Raising the Minimum Wage…Why Not?

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Today I was reading where Gov. Jerry Brown backed a plan to raise California’s minimum wage to $10.00 an hour by 2016. A number of Los Angeles-area business groups criticized the legislation, saying it would unfairly burden companies. And according to the article in The Huffington Post – Los Angeles, Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, called the hike “obscene” and said it’s unrealistic to increase wages 25 percent in two years.

Well isn’t that special and of course the requisite reasoning for these businesses objections is that the legislation is done by people who don’t understand business. And they would have to pass the costs along to their customers and clientele. HOGWASH!! or BULLSHIT!!!!, you choose. California’s minimum wage is $8.00 which is higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25. However, states like Washington ($9.19) and Oregon ($8.95) are  higher.

Most of those who support this legislation says that the hike will add about $4000 annually to a worker’s paycheck thus with the extra money, they can infuse the local economy with much-needed revenue.  How bad can that be?

I feel the problem is not that employers aren’t able to pay employees a fair living wage, it’s that many of these multimillion dollar businesses simply don’t want to. Many of the owners are motivated by greed; they’re money-whores. They have been allowed to cruise for decades with hiring illegal immigrants, low-balling wages, paying no health insurance to many of their employees ( and this is done by keeping the employees below what would be considered full-time) and in some cases,  inciting an atmosphere of fear. Their stance, because of the over-saturation of unemployed people and illegal immigrants willing to work, is that all of their employees are expendable. If the employee puts up a fuss, then SEE YA! And the reality is that they will probably have that position filled within a few days, if that long.

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I  saw a couple of months ago where the owner of the restaurant chain Mr. Chow, Michael Chow, sold his small mansion, and I’m gagging at the idea of a “small” mansion, and bought a behemoth. Michael Chow is apropos of many of these business owners and restaurateurs who are out there putting up a stink about minimum wage. And I use him as example because he comes from affluence. His father is a renown Chinese actor and his mother comes from a very wealthy family. This is why most of those business owners have no clue. They’ve never had to work for minimum wage, they’ve never had to travel for hours to and from work and they’ve never had to work multiple jobs to make ends meet. They don’t have to figure out how to pay for glasses, braces, clothing, food, shelter, school supplies and college. That’s a given for them.

Many hop into their Rolls Royce Phantoms, Bentley’s, Jags and what not,  leave work and pass by their employees standing at the bus stop, and don’t even see them because they’re invisible and go home to their mansions in Beverly Hills, Bel Air, the Hollywood Hills or wherever they decide to lay their expensive hats and handbags. Unfortunately, most couldn’t care less if they tried about their employees plight.  I have seen many domestic helpers coming out of the Hollywood Hills on foot, down perilous hills, around dangerous curves all the while their employers were luxuriating at their plush, palatial estates.  You would think that knowing their helper doesn’t have a car, they could at least take them to the bus stop. Oh Hell no, what was I thinking.

According to CNBC, California is number 9 on the list of where the wealthiest 5% in the nation lives.

Percentage of millionaire households in 2011: 6.01%
Millionaire households: 750,686
Total households: 12.49 million

To me this is obscene. I don’t begrudge anyone their hard-earned success, but a lot of the wealthiest people’s success comes from family wealth and connections. It puts a person WELL ahead of the game when you have everything in place to succeed. It’s the same with housing. We have an influx of new apartment complexes going up here in Los Angeles almost every few months, but the vast majority of working people can’t afford to live there. The rent is starting in most places, anywhere from $3000, $6000 to upwards of $13,000 a month. Who are these millionaire/billionaire developers building these complexes for if it’s not for their own ilk?

Even with a minimum wage increase to $10.00 an hour, most people still have to live in undesirable neighborhoods or way out in the Valley where the apartments are cheaper, but there’s stiff competition to rent the ones in better neighborhoods. Living in the city where it’s convenient to everything…within walking and short driving distances to supermarkets, pharmacies and shopping complexes, FORGET IT, unless you have stayed put in a rent stabilized apartment for years.

It saddens me to know that we are fast becoming a nation where fiction is now becoming fact. We are moving toward the Dystopian societies of the films Elysium and Soylent Green. The gap is widening between the rich and poor and the middle class is being slowly squeezed out of the equation entirely. So I ask again,  why not raise the minimum wage to something where people can live comfortably with some semblance of dignity and respect? Well I guess raising the minimum wage would mean the wealthy just couldn’t buy another expensive toy…and we can’t have THAT, now can we?

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