My Word: We need Measure R Support the Eureka Fair Wage Act

Eureka Times-Standard Guest Opinion, posted online 9/4/14
printed in paper on 9/5/14, page A4

We need Measure R: Support the Eureka Fair Wage Act

By Verbena Lea

“Poverty level wages are not a gamble, they’re a guaranteed loss for the community” — Working Families Party.

Working people are ripped off by misguided public policy which claims that giving more money to the already-wealthy creates jobs. This policy fails us because it is based on a lie. When government fails to meet the community’s needs, the people come together to craft a solution.

The solution to poverty level wages is to raise them. Measure R, the Eureka Fair Wage Act, does just that. Larger employers will pay their workers a minimum of $12 an hour. Smaller businesses, those with 24 or fewer employees, can continue to pay the current state minimum of $9 an hour if they chose.

We have over seven decades of data about what happens when we raise the minimum wage. Employment and economic activity go up. Opportunities increase for everyone. In 2012, for example, San Jose residents raised the minimum wage for all workers $2 more an hour. Throughout the first year, unemployment dropped two points and 9,000 new businesses opened. Surrounding communities, including Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Berkeley, and Richmond, are raising wages to keep pace with the competitive, high-wage oasis that is San Jose.

Eureka needs Measure R.

Some believe that workers should be paid poverty wages for doing jobs of “unskilled labor,” even if their labor and time generate millions for their employers. First, there is no such thing as unskilled labor. Every person brings the skills of life experience, social interaction, and personal education to every task.

“When someone works for less pay than she can live on — when, for example, she goes hungry so that you can eat more cheaply and conveniently — then she has made a great sacrifice for you, she has made you a gift of some part of her abilities, her health, and her life. The ‘working poor,’ as they are approvingly termed, are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone else.” — author Barbara Eherenreich.

The minimum wage was designed in 1938 — to alleviate poverty. Today, the minimum wage has lost so much buying power that families working full-time struggle to survive. When low-wage workers are paid more fairly, they will earn enough to live independent lives. They can save for their future and that of their children.

State and federal minimum wage increases are NOT indexed to inflation. Measure R is. If prices go up, wages will keep pace.

Since 1975, people receiving “fixed income” benefits have had yearly cost-of-living increases tied to the Consumer Price Index. Before 1975, they had to wait around until Congress decided it was time for an arbitrary increase. This is still the reality for minimum wage workers in this country. If you’re going to call anything a “fixed income,” let the historical record show that it is the wage of the low-paid worker. We are no longer waiting for legislators to address economic realities. Measure R will result in a fair wage that’s finally indexed to inflation. The cost of living is always rising, and that is not a reason to keep your neighbors living in poverty.

We need Measure R.

Low-wage workers spend their money here at home. Measure R means people can meet their needs and afford leisure activities: go out to dinner and a movie; listen to live local bands with a beverage down at Siren’s Song; take their children to the bouncy house at Bayshore Mall.

More money circulating through the hands of local workers, then passing through local businesses rather than corporate headquarters, is vital to rejuvenate Eureka’s economy.

Measure R is the right thing to do morally. Being paid a fair wage for your labor is what gives dignity to work. Measure R is the right thing to do fiscally. We live in a demand-driven economy; you can’t drive demand on poverty-level wages.

“Someday low-wage workers will rise up and demand to be treated fairly, and when that day comes everyone will be better off.” — Ehrenreich, “Nickel and Dimed.”

We need Measure R, the Eureka Fair Wage Act.  Demand Measure R.

Verbena Lea, one of the drafters of Measure R, resides in Eureka and submitted this “My Word” on behalf of the Fair Wage Folks, a committee of Measure R’s drafters and supporters.

 

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“Measure R: An overview of Eureka’s Fair Wage Act” / Times-Standard front page 9-4-14

By Will Houston  whouston@times-standard.com

from Editor’s Note:  This is the first story in a four-part series looking at Eureka’s Fair Wage Act, known as Measure R, which will be on the city’s Nov. 4 General Election ballot. ….

“…There are too many people living in poverty here — working, but can’t afford rent, working and going to school, but not spending money. City government does nothing to change that for the majority of Eurekans. Large profitable employers can afford to pay $12 an hour, a fair wage.”

Read the article here: http://www.times-standard.com/localnews/ci_26465327/measure-r-an-overview-eurekas-fair-wage-act

 

Take the poll on the left too! We voted $15 (Seattle!!)

