FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Democrat’s War Against Raising the Minimum Wage

Citizens in Oakland and San Francisco, and the red states of Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota, voted to increase the minimum wage on Nov. 4. But wait. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a second-term Democrat who takes mega-dollars from the Walton Family Foundation to reform the city’s public schools through charter conversions with at-will teachers in low-income neighborhoods, has a better idea.

Hint: voting to raise the minimum wage is out of the picture in California’s capital city. According to an unsigned editorial in The Sacramento Bee, Mayor Johnson “plans to empanel a task force after the first of the year to study the issue”. Yes, the dreaded task-force approach to democracy, defined as voting in elections.

Recall Mayor Johnson, Sacramento’s first African-American to serve California’s capital city is such a capacity, is a retired NBA All-Star point guard, whose recent achievement is to helm the U.S. Conference of Mayors. In this post, he chose New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a fellow Democrat, to chair a national task force, dubbed “Cities of Opportunity,” to cut rampant social inequality. Thus we see a pattern of task-force formation as part of Mayor Johnson’s political toolbox, nationally and locally.

So far, so legitimate? We turn to Mayor Johnson’s deeds and words. Do they add up to qualify him as a progressive politician? In my view, the answer is a resounding negative. If his record on citizens of Sacramento using their votes on economic matters is progressive, I suggest we need to redefine the term. For instance, Mayor Johnson played no small role in the city’s political leadership successfully delivering a $258 million public subsidy to build an arena for the NBA Sacramento Kings without voters’ approval.

This taxpayer gift of a brand spanking new arena to a pro sports franchise that billionaire Vivek Ranadivé owns is, in effect, a government-guided battering ram to in part expand gentrification of neighborhoods near the new NBA arena. The prospect of a billion Indians watching NBA games is no chump change for owners of pro hoops teams such as Ranadivé, either.

At and away from Sacramento, real estate interests cheer when property values rise and push low-income people to disappear. Some term this process as progress. It is worth noting that Marcos Breton, a “news columnist” for The Sacramento Bee, praises Mayor Johnson’s public policy efforts to have taxpayers foot the bill for the new arena as a “solid investment”:

Back to the politics, electoral and otherwise, of raising the minimum wage. First, it is vital to note this “Fight for $15” is gaining strength in no small measure now due to the active street demonstrations, i.e., die-ins, sit-ins, etc., of anti-police brutality protesters across the U.S. and abroad. This is historic. Why? Economic justice is the bedrock of social justice. Look no further than the black jobless rate, regularly twice that of white workers. Without livable employment, the establishment dooms populations, disproportionately black and brown in the U.S. political system, to economic marginality. Social peace ends when and where such government-market sanctioned human disposability begins.

One way to convey more clarity on the case for higher hourly pay is to consider a contextual benchmark. Let us look, briefly, at productivity growth. That metric is the output, or amount of goods and services per hour, that workers create on the job.

“If the minimum wage had continued to move with average productivity after 1968, it would have reached $21.72 per hour in 2012,” according to John Schmitt, a senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, based in Washington, D.C. (The Minimum Wage Is Too Damn Low, Issue Brief, March 2012). In contrast, the unsigned Sacramento Bee editorial of Nov. 28 asserts, “The blanket $15 an hour being pushed by some labor leaders is too arbitrary.”

In the real world, the minimum wage has flat-lined. Why is this so? The answer is a weakening of unions representing private-sector workers with collective bargaining agreements. The rate of private-sector workers in unions was 16.8 percent in 1983 and is 6.7 percent now.

Union-free private-sector workers, employed at-will by employers who can and do fire employees with no just cause, legally, are the majority of the labor force in Sacramento, California and nationwide. Organizing at work to become union members is a steep task.

That leaves voting to raise pay, given the steep odds of forming a union to sign a contract with an employer for a collective bargaining agreement. Mayor Johnson is bidding to get in front of the parade for a higher minimum wage and dampen the sentiment to raise hourly pay for those on the bottom of the compensation ladder. Let the voters of Sacramento and other U.S. cities decide the fate of the minimum wage where they live and work. There is nothing “arbitrary” about such a process.

