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$15 Minimum Wage - Assured Debt Peonage

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California has just followed Oregon in the race to enshrine low wages by forging ahead with a cruelly insufficient $15 minimum wage, not now, but in 6 years! By then, the cost of living will have outstripped that meager amount.

Let's tell the truth here: If your business model requires paying slave wages to make a profit, there is something wrong with your business model. Amazingly, even unions in California are buying into this nonsense by supporting a monumentally deficient wage that won't take effect or make a difference NOW. It demonstrates how low the unions have sunk in their lack of support for workers. Such union efforts are more in line with supporting management and stock owners, not labor.

A short while ago I wrote about the insufficiency of a $15 minimum wage in a piece entitled WA State Minimum Wage Initiative - A Race To The Bottom. Unfortunately, the Washington initiative was not even for $15! It was for $13.50, a risible number by any standard. That's about $28,000 per year, IF you are working full time. But as we know, with most minimum wage jobs, there is little full time work available.

Oregon's governor, Kate Brown, just signed into law that state's new minimum wage which will s l o w l y rise to $14.75 by 2022. However, the minimum wage in Oregon will depend upon where the work takes place, so that a rural minimum wage will only reach an astoundingly miserable $12.50 by 2022. This is minimum wage by zip code, as if there were no basic and inherent worth in an hour's work of a human being in this country. The rural exception will have a particularly perverse effect on farm workers, whose backbreaking labor is notoriously underpaid to begin with. Oregon to rural workers: “Screw you!”

All of this folderol around $15, as if it were to save the American worker from poverty (it won't), is all the more ridiculous in that to actually arrive at a living wage, at this very moment a worker should be getting $20-25 per hour. My article from August 2015 entitled $15/hr Minimum Wage - Seriously? revealed the nasty secret about the $15 minimum wage bandwagon: it has no wheels. Unfortunately, the hoopla has everyone fixed on this magical dollar amount instead of what it really takes to make a living. Naysayers also warn of job loss if even $15 is enacted across the country. In an article in the Washington Post we hear this, “‘What should be the criterion about setting a minimum wage?” he [Mark Levinson, the chief economist for the Service Employees International Union] asked. 'Should it be the level which produces minimal job loss? Or should it be, in the language of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the maintenance of the minimum standard of living necessary for the health, efficiency, and general well-being of workers?'”

I hear nobody talking about reducing management wages or stock holder dividends to make the adjustments necessary to pay a living minimum wage. That must be a part of the discussion.

About Dick Conoboy

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Member since Jan 26, 2008

Dick Conoboy is a recovering civilian federal worker and military officer who was offered and accepted an all-expense paid, one year trip to Vietnam in 1968. He is a former Army [...]

Comments by Readers

Michael Chiavario

Apr 04, 2016

Right you are, Dick. Maximum wage has long been a more urgent goal than a minimum wage. Without the former, the latter is really meaningless. Ruling class wins again. Let’s not be shy about that phrase: Ruling class.

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Dianne Foster

May 24, 2016

Dick,
Thanks for the analysis.  I haven’t considered it that way.  By delaying the implementation, you’re essentially establishing a “maximum wage”. But I wouldn’t blame unions; they’ve been demolished in power by the capitalist class for many decades now, part of a much broader global neocon agenda.

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