Wednesday, September 11, 2013

CA Democrats want to raise the minimum wage but you'll still starve on it.

by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

Here in California, the Democrats have a majority in both houses of the state legislature.   Today, the big wheels in this Wall Street party have pledged to support a bill introduced in to this legislature that the party has a majority, calling for a $10 an hour minimum wage.  Ten dollars an hour in California mind you won’t buy very much.  You would spend that in a day in many cases just getting to and from work using the light rail system.

After savaging public services California governor, Jerry Brown has pledged to support it saying, “The minimum wage has not kept pace with rising costs”. “This legislation is long overdue and will help families that struggling in this harsh economy.,” he added. It won’t help them very much as $10 an hour is literally starvation wages here. A worker, especially one with a family cannot live on it which is why people work two, sometimes three jobs and one of those might be the one that provides health benefits of some sort.

The heads of organized Labor have backed the legislation and reports in the media have pointed out that this is what can happen when one party controls a legislature, they can do what they please.  Well, what they please is shameful and the labor officialdom that paints it as some sort of major victory are fulfilling their role as standard bearers for the Democratic Party.  The Republicans and business always claim that wage rises are job killers especially a state mandated minimum wage, something the libertarians among them oppose as well. But Democrats feel the same way, a wage increase that would actually feed people or pay the rent would be a job killer or more accurately, adversely affect profits and both parties are committed to defend profits. It is profits that a wage increase eats in to but they want to obscure that and argue jobs will be lost.  But if labor is tight as it was in the 90's they won't be able to simply fire people. The market will not allow it and they will be forced to cut back their incomes.

“It’s too much too soon,” says the Republican leader of the California senate and that jobs will flee the state.  Too much too soon! The legislation won’t take effect until 2016 and we will likely be in another recession by then.

Elizabeth warren, the Democratic Senator from Massachusetts who is considered by some to be a major consumer advocate pointed out that if the minimum wage had risen at the same pace as worker productivity since 1960, it would be at $22 an hour.  Warren only pointed it out, she hasn’t suggested a campaign for it, it would not be acceptable to the Democratic Party leaders. Luis Alejo the California State Assemblyman who introduced the legislation here says that, “This is simply the opportunity to give dignity and respect to those who simply want to be able to provide for their families.”  This is complete nonsense, $10 an hour now, never mind in 2016 cannot provide a working class family with dignity and respect and it certainly can’t provide security.

The minimum wage should be at least $20 an hour in California.  In fact the best way to determine the a national minimum wage is by deciding on the cost of a basket of goods which would include food, housing education whatever workers need to provide a secure and decent life. 

We are supposed to have the eight-hour day but few workers can really afford to work eight hours.  There has been a bit of a movement developing around a $15 an hour minimum wage around fast food workers.  Behind the campaign are some non-profits and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).  I was at a rally organized by this grouping a week ago.  We marched to a MacDonalds but rather than go in and occuopy the place, the organizers had the lively crowd go to a co=rner of the parking lot and listen to some speeches.

It’s quite likely that this campaign has had an effect which led to this small concession from the legislature here but there’s no doubt a real mobilization of workers and a direct action campaign around a jobs program and a minimum wage of $20 an hour or a $5 an hour increase whichever is greater would make some headway.  For the Union leaders of course this would hurt profits so it’s out.

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