Seth Sandronsky is a Sacramento journalist and member of the freelancers unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild. Emailsethsandronsky@gmail.com

More articles by:

Seth Sandronsky is a Sacramento journalist and member of the freelancers unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild. Emailsethsandronsky@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
June 15, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Dan Kovalik
The US & Nicaragua: a Case Study in Historical Amnesia & Blindness
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Yellow Journalism and the New Cold War
Charles Pierson
The Day the US Became an Empire
Jonathan Cook
How the Corporate Media Enslave Us to a World of Illusions
Ajamu Baraka
North Korea Issue is Not De-nuclearization But De-Colonization
Andrew Levine
Midterms Coming: Antinomy Ahead
Louisa Willcox
New Information on 2017 Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Deaths Should Nix Trophy Hunting in Core Habitat
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Singapore Fling
Ron Jacobs
What’s So Bad About Peace, Man?
Robert Hunziker
State of the Climate – It’s Alarming!
L. Michael Hager
Acts and Omissions: The NYT’s Flawed Coverage of the Gaza Protest
Dave Lindorff
However Tenuous and Whatever His Motives, Trump’s Summit Agreement with Kim is Praiseworthy
Robert Fantina
Palestine, the United Nations and the Right of Return
Brian Cloughley
Sabre-Rattling With Russia
Chris Wright
To Be or Not to Be? That’s the Question
David Rosen
Why Do Establishment Feminists Hate Sex Workers?
Victor Grossman
A Key Congress in Leipzig
John Eskow
“It’s All Kinderspiel!” Trump, MSNBC, and the 24/7 Horseshit Roundelay
Paul Buhle
The Russians are Coming!
Joyce Nelson
The NED’s Useful Idiots
Lindsay Koshgarian
Trump’s Giving Diplomacy a Chance. His Critics Should, Too
Louis Proyect
American Nativism: From the Chinese Exclusion Act to Trump
Stan Malinowitz
On the Elections in Colombia
Camilo Mejia
Open Letter to Amnesty International on Nicaragua From a Former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience
David Krieger
An Assessment of the Trump-Kim Singapore Summit
Jonah Raskin
Cannabis in California: a Report From Sacramento
Josh Hoxie
Just How Rich Are the Ultra Rich?
CJ Hopkins
Awaiting the Putin-Nazi Apocalypse
Mona Younis
We’re the Wealthiest Country on Earth, But Over 40 Percent of Us Live in or Near Poverty
Dean Baker
Not Everything Trump Says on Trade is Wrong
James Munson
Trading Places: the Other 1% and the .001% Who Won’t Save Them
Rivera Sun
Stop Crony Capitalism: Protect the Net!
Franklin Lamb
Hezbollah Claims a 20-Seat Parliamentary Majority
William Loren Katz
Oliver Law, the Lincoln Brigade’s Black Commander
Ralph Nader
The Constitution and the Lawmen are Coming for Trump—He Laughs!
Tom Clifford
Mexico ’70 Sets the Goal for World Cup 
David Swanson
What Else Canadians Should Be Sorry For — Besides Burning the White House
Andy Piascik
Jane LaTour: 50+ Years in the Labor Movement (And Still Going)
Jill Richardson
Pruitt’s Abuse of Our Environment is Far More Dangerous Than His Abuse of Taxpayer Money
Ebony Slaughter-Johnson
Pardons Aren’t Policy
Daniel Warner
To Russia With Love? In Praise of Trump the Includer
Raouf Halaby
Talking Heads A’Talking Nonsense
Julian Vigo
On the Smearing of Jordan Peterson: On Dialogue and Listening
Larry Everest
A Week of Rachel Maddow…or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Ronald Reagan
David Yearsley
Hereditary: Where Things are Not What They Sound Like
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail