It is a privilege doing business in Vermont, this state with a great big heart! We make and eat and grow and create so many beautiful things, a unique people in contemporary times! Sadly, as the operator of Nutty Steph’s for 14 years and a well-integrated member of many facets of the community, I observe the feeling of scarcity that plagues the commoners and small businesses of our state, (as with all states in this wealthiest of nations on Earth). In case you are wondering if you are alone in your poverty, you are not. It is not in your imagination but rather the fiscal reality of the political policies of our time.
The only solution to the epidemic paucity of our time is to raise all boats with the tide of higher individual incomes, as was envisioned by those who fought for and won the first minimum wage law in 1912. In the 106 years since that time, inflation has far outpaced minimum wage increases, and we are again living in the slave culture that threatened the earlier period of industrialization.
Today’s wealth inequality is worse than ever. We work and work and have no savings or wiggle room. Lacking disposable income eclipses individual wellness and simultaneously casts a shadow on the cultural drive for leisure, beauty, adornment, and other miracles that feed the human soul. This in turn creates anxious workers, who jump from job to job, never getting what they need in exchange for their earnest efforts to contribute to the world. This is why small business owners struggle most. Turnover is far more expensive than a few more dollars an hour, and I imagine my sentiment would be echoed by other small businesses that are thriving while providing great pay and benefits to workers, such as Farmers to You, The Alchemist, and Red Hen Baking Company. To concerned business owners I advise: pay more, provide a semblance of financial integrity to your workers, and they will devote themselves, and your business will thrive.
I’m glad Vermont is working toward a $15 minimum wage and only lament that we are too short-sighted to be planning for the $20 that will be needed by all workers by 2025, the $20 that indeed is needed now. The higher, the better, for individuals and Vermont small businesses. The greatest part about spreading high wages across the whole society is everyone will have more money for chocolate. Love!
Jaquleyn Ziegler Fernandez Rieke - Owner of Nutty Steph's in Middlesex