Why Not You?

If we truly want to change things consider running for an office. Managing Editor David Abbott helps us to think about this through an article he shared with VLA…

Why Not You?

By David Abbott, Managing Editor Southern Loggin’ Times

Recently I had occasion to speak with a family member who, along with her husband, owns a successful small business. Theirs is an industry completely unrelated to forest products and yet they share in common with loggers and landowners many similar challenges. She expressed concern about the Biden administration’s apparent enthusiasm for increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour—in her state it’s currently a little above $7, so this would obviously represent a dramatic increase to her labor costs for starting and lower-skilled employees.

We had an interesting discussion on the topic, and she offered a few ideas and proposed compromises. For instance, accepting that a minimum wage hike is probably inevitable sooner or later, she admitted $15 might be a reasonable minimum wage in some states, but not in many others. The value of the dollar varies from state to state in real terms of cost of living. A $50,000 a year salary goes a lot further in parts of Alabama, where one may find a reasonably-sized family home mortgage for under $700 a month, than in New York City with its $3,000 a month rent. My friend in Maryland, just outside Washington, DC, paid twice as much as did my sister to buy a house half the size of the one she had in a nice neighborhood in a Montgomery suburb. Other things cost more too, from gas to property taxes, so what constitutes a living wage might not be the same in every part of the country. With that in mind, in place of a flat federal minimum wage that would help more and hurt more in some areas than others, she suggested a federal standard that would calculate minimum wage for each state as a percentage of the median income and average cost of living within that state. She also suggested a graduated minimum wage based on age and other criteria—teenagers working after school for spending cash might qualify for one rate, single moms trying to support three kids might get a higher one.

I don’t know if her ideas would work but I like that she was trying to come up with solutions while taking into account multiple perspectives, not just thinking of what was best for her business. So I had an idea of my own for her: why don’t you run for office? She hadn’t considered it before. I told her she could run as a common sense conservative for a position locally in her community—city council, county commission, or even to represent her district in the state legislature. And, eventually, why not try for a seat in the U.S. House from her district? At any of these levels she could have a direct voice in helping shape these policies in favorable directions and represent the interests of people in her area—small businesses and workers alike. Why her? Why not?

Last year, the forest products community came together, worked hard and successfully persuaded the federal government to include loggers in the next round of coronavirus relief funding. Everyone involved deserves a round of applause.  And many of you and your brothers around the country have worked in state associations and the ALC, and visited Congress on behalf of the industry. But why not go a step further? I’ve done stories in years past on a few loggers who have served in their state legislatures—Jack McFarland in Louisiana, Chad Nimmer in Georgia and Troy Jackson in Maine. We have a forester, Bruce Westerman, from Arkansas, serving in the U.S. House of Representatives. I’m sure there are other examples but those are the ones that come immediately to mind for me.

It’s great when we can get politicians to listen to us, but it might be even better if we had someone in politics who already knows firsthand about this vital industry, someone who would go into the legislature or Congress with an eye to bills that would benefit the woods business. We need a voice from one of our own in the mix, a seat at the table. Not everyone can or should do it. Obviously it would be a little difficult, and for many impossible, to juggle a logging business with a career in politics. Some have the luxury of a son, a brother or a foreman who can handle the day to day operations, and some might be able to look at politics after retiring, if retirement is an option. Or in some cases, a logger might have a son, a son-in-law, a daughter or wife who could serve in government and represent the interests of the forest products community from personal experience.  Maybe it could be you. Why not?