Thursday, May 15, 2014

MayDay: Warning...Opinion Included

This morning I got a message that there was going to be a stop in Greensboro on the 'Give America a Raise' Bus Tour in support of raising the minimum wage. I had just finished reading about the filibuster that prevented the vote that would have raised it from $7.25 to $10.10 - a vote that would have been in its favor. I've heard all the arguments about why this would be bad...but frankly, I don't buy them. In any case, I thought it might be a good photo opportunity and so I dragged my comfortably resting husband into the car and across town. 

I was entertained/irritated to see that there is a billboard truck that is apparently following the Give America a Raise Bus around the country. I won't reiterate its rhetoric because it isn't worth validating, but I did wonder how much the driver of the billboard truck was being paid. The event this morning was attended by a number of religious leaders from a wide variety of faiths. There were also some workers there who spoke about trying to live life on minimum wage as well as a speaker from Americans United for Change. A bishop suggested that all the millionaires in the US be asked to spend some time living on $7.25 an hour and see just how long it was before the legislation passed. Everyone seemed to agree that even $10.10 wasn't going to be enough but at least it was a step. 

Shalief Johnson, Worker
I spoke to one of the leaders of the faith-based component of the rally, Reverend Hamlin  from the Ecumenical Poverty Initiative and she asked if I could be convinced to travel to Raleigh that afternoon to photograph the rally there. Pepe couldn't come with me to that one because, legally, someone has to pick up our children at their after school care or they (the after school care) get very cranky. 

When I arrived in Raleigh it looked like it might start to rain but the air was refreshing and the wind was fabulous, so it felt good to be there. It had been hot in Greensboro and I had lathered up with sunscreen so as to not burst into flames during the Raleigh event, but it turned out to not be necessary. I felt that my being engulfed in flames might distract from the event's core message.

The Raleigh event was also attended by religious leaders who spoke eloquently and passionately about the human rights issues at stake. The anti billboard truck was there and the driver had pulled it up to park behind the speakers, thinking he would then be in all of the video coverage. The guy who drives the Give America a Raise Bus though seems to be part of his vehicle and he lithely scooted it just between the billboard truck and the speakers, providing a beautiful, vivid back drop.

Religious Leaders in Greensboro Supporting $10.10
This actually turned out to be a paying gig, which is pretty exciting and I'm working on the photos right now, but I wanted to write about them on May 1st. Mayday - and it is needed. I make a lot more than minimum wage (for now) but it still keeps me on my toes. I can't imagine working and still being desperately poor. My feeling has been that if businesses can't afford to pay a decent wage, then they shouldn't hire people. Go out of business if you can't do it, that's the deal. If we are going to plunge people into debt to pay for school then it seems bizarre that we are also willing to suppress their wages to assist business. At what point do PEOPLE get to be in the position of first priority? 

While I'm on this - education should be free, then students could be students and they wouldn't have to work and they wouldn't compete with people who need jobs thus driving down the wages and fracturing the worker's movement. As for this idea that jobs will be lost, again, it's the ones that we can stand to lose that will go and the rest we just might have to pay what it's worth for. I guess we could get up to 100% employment if the wage were $0.10 an hour but how is that kind of employment helpful? It's just a meaningless number. I want to know about the percentages of employment that pays a living wage, when will we get those numbers down?

Finally, I always feel like the anti-minimum wage argument is a bit like being in an abusive relationship. I spent six years with a man who told me that he treated me badly for my own good, to help me better myself; that if I didn't like it, he could always find someone else younger (and cheaper) who would; that no one else would take me and I'd be alone for the rest of my life. I believed him for a long time but you know what? It turns out he was a filthy liar. He just wanted everything for himself and if it meant he had to build his joy on the destruction of mine, then so be it. And when I left, it turned out that the world didn't collapse, I didn't spend the rest of my life alone, and I didn't need him at all. 

So, enough with the threats of pending impoverishment. If we don't pay a living wage, we've got all the impoverishment we can handle. I say: It's time to leave the bastards who tell you that you aren't worth it and realize that you are beautiful and valuable and powerful. 

It's not going to be easy...but it's definitely going to be worth it.