A Facebook friend posted an article from a Right wing publication supposedly demonstrating the predicted disaster for our lowest wage workers if we institute the $15 minimum wage. I felt a detailed response was called for.
To the folks that think that the lay off of these workers is the result of an unsustainable minimum wage:
The Berkeley Layoffs
First, I will point out that the requirement to cut the work force was a university wide mandate to cut the budget by ten percent. It was not specifically targeted at the minimum wage earners. And I would maintain that this is the result of our chronic under-funding of education not a demonstration that the minimum wage is untenable. But that is the subject for other Blogs.
The question here is who will do those jobs. Has the University decided not to have clean floors? Will they not have people serving food at the dining halls? I strongly suspect that, with some budgetary re-prioritization, that these jobs will be replaced soon. Or are they going to have the grad students cleaning the floors?
The $15 minimum wage effects only the most low level jobs. These are jobs that the folks who can’t do any better do. It is a fact that, in most urban ares in the US, one can work two full time minimum wage jobs and still not cover what would be considered the most essential expenses of a family.
Much of our country’s original growth was based on unpaid labor in the form of slavery. We abolished slavery but managed to set up relationships between owners and workers, both in the agricultural sector and in the newly developed industrial sector that left the workers as virtual slaves. The tenant farmer system in the South, the company owned mill and mining towns in the industrial heartland are good examples.
It wasn’t until the successes of the Labor Movement that we, as a society, began to establish the idea that there was a basic standard of living, under which no one should have to live and work. Our history has been one of continuous movement towards better protections for our workers until the backlash against the New Deal occurred in the Reagan years. The Right has attempted to roll back the gains made ever since.
The Chancellor of US Berkeley makes a salary of just under half a million dollars a year as a base salary. The football coach makes 1.81 million! Yet, rather than pay a wage that would only provide a worker with the most margin standard of living in a city like Berkeley. they decide to lay off those workers. It is just another example of our society’s obscene wealth divide, our tendency to treat those at the bottom as virtually sub-human, our vastly misplaced priorities.
We are in serious trouble as a society… the robotics revolution is just around the corner. It will be upon us before I even pass away at the pave it is developing. Soon, most of these jobs will not be done by people, they will be done my machines. We need to be acting in anticipation of this revolution by investing heavily in education and providing enough financial support to the folks at he bottom that, at least their children will be ready for this new economy which is coming.
Robotics will eliminate most of these jobs.A failure to invest right now in the mass of folks who exists at the bottom rungs of our society, a continuance of the path that we have been on in which they fall farther and farther behind the rest of the country in terms of standard of living will result in the near future in an unemployable class of non-workers. The jobs that used to exist for the least educated and most unskilled will not even exist. They will be done by machines. If we don’t want a revolution, we had better start preparing these folks for the future, not letting them fall farther and farther behind.
The $15 minimum wage is just a stop gap measure to help people survive. This is the subsistence level of our society. Most of these folks already need public assistance to survive. It is a matter of where you choose to pay, not whether you pay or not. The next step down is living on the streets and starving. One has to ask the question whether it is morally justifiable for the rest of our society to depend on jobs being done that require workers to live a sub-standard life?
The $15 minimum wage hike in California has sent financially troubled UC Berkeley into decision making mode, and “the people who clean buildings, who work in food services or health clinics, says Todd Stenhouse, will be the ones without a job.