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.

 

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

The Fair Wage Folks to Eureka City Council, 6/17/14 [includes research links]

The passage of the Measure R, the Eureka Fair Wage Act, is essential to the future economic vitality of Eureka and this entire region.

Measure R, the Eureka Fair Wage Act, will raise the minimum wage.

Measure R is legally robust, is tailored to the needs of Eureka, and raising wages is a proven way to increase employment, build a strong and healthy economy, and benefit the lives of working people and their families.

Continue reading

Help CANVASS Eureka for Measure R

The Fair Wage Folks will be canvassing Sunday July 27th. Please join us!

 

At 4:00pm, we will meet at the Eureka Labor Temple (840 E Street, where 9th and E meet). We will do some rehearsing and preparation (so don’t worry if you have never gone door-to-door), then hit the streets within about an hour. We will canvass no later than 8:15pm.

We are knocking on peoples’ doors to make sure they know about the Eureka Fair Wage Act, Measure R on the November ballot, and that they are registered to vote in Eureka! And will vote!

Call (707) 442-7465 or email info@fairwages.org if you want more info about Sunday (and future) canvassing.

Beginning in August, there will be opportunities and NEED to canvass every day/evening! Please get in contact if you are interested in helping out. We need you! Let’s get out the vote and raise wages! You do not have to be a Eureka resident to help canvass.

 

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In 6 hours of canvassing, a few of us registered 20 new Eureka City voters! Hundreds of new voters can raise wages and change the political & social landscape of Eureka for the better.

Seeking Space for CAMPAIGN HEADQUARTERS

The Fair Wage Folks need a highly visible office space to use as a Measure R campaign headquarters. We want to rent a place from August through the election in November (about 3 months). A campaign headquarters will allow us a focused space to:

-coordinate CANVASSING of the entire City of Eureka;
-provide a centralized place from which to PHONE BANK;
-be a work space for us to REGISTER VOTERS and get out the vote;
and, perhaps most important,
-be a PUBLIC SPOT where people can drop in and help out, and
-be a visible where people can come in to LEARN AND TALK ABOUT MEASURE R, the Eureka Fair Wage Act.

(After the vote in November, we can plan our victory party from the campaign headquarters!)

IF YOU OR ANYONE YOU KNOW HAS A SPACE AVAILABLE (in Eureka, of course), please contact us at:
(707) 442-7465, through a private Facebook Message (https://www.facebook.com/fairwage.folks), or through email at info@fairwages.org

*We are very grateful to have the use PARC (Peoples’ Action for Rights and Community) and the Eureka Labor Temple for our meetings, canvass training, and Fair Wage Cafes. We drafted the Eureka Fair Wage Act at the Labor Temple! Our desire for a campaign headquarters comes from our need for an equipped office and dedicated organizing space that we can use every day until we win the election on November 4, 2014.

Chris Kerrigan Interviewed on Fair Wages by Zach Thiesen

Chris Kerrigan Interview

with Zack Thiesen, for Fair Wage Folks

5/30/2014

Displaying chris-k-interview.jpeg

Zack:  In your estimation, how will the ordinance benefit this particular part of our county?

Chris:  Well, it’s going to provide people who are working for a living with a wage that’s much closer to a living wage and I think that’s important because it’s gonna allow families and workers who work and live in Eureka the ability to afford a better quality of life. And it’s going to allow people to afford to live in the neighborhoods that they work in. Specifically, if you’re working minimum wage, you’re taking home about $1,200 a month, give or take. For somebody, under the Minimum Wage Ordinance, it’s gonna bump them up to $1,700 a month. So it’s going to provide about $500 a month per full-time worker – extra take-home pay each month. That can allow you a lot of things, especially when you’re looking at rent, you know, $600-$800 minimum, if you’re lucky enough to find a spot for that.

And how it benefits people who are, you know, more than just the lower-wage workers – how it benefits the entire community and the economy – is that per 1,000 low-wage workers, it’s gonna pump an extra $2.5 million into the economy. We know that our economy is stimulated by spending. And so when folks who are working have more money to spend, their gonna be able to take their family out to a movie, or to the show, or be able to go out to ice cream with their family, or spend a little extra in the local stores… do something that they can’t normally do. So that provides them with a much, much better quality of life and more economic security, but it also stimulates our economy. And that additional spending is going to bring more people to open up businesses to take advantage of the increased spending. Our economy is spending driven, you know, it’s like 70% of the economy is driven by spending. The best way we can grow our economy is to make sure that those who are willing to work for a living have a decent quality of life. And that’s the whole fairness issue that this ordinance addresses, it’s crucial; is that it says to big corporations that if you’re going to come into our community… they take a lot of stuff, they take a lot of things from our community. They ought to pay their employees a decent quality of life. I think that’s just a basic fairness issue.

Zack:  Is this just an economic “shot in the arm”? What is the significance of the increase being indexed for inflation?

