Just a Living Wage


This is another report on what I refer to as “The Shadow News” This is the news overshadowed by the media for more titillated events or yada yada by our mundane politicians. If you are not yet a low wage earner an accident, health crisis, or your job exported overseas could make you a member. The enemy of our democracy is inequality which is growing and our battling leaders show no signs of solving these problems of today.

                                      Illustrations: ******

 The testimony of Jamie Dimon by the Banking Committee was nauseating. Bill Moyers called this Jamie Dimon’s Family Reunion with the Banking Committee. J P Morgan was one of the banks bailed out by the Bush administration. He wasn’t interrogated harshly about the 4 to 6 billion dollar plus error he made, but was treated with kid gloves. I thought members of both parties were going to go down and hug him as members and staffers knew they could drop what they’re doing and go to work for a lobby firm and make fantastic money, so want to please these companies. Besides, J P Morgan contributes generously to both parties. 

Adriana Vasquez, a 37-year-old janitor and mother of three, traveled from Houston to Washington, D.C., last week to see JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon testify before a House committee. When the hearing adjourned, she asked Dimon about his money and those who work for him.

She stood before Dimon and asked: Despite making billions last year, why do you deny the people cleaning your building a living wage. Vasquez and over 3000 of her colleagues in Huston are asking for building owners for a raise to $10 an hour over the next three years.  

 Vasquez’s question went unanswered. She was treated in the manner that many working people are when they approach a member of the upper class. Dimon’s staffers shielded him to enable the executive to get away.

 The janitors are currently paid an hourly wage of $8.35 and earn an average of $8,684 annually, despite cleaning the offices of some of the largest and most powerful corporations in the world—Chevron, ExxonMobil, Wells Fargo, Shell, JPMorgan Chase and others in the “City of Millionaires.” The cleaning contractors have countered with an offer of a $0.50 pay raise phased in over five years.

 Vasquez says she doesn’t think people realize just how hard their work is. She cleans twenty-four bathrooms on eleven floors, from 5:30 to 11:30 pm, five evenings a week. She describes the work this way: before clocking in, she makes sure her cart is stocked with chemicals and supplies. After clocking in, she literally runs up to the floor if the tenants aren’t around.

It’s like a marathon, and there just isn’t enough time,” she says. “Once I go in I have only five hours to clean eleven floors of bathrooms. That’s one male and one female bathroom on each floor, four toilets in each bathroom, and then two private bathrooms.”

This is just one example of the millions of low paid workers not counted as unemployed. Included in this ignored class of Americans are hotel housekeepers, domestic help, farm workers etc. These people aren’t jealous of the wealthy or against the super rich having mansions, yachts or other luxuries; they just want a livable wage.

  An article by Kathy Pollitt, Wage Theft: A Crime Without Punishment, tells the story of a hotel housekeeper and her tip stealing boss because it brings together the many features of wage theft. “ She was an undocumented Mexican immigrant with four kids and worked in a brand-named hotel in Los Angeles and worked more than forty hours a week, but was paid for only forty hours—minimum wage. She said her supervisor would go into the rooms and take the tips before she came to clean. Many of them are paid as little as they can and keeps a nice chunk for themselves. If they complain they are fired and can’t do anything about it as they appear to be Illegal’s or are undocumented and need the job. Being undocumented doesn’t excuse this as wage theft as is a ruthless treatment of anyone. We must remember that undocumented people are not bank robbers or murderers, but humans looking for a better life.

 I can hear the comments now that some workers are illegal, but all Latinos are questioned and frightened of their jobs whether legal or undocumented. Many of these workers are citizens and still treated the same. What the employers are doing is also against the law, besides being inhumane. Most employers are aware of the law but know that there is no enforcement of the laws so ignore them.

 My ramblings only touch on this subject as if explored extensively we would find in many areas we resemble the Asian working class. With the demise of organized labor the number of low wage workers will increase. In the last ten plus years wages have remained stagnant while the cost of living has soared.

 These poor people in the shadow aren’t even striving for the American dream of owning a home, a car, health care and sending their children to college; all they want is a living wage. 

Yiddish Proverbs:  For your children’s sake you would tear the world apart! 

 Bad fortune, where goest thou? To the poor man!


3 responses to “Just a Living Wage

  1. Luanne Clague

    Interesting article, not one that would be published on the front page. Not enough intrigue or view of the rich persons life. These people can become us quickly with a small turn of events. Maybe that is one reason we don’t want to acknowledge their struggles, because they could be ours one day.

  2. I read both articles. The one on health care and this one one wages. I have long thought that our wage system needs a change. How could someone who works hard for 40 hours a week not make enough to cover basic needs? We either need to make a change in making things more affordable or raise the wage. However I don’t agree that everyone should be automatically given healthcare or be made to buy it.

  3. I read that Massachusetts has had a health care program nearly identical to to the proposed Affordable Health Care program passed by congress. The plan is said to remain exceptionally popular among state residents. Studies repeatedly confirm that 67-84% of Massachusetts residents are happy with the program in practice for 5 years.

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