Historically, I have been philosophically committed to the cause of labor.
Thus, on a visceral level, I would have been disposed — on a “knee-jerk” liberal basis — to support the $15 minimum-wage initiative now proposed for Davis. However, practical considerations impel me to not support it.
As a society, we have been subjected to a half-century of corporate abuse not just of labor, but of consumers and households. These abuses have now been conflated into the concept of inequality. And “living wage” initiatives are positioned as an appropriate backlash and corrective to the egregious levels of inequality that now obtain in America. It is a tempting proposition!
However, labor’s hands are not clean either.
In Davis, our major fiscal challenge derives from what some would classify as the abusive use of union power by some groups of city employees. At the statewide level, we have witnessed how the correctional officers union has helped to grow a gigantic prison-industrial complex that draws resources away from our schools and universities and has forced students and their families to assume unsustainable levels of debt.
The “living wage” at the level proposed for Davis could put local, family-owned businesses at risk and ironically, favor deep-pocket national chains. Let’s say Davis Ace had to increase its margins and prices to compensate for a 40 percent increase in its wage bill. A lot of consumers would choose to make purchases in Woodland, Vacaville or Sacramento at big boxes like Home Depot, Lowes or Target.
It could become another case of “destroying the village to save it,” as locally owned businesses yield to the deep-pocketed national chains in neighboring cities. Not good!
I am in the “no” column.