Florida Minimum Wage is $6.15 per hour.)

So why do I bring this to my blog?

Well, after 25 years of government service and now working in the private sector as a Security Supervisor for a local retirement community, I am "seeing" first hand how the private sector functions. I am "experiencing" how nearly impossible it is to find quality and qualified individuals for a simple "security" position with a starting wage about one-half way between the Florida Minimum Wage of $6.15 and the 20th percentile wage of $8.23 per hour.

Ironically the other day I did a web search for security officer incomes/wages in Central Florida. I found that your typical "Security Attendant" (i.e., one who sits in a gate shack of a business or gated community has a starting/probationary wage of about $7.83 per hour and it increases to about $8.16 per hour after 90-days. Whereas a "Uniformed Security Officer" has an average starting wage of $12.73 per hour and it increases to an average of $13.30 per hour after probation. The Uniformed Security Supervisor, comperable to my present position starts at $14.36 per hour and increases to $14.99 per hour.

Suffice it to say that neither myself or the security department staff member with nearly 13 years of service are any where near making the $12.73 per hour starting average for a Uniformed Security Officer! Interestingly enough it is the "Security Department Staff" who are left to "manage" the facility operation during non-administrative hours, responding to resident assistance calls, medical aid calls, or maintenance items such as water leaks or even just unstopping a plugged toilet. Although not traditionally thought of as "first responders" security officers are often literally the first to respond to an emergency in the building. We are there to provide first aid and CPR until the EMS/Fire-Rescue personnel arrive.

With such wages, many in the security field must take a second jobs, because the security position often does not pay an annual salary of $17,028.00 ... the federal poverty level, which ironically is $8.16 per hour, or seven cents below the 2004 Florida 20th percentile wage. Case in point you either have individuals working security as a second job, or individuals working a second job besides their security position. The net result is the same, you have an employee that is often physically spent.

So much for "corporate" America, and the American Dream.


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