Updates in the campaign for MEASURE R – THE EUREKA FAIR WAGE ACT

August 22 Updates

Very Important:  We have an immediate need for volunteers to help us CANVASS in Eureka. No experience required! And you don’t have to live in Eureka to help. We have been knocking on doors every day, and we need more people. We will prepare you to canvass for Measure R, provide simple outreach supplies, and pair you up with a person who has experience. Then we’ll hit the streets, talk with Eureka residents about the fight for $12 in Eureka, and register more voters. We’ve registered about 350 Eureka residents so far!

WE NEED YOUR HELP TO RAISE WAGES

  • We need you to VOLUNTEER your time and energy to help with phone calls, data entry, sign delivery, tabling at events, graphic art, etc.- your skills are needed.
  • YARD SIGNS for Measure R are being made by a small, local printing shop. Very exciting! Let us know if you’d like us to bring you a yard sign (or a smaller window sign) to display at your home or business in support of the Fair Wage Act!  Here’s what it looks like.

 

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  • We’re hosting another outdoor FAIR WAGE CAFE at Cesar Chavez Park (Hammond Park), at 14th and F, Eureka (with the tennis courts and playground). It will be held sometime in September, on a Saturday.  We’ll finalize the date soon. Enjoy nutritious, yummy food, live local music, kid’s games, and family fun from 12noon to 5pm. Bring friends, co-workers, neighbors, and the whole family out for a day in the park! It’s all free!
  • Measure R recently received the unanimous endorsement of the Humboldt County Democratic Central Committee. Our thanks to them for their support of Measure R, and we’re pleased to add them to the growing list of organizations and individuals that stand behind Eureka’s working families.

  Endorsers of Measure R, the Eureka Fair Wage Act, we thank you:

  • Humboldt and Del Norte Central Labor Council
  • Humboldt County Democratic Central Committee
  • Roosevelt Institute at Humboldt State University
  • Humboldt County Green Party
  • SEIU Local 1021- a union of 54,000 workers in Northern California
  • United Food and Commercial Workers Local #5
  • Humboldt Unitarian Universalist Social Action Committee
  • Progressive Democrats
  • Operating Engineers Union local #3
  • Building and Construction Trades Council of Humboldt and Del Norte Counties
  • Eureka City Council member Linda Atkins
  • former Eureka City Council member Chris Kerrigan
  • Natalie Arroyo*
  • Kim Bergel*

(*We hope Natalie Arroyo and Kim Bergel will be Eureka City Council members in the near future)

  • Brave New Films, a non-profit documentary film company, is making a pro-minimum wage raise video that will be ready by Labor Day weekend.  They have contacted us, and we will have the video to show on Access Humboldt, the internet, wherever we (and you) can spread it.  It will include Eureka’s Measure R information!

 

  • Please consider giving a FINANCIAL DONATION of any amount to the Measure R campaign. It is run solely by volunteers in the community. Donations will help us print important campaign materials, fund radio spots, and help pay for web space. Donate today at FAIRWAGES.ORGYou can mail us a contribution, donate online, hand us money, a check, or money order in person– however it works for you!
  • If you haven’t seen our new website, please go to its easy-to-remember address, fairwages.org. Also, we continue to host the blog, eurekafairwageact.wordpress.com where, for almost two years, we’ve been posting research, news, events, etc. about raising wages.
  • We’re on Facebook.  “Friend” us at Fair Wage Folks. “Like” us at Eureka Fair Wage Act and Measure R.

Help us get the vote out for Measure R!

Fair is fair!  We need this!

For the people,
The Fair Wage Folks

Three Reports on Raising Wages- the smart AND right thing to do!

Local Minimum Wage Laws, Impacts on Workers, Families and Business

Report prepared for the Seattle Income Inequality Advisory Committee,
March 2014
Michael Reich- UC Berkeley Professor of Economics and Director, Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, UC Berkeley
Ken Jacobs- UC Berkeley, Chair, Center for Labor Research and Education, Institute for Research on Labor and Employment
Annette Bernhardt- UC Berkeley Visiting Professor of Sociology and Visiting Researcher, Institute for Research on Labor and Employment

Citywide Minimum Wage Laws, A New Policy Tool for Local Governments

Paul Sonn, Brennan Center:  The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law unites thinkers and advocates in pursuit of a vision of inclusive and effective democracy. Our mission is to develop and implement an innovative, nonpartisan agenda of scholarship, public education, and legal action that promotes equality and human dignity, while safeguarding fundamental freedoms.

Minimum Wages and Employment: A Case Study of the Fast-Food Industry in New Jersey and Pennsylvania

David Card and  Alan B. Krueger-  Department of Economics, Princeton University Princeton, NJ;  Published in The American Economic Review, Vol. 84, No. 4. (Sep., 1994), pp. 772-793.