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September 29

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IDAHO

MAJORITY OF JOB OPENINGS DO NOT PAY A LIVING WAGE FOR IDAHO FAMILIES

Last week the Idaho Community Action Network and the Northwest Federation of Community Organizations released Searching for Work that Pays: 2004 Northwest Job Gap Study. This study gives alarming news about the lack of living wage jobs in Idaho--jobs that are sorely needed. The report concludes that the number of job seekers far outstrips the number of living wage jobs available in the state.

The report finds that a single person in Idaho must earn $8.68 an hour, or $18,053 a year, to meet his or her basic needs. A single parent with two children must earn $18.82 an hour, or $39,137 a year. This living wage includes necessities such as food, housing and utilities, transportation, healthcare and childcare and money for savings, which families need for emergencies and to plan ahead.

According to the study, every adult job seeker in Idaho must compete with two others for a sole living wage position. For adults with children, the prospects of finding living wage employment are even bleaker. There is only one living wage job for every 10 job-seeking parents raising two children on their own.

While new jobs may be opening up, the vast majority of these do not meet basic needs, according to the study. Of all job openings in Idaho, only 22 percent pay a living wage for a family of three--leaving 78 percent of new jobs providing wages that are inadequate to meet this family's basic needs.

"This comes as disturbing news for working families who keep hoping for an economic recovery," said Lee Flinn, a spokesperson for the Idaho Steering Committee of the Northwest Job Gap Study and Legislative Program Director at the Idaho Women's Network.

The living wage differs from the federal poverty level and the federal minimum wage. The report concludes that the minimum wage is insufficient to meet the needs of any Idaho household, including that of a single adult. In Idaho, the minimum wage is the federal minimum wage, a value which has not changed since 1997. As the dollar decreases in value, minimum wage rates have not risen to compensate, and the purchasing power of minimum wage workers decreases.

Given the lack of living wage jobs, according to the study, families have no choice but to forego basic needs on a daily basis. Many are forced to make difficult choices between adequate health care, balanced meals and paying the bills.

"Working families should be able to count on food, housing and health care," says Louard Crumbaugh, Board Chair of the Interfaith Alliance of Idaho. "These are basic necessities that everyone should have. If our lawmakers aren't making sure that the jobs in our state meet the basic needs of Idaho's families, then it's up to those lawmakers to find another way to meet them."

To read the full study, go to www.nwfco.org/job_gap.htm.

GOVERNOR URGED TO STAND UP FOR PUBLIC HEALTH AND STOP CORPORATE SECRECY

Last week citizens from around Idaho gathered at the State Capitol to call on Gov. Dirk Kempthorne to intervene in state and federal attempts to shield toxic polluters--megadairies and massive feedlots--from laws that require them to give information to the public. With the Idaho Conservation League (ICL), they delivered a letter to Kempthorne but were turned down when they asked to speak with him directly. As of press time, neither Kempthorne nor his office had responded to the ICL's letter.

"Three years ago the Governor visited my community and promised to find solutions to our drastic air and water problems coming from toxic megadairies," said Jim Conder of Filer. "Governor, please tell Senator Craig to stop his attempts to shield polluters from telling us the information that we are finally getting about what's in our air."

Sen. Larry Craig is considering an amendment to two federal laws that would exempt toxic megadairies and feedlots from requirements to report the thousands of pounds of toxic chemicals that they are pumping into the air. The Superfund and Community Right to Know acts were designed to give citizens the right to access information that is vital to their family's health.

At the same time, the Idaho Department of Agriculture is violating Idaho's public records law by refusing to give the public access to pollution management plans from megadairies and feedlots. These plans tell the state where thousands of pounds of manure and liquid sewage lagoon waste will be spread in local communities.

"Our request is simple. Governor, please tell your state agency to follow the law and tell our senior Senator to stop trying to take away our rights," requested Robert Rogero of Nampa. "We live with the air and water pollution from megadairies every day, and we have a right to protect ourselves and our families. It's time for you to step in," he continued.

In Idaho, the Desert Rose dairy became the first in the nation to comply with the Superfund and Community Right to Know laws. It reported pumping 130 tons of ammonia into the air in Filer. This megadairy reported pumping more chemicals into the air than some of Idaho's largest polluters that report under these federal laws every year. Sen. Larry Craig's changes would exempt the megadairy from further reporting their high levels of toxic pollution.

Pollution management plans were routinely provided to citizens upon request until this spring when the Agriculture Department made a move to start denying information to the public. Citizens use these plans to protect their health and make sure that megadairies and feedlots are disposing thousands of pounds of waste without polluting their clean water and air.

"I live daily with the health effects of pollution. My son wakes up coughing in the middle of the night, and our air reeks of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide coming from the feedlot down the street," said Kathy Stone of Weiser. "I have a right to information about where that feedlot is spreading waste from its liquid sewage lagoon and manure piles so that I can protect my son and my family. The state's attempts to keep this information from me is an outrage and it's time for Governor Kempthorne to intervene on our behalf."

U.S. NATIONAL DEBT CLOCK

The Outstanding Public Debt as of Tuesday, September 28 is $7,397,180,313,881.99.

The estimated population of the United States is 294,392,192, so each citizen's share of this debt is $25,126.96.

The National Debt has continued to increase an average of $1.69 billion per day since September 30, 2003.

The Outstanding Public Debt when President George W. Bush took office on January 20, 2001 was $5,727,776,738,304.64.

Source: www.brillig.com/debt_clock/

WAR IN IRAQ

U.S. CASUALTIES: As of Tuesday, September 28, 1,051 U.S. service members have died since the war in Iraq began in March 2003: 798 in combat and 253 from noncombat-related incidents and accidents.

Injured service members total 7,532.

Last week 24 U.S. soldiers died.

Since President George W. Bush declared "mission accomplished" aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003, 913 soldiers have died and 6,990 have been injured

Source: U.S. Department of Defense

IRAQI CIVILIAN DEATHS: Estimated between 12,943 and 14,997.

Source: www.iraqbodycount.org

COST OF IRAQ WAR: $137,357,000,000.

Source: costofwar.com

--Compiled by Cynthia Sewell

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