Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Living Wage vs. Minimum Wage

Along the trail to freedom, somebody forgot to add the "living wage" as a fundamental principle of American society.

It should be illegal to acquire the labor of another human being for less than the cost of living in the area in which he/she is employed. The idea that the "marketplace" (which has an artificially low minimum wage) should determine the cost of labor is fatuous at best and sinister in practice.

In desperation, the unemployed or under-employed will trade their labor for whatever the market will bear. Witness the droves of (mostly) immigrant day-laborers on certain street corners in our California cities who are willing to work for $25/day engaged in grueling work. The person who hires one of these poor souls fails to consider a number of important facts:

  • If you cannot do the work yourself, the person you hire is more capable than you
  • The person you hire must pay rent, buy food, perhaps even raise a family
  • The person you hire must have medical coverage or he will head to the Emergency Room for medical treatment, straining an already overtaxed medical system
  • The person you hire should not be forced to live in squalor with three other families
  • The person you hire is entitled to work a living wage, notwithstanding George W. Bush's assertion that they are taking jobs that Americans cannot or will not do
  • The person you hire is taking a job that Americans cannot or will not do for peon wages
  • The person you hire may be forced to pay a cut of the meager wage you pay to an agent or overseer
  • The person you hire is another human being, equal in honor to you. You dishonor yourself by paying him a pittance
Therefore, IF you hire casual labor for a project, you should budget adequate funds to pay those you hire a living wage for your area. These are not our slaves, serfs or servants. These are human beings who deserve a wage adequate to live where they work.

Governmental officials: Stop the exploitation of day laborers in California. Establish a living wage standard for all California workers, including those in the fields.


  1. i'm all for it, but does anyone realize that 'living wage' in san rafael california is $14 per hour? (that's what it would take to feed and house etc a family of four in the local economy). Not much different elsewhere. i'll sign whatever petitions you provide, but i hope people realize the real dimensions of the struggle we face, if we mean business!

  2. That is the drawback of the so-called "living wage" enacted in most cities. The $14.00 per hour today is equivalent to $3.91 (Source: US govrernment CPI calculator - http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl) in 1977. That's roughly what I was earning as a dishwasher at Denny's Restaurant. In either case, the wage is inadequate to support an individual - much less an entire family.

    Unless we live like citizens of the old Soviet Union - multiple families crammed into single-family apartments or houses.

    The few who are grasping tightly to the majority of wealth in this land must relent and change the pay structure of all us underlings. There's plenty to go around. Where are the Andrew Carnegies of teh 21st Century?