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Feb. 4, 2014: Our readers write

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Exhibit respect by restoring pay

Throughout recorded history, civilizations that messed with the pay of their armies eventually were overthrown by that army. No one expects or advocates for that to be done in the USA.

The approximate 5 percent of our population which has or now is serving in our armed forces appears to be the most patriotic, dedicated and stoically moral of us. They represent the best of our society. (Dittoes to our firefighters and law enforcement.) They are dedicated to doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do.

Our dysfunctional government exhibits the antitheses of “Army Strong” patriotism.

If our president chopped every cherry tree down in D.C., probably he would not only deny doing it but blame it on George Bush. A constitutional professor at Harvard and professional “know-nothing” in D.C., our president appears to be destroying that document by his apparent aspirations to be a dictator.

Our Congress of multimillionaires does not have a clue. Intent upon party politics, one old whiney voiced man has blocked the Senate from even considering dozens of pieces of legislation from the House.

Working in unison, Congress passes a budget that gives billions of dollars to countries who hate us, millions to political cronies and brashly justifies denying the 5 percent in order to shovel money down rat holes.

The NSA, which someone testified to Congress only recorded numbers (but now we know records every telephone conversation in America), apparently needs some place to store its data.

Instead of outsourcing this to India or China, why not entrust this sensitive material to previously proven proud protectors of our nation. Pay the retired vets to store this material in their vacant bedrooms, basements or garages. If paid comparably to normal government contracts, even homeless vets could afford a house to store NSA’s ill-gotten information.

If you know of a better group to safeguard your private phone conversations, who?

Joe McGuire
Boston, Ky.

 

Restaurateurs explain views

Two bills were introduced in the Kentucky House of Representatives that will impact the restaurant industry in Kentucky, our employees and customers. HB 1 proposes an increase in the state minimum wage while HB 191 would reduce the tip credit available to Kentucky businesses that employ tipped workers. The Kentucky Restaurant Association is opposed to both bills, recognizing their unintended consequences.

Rather than helping workers, HB 1 would reduce employment opportunities, particularly for unskilled individuals and for teenagers seeking first jobs. HB 191, meanwhile, would mandate higher wages for employees already making much more than minimum wage. If these individuals get a government-mandated raise, it will likely be their co-workers who will suffer since there will be less money available for non-tipped employee increases.

Kentucky’s restaurant industry provides fair wages and job opportunities for over 191,000 people who would be affected by these bills. Restaurant jobs are a great training ground for all careers. The majority of restaurant industry employees earn more than minimum wage. The median hourly wage for restaurant workers nationally is $9.10. Only 5 percent of restaurant employees earn minimum wage and those who do are predominantly teenagers who are working part-time jobs.

Of those who are tipped, our research shows that the average tipped restaurant employee earns $14.55 an hour, far from the $2.13 wage often cited. Federal law requires that tipped employees be paid a “cash wage” of at least $2.13 but allows tips the employee receives and report to be counted to meet the minimum wage. If for some reason that $7.25 minimum is not met, it is the employer’s obligation to pay additional “cash wages” to ensure that every employee makes at least minimum wage.

Ultimately, our customers would suffer the most if HB 1 and HB 191 become law. If the cost of labor for restaurants rises, menu prices will increase. Both bills provisions would negatively affect Kentucky restaurants, and, in turn, Kentucky families that are our customers.

Stacy Roof
President and CEO
Kentucky Restaurant Association

Chef Josh Moore
KRA Chairman
Owner of Volare Restaurant
2014 Restaurateur of the Year

 

Doctors speak out about bill

As physicians, we are continually frustrated by treating diseases that are completely preventable.

Kentucky can and must do more to help patients help themselves and to protect individuals from preventable diseases. We know that 46,000 people in the United States die each year of heart disease related to secondhand smoke and that asthma attacks claim the lives of those who are forced to endure secondhand smoke at work. Another 6,000 die from lung disease and other cancers. What is Kentucky waiting for? Our state legislators must pass a strong, smoke-free law to protect all workers in the 2014 session.

In 2004, the Centers for Disease Control issued a warning advising anyone with heart disease to avoid secondhand smoke entirely. Even a little bit of secondhand smoke can be extremely hazardous. Studies show that the rate of hospital admissions for heart attacks dramatically decreases after smoke-free laws are in place. The science is clear: Comprehensive smoke-free laws contribute to declines in heart attacks and save lives.

Even workers and patrons without known heart conditions are at risk as a result of secondhand smoke exposure. Comprehensive smoke-free laws protect everyone. It is outrageous that so many Kentuckians who do not live in smoke-free communities still have to endure this health risk at work.

Secondhand smoke causes numerous other health problems – from lung cancer to asthma attacks to stroke. A University of Kentucky study found a 21 percent decrease in asthma emergency department visits following Lexington-Fayette County’s smoke-free law. In a separate study, UK researchers found that smoking rates declined in smoke-free Fayette County resulting in 16,500 fewer smokers and an estimated annual healthcare savings of $21 million.

The evidence is overwhelming that strong, comprehensive smoke-free laws save lives and improve health. As the U.S. Surgeon General stated in his 2006 report, “The debate is over, the science is clear. There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.” We understand the problem and we have a solution that the voting public strongly supports. It is time for the Kentucky General Assembly to act to protect the health of all workers and patrons throughout our state.

Dr. Andrew Henderson, Lexington
Dr. Juan Villafane, Elizabethtown
Dr. John Johnstone, Richmond
Dr. Sarah Porter, Vanceburg
Dr. Shawn Jones, Paducah
Dr. Nancy Swikert, Florence
Dr. Tracy Ragland, Crestwood
Dr. Brent Wright, Glasgow