$3.65/hr in 1970 = $14.60 in 2012, but we’ll Settle for $7.75

RI Future reports that the General Assembly voted to increase the minimum wage.

While it’s far short of a living wage– taking into account the high cost of housing just as an example, it’s a good move. For all you out there who sweated at a press all summer for $3.65/hr and met people who worked in the factory for decades– remember that now, as then, some of the most essential work is underpaid. Rhode Island’s industry has moved to China, but we still need workers. You can’t outsource elder care.

If you buy into the myth that ‘job creators’ are financiers and stock traders, you will gripe about the lavish $0.35/hr raise for people doing the toughest jobs. If you value an economy that attracts good workers to the state you will see this as a baby step in the right direction.

Class Warfare

The poor lost.

I have five minutes before I have to get to work. Thinking about how the NYT gave Katie Roiphe space to conflate Herman Cain’s sexual harassment trouble with harmless flirtation– and why can’t those office drones take a compliment?

I’ve also seen interviews with some of Cain’s past executives and business associates, and he seems to have been seen favorably by his peers.

But missing from the story are the invisible people– the low-wage workers who made the pizzas at Godfathers. Cain opposed the minimum wage and put a lot of them out of their jobs in cost-cutting. This may be good business, but politics is different. You can’t fire Alabama and give Utah a raise.

Will anyone bother to ask the workers what things were like when Herman Cain was boss?

Fight Club for Bankers–As If

The Huffington Post puts out a lot of strange but true news. Sometimes it puffs up the strange. Maybe they need a ‘yellow press’ box for the entertaining but unsubstantial stories they run.

Like this one, claiming a rising trend in Wall Street bankers joining ‘Fight Clubs’.

Yeah, as if. I’m not knocking Martial Arts, which most of the bankers seem to be taking classes in. I attended Dojos on and off for twenty years, due to being scared. Martial Arts enriched my life in ways that still bless me today, couch potato that I am. I recommend that course of study to anyone. Find a good Sensei.

But, you know, Martial Arts with a good Sensei is one of the safest ways to spend your time. Really.

My un-expert opinion, based on when I worked in an emergency room, is that Basketball is the most dangerous sport. Lots of sprained ankles and black eyes. I did see a guy whacked with nunchuks, and you don’t want to be within range of that. But Football and Martial Arts did not often come our way. Maybe the Sensei did Chinese medicine in the Dojo. Whatever.

I can tell you about dangerous though.

When I worked in a nursing home on the evening shift, 3pm-11:30pm (no free lunch), I was trying to cover the floor, and asked ‘Beatrice’ a nurses aide, if she could stay a few minutes extra. She told me she had to catch the last bus. She had to be at the stop on North Main Street before midnight to get to Manton where she lived. I offered her a ride home, but she said she’d be fine. She just smiled. I knew she had survived a civil war in her country of birth. She’s one of Rhode Island’s immigrants.

Months later I was talking with her again. Beatrice had taken classes, at her own expense, to get certified as a med-tech. She had a part-time job at a facility that paid her for an hour in the morning to do the med pass. She had to take a bus across town,–all that time and money for one hour’s wage. I told her that I thought it was unreasonable, but she said she wanted a chance to work as a med-tech and she needed the money.

I eventually left that nursing home job, and the next Fall I was friendly with a political campaign. I got an email that they were having a fundraiser at a posh restaurant. Partaayyy! Free food! It was on North Main St., a convenient bus stop from my house. I didn’t think too much about what I was wearing, I just hopped on the bus and went out for a social time.

It was panic time! I walked into that restaurant and knew right away I was out of my league. Everyone was elegant and Old New England and I was fat, and wearing off-brand jeans and a big shirt. I wanted to turn around and leave, but there was a name-tag line at the entrance, and I knew the candidate, and people were waving me through. To flee would have been bad form. I, in my person was bad form. This is why they serve drinks at these functions. A wise custom.

What could I do? I drifted around, people were so nice. Kind of like I was one of something they wanted to be nice to. You know, middle-class means never being sure which side you come down on. But I’ll take manners over boorishness any day. Better to talk than to shout. You might actually have a conversation.

A nice glass of wine and a few snacks later, I found myself taking to a mildly flirtatious older gentleman. It was sweet he took an interest, and I made a point of being pleasant and respectful to his wife when she came over to check out the situation.

I was eating Thai chicken-on-a-stick when I looked out the window and saw Beatrice walking by. I wanted to run out and say, “Beatrice, free food here! It’s the good stuff!”

But she walked by fast, probably hoping to make the bus tunnel in time to catch the next.

Is there a lower, middle and upper to American life? Or are we all human resources? Applied where needed and discarded when not?

Is a bonded and insured gymnasium a dangerous place to be? I’ll take my chances, should I ever move in those circles.

All you Wall Street bankers, if you want to face the terror, picture yourself on Manton at 5:45am, waiting for the downtown bus. Picture yourself at work, asking this question– “Do you want fries with that?”