Chris:  Well, I think that so working families, over time, won’t fall further and further behind. That’s the importance of indexing it for inflation. So we won’t be dependent on the political leaders to have to give them their increase, it’ll just be built in. I think that’s important. You’ve probably heard the statement that if the minimum wage kept pace with inflation…

Zack:  Ya, it’d be like 22 bucks…

Chris:  (Laughs) Yeah! And so it hasn’t worked out to rely on our politicians to always do the right thing for working families. But what’s amazing to me is that this coincides with this tremendous increase in corporate wealth and profit, and they haven’t been willing to have a shared prosperity with the actual workers. They’ve kept minimum wage relatively low while their profits have ballooned. And I think that is what is inherently wrong. And that’s one of the problems with our economy.

Zack:  They don’t let it trickle down. I’ve never seen it trickle down.

Chris:  Ya, it’s never gonna trickle down! It’s totally the opposite of trickle down. And I tell people when I walk door-to-door that I believe in a bottom-up economy. You know, let’s make sure the people who are willing to work for a living have money to spend, and that’s going to stimulate our economy. We’re never gonna be able to give all the tax credits and breaks to the wealthy and think that it’s going to trickle down. That’s been a disaster for working families.

Zack:  The wage increase will apply to people working in exchange for Welfare benefits, like Welfare-to-Work and CalWORKS. Do you think an increase to a livable wage will make this transition more achievable and stable for those individuals who are trying to move away from a reliance on social services?

Chris:  Yes, absolutely. That’s a great question. I don’t know if I have much more to add than: It will. And that’s a great point. I think that’s the unfortunate thing, for people who are willing to work and trying to be productive members of society, you know, it’s forcing them to take two or even three jobs. And you know, it’s just not good for them, it’s taking them away from their family and away from their kids, and society has to pay for those costs anyways… so ya, I think it’s going to be great for families and those in that particular situation.

We pay for it. I see it with The Boys and Girls Club, is a great example. I volunteer with the kids there, and a lot of their family members are lower-wage workers, homecare workers for example, they come from the hospital in scrubs. They’re working lower-wage jobs. You know, we’re feeding them, and then we’re getting their homework done. But it just occurs to me, when they come to get their child, you know, why are we promoting an economic system – for these people that are willing to work – that is keeping them away from their kids? It’s just like, we’re paying for it with services… we have to pay for services anyways, so it would be better to strengthen those who are willing to work and make sure that they have a good quality of life and that they’re family unit is strong.

Zack:  It’s healthier.

Chris:  Yeah, totally. It’s like trying to keep people down or something.

Zack:  In your view, What is the primary purpose of economic development? How will your views on other issues – like the General Plan Update – benefit the lives of workers in Eureka?

Chris:  Well, for me, the primary purpose of economic development is to help folks who are willing to work within the 4th District, and within Humboldt County, have the ability to find a job, and a job that affords a good quality of life. Dignity – because it allows you to live, work and raise a family in the city that you work in.

In terms of the General Plan, by encouraging investment in the city centers where we have infrastructure, it provides more affordable options for families to live closer to town and closer to services where they’re not as dependent on a car, for example. It’s providing the option for workers to be able to live [in a way in which] they’re not as dependent on a car. And if you have to make a car payment, and you have to pay for insurance, and you gotta put gas in your car – if all your movement is auto-related – that’s a tremendous cost or burden on working families. So to have that option to live where your kids can play, and you can get to the grocery store without having to have a car, or two cars, for example, that helps relieve economic burden on working folks.

The other thing is that when we have investment in the City, and we have more “eyes on the street”, as the saying goes, there’s a synergy that’s created, and that is more likely to bring economic opportunity for families than if we just allow the conversion of our timber and agricultural lands and we see more empty buildings and the population shifting further and further out of town.

So, you know, investment in the 4th District, and also in housing, means a correlation of investment in job opportunities and businesses that will serve those residents, rather than if we were to just build it outside of town… Smart planning is important for these reasons…

Zack:  Bus prices here are pretty crazy.

Chris:  (Laughs) Bus prices are really expensive! I loved, when I went to Humboldt [State], the JackPass, which allowed me to go for free on any of the routes they serve.

Zack:  They don’t do that for CR [College of the Redwoods] students anymore.

Chris:  I know! They inexplicably voted that down, which was so silly… Yeah, I’d like to get that changed, to encourage more people to take advantage of public transportation.

Zack:  Does a higher minimum wage from large retailers and fast-food chains necessarily mean a higher cost-of-living for everyone in the city?

Chris:  Most studies show – the data shows – that it doesn’t. That really, the cost of living increase is far exceeded by the increased revenues in the economy and additional hiring that comes with a more robust economy, so it really offsets the idea that there’s a cost of living increase. Right now, so much of our money goes into paying for services, like you said, for the working poor. We just don’t have an economic system right now that’s truly fair. Because people who are working we’re subsidizing with tax dollars directly, because they don’t make enough to live. It’s keeping people down that way. It’s really hard to ask somebody to be able to give back to their community when you’re forcing them on the fringe. When you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck, and living one medical catastrophe away from bankruptcy… we have to allow people who are working to share in economic prosperity. And when that happens, people are much more willing to give back to their community, to volunteer, for example.

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