Living Wage
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Fair Labor Standards Act.-  

 In 1996 the minimum wage was $4.75 an hour.  Effective September 1, 1997, it was increased to $5.15   Covered non-exempt workers are also entitled to overtime pay (at a rate of not less than 1.5  times their regular rates, when more than 40 hours of work in a week).

I am not aware of any increase on the labor minimum wage since 1997 (at the Federal level).  Although I know that since then some States have passed their own minimum wage standards.

I do not believe the Federal Labor Standards are "fair".  If elected I would immediately propose a raise in those standards to the "Hawaii" level, that is:   $5.75 starting Jan.1, 2001, and $6.00 starting on Jan.1, 2003.

I promise I will continue fighting for a "living wage" standard of $10 per hour for a family of four (either direct salary, or federally subsidized "family points", as done in Europe.

bulletI do not want to be labeled as anti-business, and I do not have any intention of antagonizing any employer.   But -please- stop for a second, and think.  Even if we were to implement in Jan.1, 2003 the "generous" rate of Hawaii at $6.00, that would represent $240 per week (based on 40 hours a week), or just -barely- $1,000 per month.
bulletHow many out there can pay rent, and feed a family with $1,000 a month?   In most cities -these days- you can not even rent a decrepit house for less than $600.
bulletIf we can not pay a higher wage, then it is a must that we increase housing subsidies, and lower our food-stamps qualifications.   And yet, as it can be seen on a graph below, the percent of the GDP allocated to housing assistance has been going down consistently during the last decade.  Do we want riots in the street, for us to be fair with the poor?
bulletIn polls most Americans have said that,  people who work full-time should be able to earn enough to keep their families out of the poverty level.  But, even after the adjustments are made to account for the .  But, even after the adjustments are made to account for the Earned-Income Tax Credit, the minimum wage comes to $7.21.
bulletAccording the to Census Bureau, in order to keep a family of two adults and two children out of poverty you need $8.21 (so called living wage).  And only 75% of the workforce meets this minimum living wageA whopping 45% of Hispanics earn less than the living wage.  As well as 34% of women, 21% of men, and 34% of African Americans, and -of course- countless illegal Immigrants, who should not be here in the first place, but -as our Government knows- they are here, and they are human, and their (soon to be American) children are feeling the terrible misery, many getting scarred for life.
bulletThe Economic Policy Institute has stated that even this minimum living wage covers only about 60% of the cost of basic needs, such as housing, transportation, child care, and decent health care.

Tipped employees in Hawaii may receive $0.20 less per hour.  I do not think that is fair, because a tip is a tip, and shall not be construed as wages.  I agree -though- that taxes should be paid on those tips.  Actually, Hawaii is very generous, because the National Labor Standards calls for only a guarantee of a minimum wage of $2.13 for tipped employees

bullet I have been there!  I am a Telecommunications Engineer, but in 1998 we had an economic crisis in the family, and -my wife and I- we had to work both for a few weeks as waiters in Florida's restaurants.  Tips did not cover the minimum wage.  Totally unfair!  What a terrible experience!  We did it for a few weeks, but many people are enslaved like this for years.
bulletFortunately, at the time, we had not children with us.  I just can not figure how waitresses -or tipped employees in general- with dependent children can work at all at those miserable rates.  And then have time to come home to cook, and give "quality time" to their children.
bullet Then we wonder, why Americans do not have enough children, and have to go abroad to adopt?  Or why should we allow a constant flow of young Immigrants (many of them with minimum education) from underdeveloped countries? (where children are at plenty).   Well, it is either that, or there will not be enough young people working to sustain the Social Security of a growing retired community by 2025.


Some might think that the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed in 1776, just a few days after the signing our independence from the British.  Sorry to disappoint you!  Our country -on social issues- has always lagged far behind Europe.  And I mean FAR!!!   It was not until 1938 after the Depression (when many employers were taking advantage of the tight labor market to subject workers to horrible conditions and impossible hours) that the FLSA  was passed.  Shame on us!

