$6.75 No Es Suficiente !!/$6.75 is Not Enough!!: A living wage campaign to raise the minimum wage to 8.50 per hour is launched

POOR correspondent - Posted on 22 June 2010

Tuesday, July 15, 2003;

"For generations the owning class has been stealing from poor people, paying us wages that don’t afford rent, food, child care and healthcare..." A cool San Francisco breeze blew words around like leaves.

My pen danced frantically on my notepad to capture each one of Steve Williams’ revolutionary utterances to my question on why he, Executive Director of POWER ( People Organized to Win Employment Rights,) a grassroots organization dedicated to getting rights for low and no wage workers was one of the sponsors of an attempt to raise San Francisco’s living wage from $$6.75 to 8.50 per hour

"This is a first step to stop that theft", he continued slower in deference to my snail –like shorthand, "and that theft has been perpetrated by downtown corporate interests whereas this effort was spearheaded by working class people of color in communities such as The Bayview, The Mission and Chinatown." I wondered as he spoke, his eyes igniting unseen sparks on the warm pavement in front of City Hall, if my endless string of low and no-wage jobs would have been affected by this legislation…

"Hey you, yeah you, we’re going to have cut the workforce in half and cause you’re new here, it will most likely be you that receives the ax" I had only been toiling at the bed factory placing the coils inside the second layer of each bed-to-be for two short months, counting up my meager almost salary,(6.00 per hour) when they found a reason to fire me. At first they tried to say I wasn’t productive enough, then they changed that to the old workforce problem, but none of these were really the issue. The only females who got to keep their jobs were the ones who agreed to date the oil-haired boss. I refused – so me and my sad self were out.

I took it all very personally and felt so hopeless, that I could barely drag myself, to the welfare office the next day only to be met with a sixteen page "work assessment" test that asked me the same question about my career interests at least 50 times, after barely scanning my test my newly appointed worker gave me my career results.

"Ms. Garcia, you need to think about a more serious career than journalism – that’s just not a viable job for someone like you.." I wasn’t sure why she insisted on shouting each time she said the word "job" and "you" but it was probably aimed at making me feel horrible, which I already did, so at least she was successful in her chosen vocation.

"Hey you, yeah you" It was two weeks later and this time I supposed I was hard at work at a more "viable" job for someone like me, collecting trash from the sidewalks of Oakland for my welfare check, "you’re not moving fast enough, we have to get out of here in ten" my workfare site supervisor didn’t like me very much, looking at me with that – "why are you such a bum?"--each time he spoke to me, or rather, at me.

After several more months of humiliation at the hands of welfare bosses and minimum wage jobs – I became a member of POWER which was one of the interventions that changed my life – helping me to understand the disempowerment of the low wage worker by the Capitalist system and the urgent necessity to resist it through organizing and struggle. The education I received at POWER and other grassroots organizations even encouraged my pursuit to do the so-named "unviable" journalism career.

"$6.75 is Not Enough !" The slogan for the minimum wage initiative which has collected over 20,000 signatures since its kickoff campaign two weeks ago is sponsored by a broad worker and community alliance base including such diverse organizations as The Young Workers Project, Mission Agenda, Acorn and Chinese Progressive Association and is part of a national movement for higher wages which has led to the passing of similar legislations in cities from New Mexico to New York and effectively works to send the message to the big bosses and corporations, that if you work you shouldn’t be poor.

When employers are allowed to pay their workers less than a living wage, tax payers end up footing the bill, through food stamps, medi-cal and other emergency social services, and on the other hand, higher wages leads to lower absenteeism and higher productivity and when workers make more money they have more to spend on local small businesses.

"I know that 8.75 won’t be enough in San Francisco", James Collins, member of Mission Agenda was explaining his reasons for supporting the legislation in front of city Hall last week at the press conference announcing the submission of the signatures, "but it will help me with basic needs such as affording my rent and still being able to get a fast pass"

As Mr. Collins spoke, I remembered the last words uttered at me by my oily haired mattress boss before I left the building,
"You know kid, you were lucky, we paid you ten cents more than most of the workers, and that’s only cause we thought you were cute"

I said nothing at the time feeling truly powerless, now, as I left the living wage rally i yelled into the sky at his imaginary form: "$6.75 is NOT enough...so there!"


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