Dear Editor,

The working poor of Moab know that we suffer not so much from the lack of “affordable housing,” whatever that is, as from the lack of a decent living wage. Employers in Moab must endure a reduction of their own profits in order to more equitably distribute the fruits of our labor. Perhaps the City of Moab could establish a legal municipal minimum wage of, say, $14 per hour. But even were this to occur, it wouldn’t help those who work outside the existing narrow city limits.

The formation of a Moab Seasonal Workers Union might be the answer.

Moab’s seasonal employees are hired to work for various local and corporate businesses during the busy tourist season, and are no longer employed during the slower winter months. These jobs are usually part-time only, with no overtime pay. Many people must simultaneously juggle two or three different part-time jobs during the busy season to make ends meet. Saving up against the winter lean times is a big challenge. No significant benefits are offered: no health insurance, no paid vacation, no retirement plans. When the current tourist season comes to a close, no formal agreement exists that a given employee will be re-hired next year.

These seasonal jobs pay around $10 per hour, often even less. It is customary to continue to pay the same starting wage to the same employee, year after year, with no raises or performance reviews. Because workers are perceived by their employers as interchangeable and easily replaceable, employees feel pressure to never ask for the raises they deserve. Years of experience and increasing skills and responsibilities are not recognized with any increase in pay over time. Nor are pay increases offered to compensate for rises in the already high cost of living in this region. While on the one hand, Moab businesses steadily raise the prices of the goods and services they offer, in order to keep up with “ever-increasing” costs to themselves, the wages they choose to pay their employees remain shockingly low and utterly stagnant.

Often, no formal breaks are available to seasonal employees during the work day, regardless of shift length. Sufficient staff is not scheduled to handle the customer load, resulting in more pressure on the employees to take no breaks at all.

An organized local group of seasonal workers could bring some pressure to bear on employers to improve these conditions.