Today’s Solutions: June 27, 2022

The way that the pandemic has forced us to reevaluate our lives and the systems that govern them cannot be overstated. One of the many concerns that bubbled up to the surface was the plight of the worker. Unfair wages, overloaded schedules, lack of childcare, mounting anxiety and stress, and collective burn-out have made us wonder to ourselves: what’s wrong with how we are working, and how can we change it?

We’ve been sharing solutions like the introduction of the four-day work week, grandparental leave, and even company-wide vacations, but other aspects that need to be tackled are better wages and wage equity. 

Tackling the wage issue is often difficult when dealing with a competitive market, however, homeware and ceramics company East Fork Pottery based in Asheville, North Carolina has made a bold move that suggests that as consumers become more aware, their values are starting to shift away from simply finding the best prices and toward supporting the best businesses.

Last month, East Fork announced to its 166,000 followers on Instagram that it decided to raise the prices of some of its best-selling handmade pottery items.

“On 2/22/22 you’ll find that our Mugs and Everyday Bowls got $2 more expensive,” wrote CEO Connie Matisse, who co-founded the company with her husband, Alex. “Here’s why: on April 1, 2022, we’ll raise our minimum wage from $20 an hour to $22 an hour.”

The company’s followers met the price hike with positivity, earning thousands of likes and comments like: “I support this so hard.”

The company decided that, in order to keep company employees in Asheville, North Carolina’s most expensive city for housing, and to promote wage equity across the country, they had no choice but to raise their wages.

This wage increase isn’t the first that East Fork has implemented. Back in April 2020, the company raised its minimum wage to $20 per hour, even though North Carolina’s federal minimum wage has been set at $7.25 per hour for over a decade. During the initial moments of the pandemic, East Fork could not ignore the “absurd growth and inflation” that was heavily impacting its workforce. Employees were unable to pay rent and had to move away. In the absence of government action, East Fork’s move affected real change by influencing at least a few more local businesses to raise their own wages, too. 

Though Matisse knows that East Fork’s wages aren’t an adequate solution to the broader problem of wage disparity, it is better than not taking any action at all. “Until the federal and state government get their acts together, until billionaires start opening up their wallets and giving their money away, until big businesses much, much bigger than ours start putting in the work,” she wrote, “the onus falls on loud-mouth businesses and their fiery consumers—like us, like you—to do what we can, make thoughtful choices, to engage in ongoing personal work to extricate the impact of oppressive systems from our own mental landscapes, and to make a great big fuss wherever we can.”

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