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While attempting to photograph my Local 250 co-unionists Sharon Martinez (holding ACORN sign), and Sheri Macias (right of Sharon), I captured the image of another row of Living Wage advocates. I will use this moment to state that Bill Powers, Congress of California Seniors and the Gray Panthers were here in support of Living Wage. Addressing the crowd before the City Council arrived, Bill Powers remarked re: Sacramento's attempt to be a "world class city"-- "A world class city means good services, good wages, and no working people in poverty!"

 

 
  Before the City Councilpersons arrived, Living Wage advocates such as long-time activist Ruth Holbrook (CLUW) reminded the crowd why they were here.

 

 
 

This is what it looks like when you're testifying at a City Council Hearing. The City Councilpersons and Mayor are seated behind a semicircular dais. Persons who testify on behalf of some issue stand before the Council at a podium.

City Councilman Dave Jones is the sponsor of the Living Wage Ordinance on the City Council. Opponents to the measure include city manager Mike Medina, who cited a study commissioned by the City Council to claim that the Living Wage Ordinance would be too costly for the City. A spokesperson for the (Economic Research Associates) study summarized it for the Council and responded to questions. Councilman Jones' pointed inquiries questioned the study's methodology. Should a study on the economic effects of a living wage be based on outdated Federal poverty guidelines or would it be more reliable to base the study on the actual cost of food, rent, etc., in Sacramento? Can a family of 3 live in Sacramento on wages of $8.60/hour (Fed poverty guideline) or is the Living Wage guideline of $10.00/hour (with health benefits) for a family of 4 more in line with Sacramento's current reality?

More than 20 persons from various organizations stood up to speak in behalf of the Living Wage ordinance. These included John Borsos (SEIU Local 250/Sacramento Living Wage Coalition), Chris Jones (ACORN), Carol Zabin (Center for Labor Research and Education, UCBerkeley), Deana Carrillo (CA Budget Project), Rabbi Reuven Taff , and Tim Frank of the Sierra Club.

Opponents of the Living Wage, (Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, etc.) then had their opportunity to speak, nearly all advocating greater use of government subsidies such as earned income tax credit rather than requiring businesses contracting with the city to pay a living wage. They recommended "direct connect" a term denoting connecting the working poor with various social services as opposed to paying them a wage they could live on without government subsidies. However, as Councilman Jones pointed out, given the present State budget deficit, what confidence do we have that the referred to government-sponsored social services will continue?

The persons pictured here testifying work (or worked) for businesses that contract with the city. If the Living Wage Ordinance passed, these businesses would have to pay a living wage. They would have to refrain from the anti-union activity that resulted in the termination of the former recyling company employee pictured on the far right. Union busting should not be subsidized by taxpayers!

 

 

 
  SEIU Local 1000 (state workers) out in full force. That is Jim Hard (Director of Civil Service Division), (directly facing camera, second row, center) and Cathy Hackett (Deputy Director, to our right of Jim). Justice Anumu an active SEIU Local 1000 steward is seated in front of Cathy.

 

   
 

During testimony by the ERA study's spokesperson, "ripple up" and "ripple across" effects were mentioned. These referred in part to costs that could be incurred by the city if a Living Wage Ordinance were enacted, such as the possibility that the City itself might be forced to pay a living wage to all of its employees, (would this be so bad?),and that lifting the wages of city workers currently earning less than $10/hour to the Living Wage standard would cause workers at the next-highest level to want more, rippling ever upward.

The undisputed effect cited by all studies of Living Wage ordinances is that when employees are paid a living wage, there is less job turnover, less reliance on government subsidies, and greater benefit to the surrounding community when employee spending power is increased. Also, as one advocate of the Living Wage suggested "Maybe we could afford to take our kids to a movie once a month!"

A Living Wage----why would we want working people to have less? What would be the "ripple up" effect of less poverty? It's now up to the City Council to decide.

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