The FLSA is one of the most complex laws of the workplace, it has been amended many times. It is full of exceptions and exemptions, some of which seem to contradict one another.  It allows poor immigrant farm-hands to work for less than $2 (and no social services provided to their families).  We treat our pets a lot better than that.  Shame on us, again!

I hope you agree with me that our national standards on minimum wages is not adequate.  Some of you might be surprised to know that some States have higher standards (such as California or Hawaii -in green color).  But the there are also some other States (such as Texas -in brown color), were the standard is lower than the national (on that case the Federal rate applies).  And then there are other States (such as Florida -in yellow) where we do not even bother to have a State minimum wage standards.  (please, see table below).

 I grew up in Europe, where we knew we would never have the material resources, and the economic power of the USA.   Most European countries knew they could not offer their citizens an "American standard of living".  Therefore, they instead opted for giving protection to the workforce.  They passed socialistic measures protecting individuals and families.  I would honestly say, speaking in general terms, that Europeans have less -and smaller- material things, but they have a much greater "quality of family life" than we do.  Notice that I have not said "quality of life", because -for instance- traffic bottlenecks in some cities are quite strangulating, and air pollution in some population centers is unbearable.

In America we thought those socialistic measures could be very taxing to our industries, and -no question- they are a drag!    No reason to lie, social services are not cheap.  Services such as:

bulletbetter and longer unemployment benefits,
bulletjob security,
bulletmaternity leave (90 weeks in Sweden -that is 2 years- versus 6 weeks in the USA), 
bulletchild care provisions, 
bulletbetter minimum wages, 
bulletuniversal health care and affordable medicines,
bulletadequate social security benefits,
bulletand ... so on and so forth. 

 But money is not all that should be counted.  Protected family environments, are what makes our societies different from a life in the jungle.  After all, are we on this planet to live in richness, or to live a decent life?   If we can have both... great!   If we have to chose one, I go with leaving decent humble life.

Our economic problems these days have an international scope.  Do not forget that China has 1,300 million citizens (and growing).  Having seen misery pretty close, and decimating famines for many centuries, Chinese are willing to work -basically- for nothing, as long as they are allowed to reside in the cities, rather than scraping a living on the country side of mainland China.  Beware, we might be for a longer recession than told. 

In the US, we focused on Reaganomics, that is, protecting businesses hoping that they would generate more jobs, and they would self-impose on them generous benefits for their employees.  At best, it worked for a few years, depending to whom you ask for opinion.  Let me say, that when it comes to trusting the self-imposed generosity of employers in general, I feel more comfortable being a skeptic.  People tend to be egocentric by nature, and well-to-do Americans will try to rationalized why they should pay to protect others.  Unless -of course- they are the worse-off "others".

On Business Week (7/2/01, page 26, written by Laura D'Andrea Tyson)  I read that ....

The top 20% of earners receive more than 66% of tax-deduction benefits on IRAs, yet 75% of them enjoy employer-provided pension plans (versus 18% for the rest of earners) , and 80% employer-provided health insurance (versus 28% for the rest).

Moreover, since more than 80% of high school graduates from the richest 20% of families attend college, upper income families (who would send their children to college anyway) benefit disproportionately from tax credits and deductions for college tuition.

A recent study by the Congressional Budget Office shows that during the last 20 years, average real after-tax income stagnated around $11,000 for the bottom 20% of earners, while the top 20% enjoyed a 50% increase.  And the top 1% enjoyed a 157% increase."

The article in Business Week ends with an excerpt from Barbara Ehrenreich, who in her recent book (Nickel and Dime: On (Not) Getting By in America") says:  "America's working poor are the true philanthropists in our society.  Working for less than they can live on, involuntarily sacrificing the quality of their own lives and those of the rest of their families for the rest of us.  As a nation we should be ashamed of ourselves".  I could not agree more !! 

So, let's protect our workers, even at the risk of slowing business growth somewhat This being said not by an ignorant person, but by an experienced Engineer -with Master studies in Business Administration- who has been an Entrepreneur several times, and who has always graduated on the top 5% of his class.

I am not anti-business, I am pro-people, that is different!

There are too many families out there who are really hurting!

I need your vote!

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Editor: JX


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