Raising wages: the right thing to do

A committee of the Los Angeles City Council has recommended that the city minimum wage be raised to $15 by 2020, with various increments in the intervening years [see Los Angeles Times, May 14, 2015, Sect. B, 1 and 5]. The push for this increase came from organized labor, especially parties representing Latino workers in restaurants, hotels, car washes, and sundry other businesses that focus on hiring immigrant labor.

Organized labor and its supporters want the raise to $15 to be adopted this year rather than over five years. Advocates hope that the full city council will do so, although it may simply adopt the committee’s recommendation. Employers have been adamant that such a raise, even over a five-year period, will hurt their businesses and force them to fire some of their employees. Of course, this is usually done as a scare tactic.

The fact of the matter is that working people, not just Latinos, deserve a higher minimum wage, and wages that go even higher, for their work. Without them businesses could not exist. They do the hard work that employers don’t, and yet the bosses always obtain the larger monetary returns and parcel out the least amount of wages they can get away with. Employers obtain their profits at the expense of their workers. What they pay their workers in relation to what they charge for their products or services is the basis for their profits, even taking taxes into consideration.

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In fact, for them taxes are a joke; they pay their taxes by taking them out of their employees’ wages and by increasing their sales prices to consumers. The struggle in Los Angeles, with its thousands of low-wage Latino workers, is a microcosm of the rest of the country where other struggles to increase local and state minimum wages are being fought, and that increasingly involves Latino immigrant workers. Despite the lingering stereotype of the lazy, passive Mexican, for example, the fact is that Mexican and other Latino workers, including both immigrants and U.S.-born, have worked hard for decades — as they still do — to contribute to the wealth of this country, even though they do not reap a fair return on their labor. This only further brings attention to the income and wealth gap in the United States that even Republican politicians are at least verbally addressing.

We cannot continue with this class divide of the extreme rich, a shrinking middle class, and a struggling poor and mainly immigrant working class. It is not only economically and politically right to increase the minimum wage and institute other measures to reduce the disparity of wealth in the country, but it is also the moral, right thing to do. We are or should be our brothers and sisters’ keepers and we must work to assure a decent life for all Americans, including immigrants.


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