The LookOut Letters to the Editor
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The Living Wage: Knock Knock, Jaw-Dropping Story and Isn't It Interesting

October 31, 2002

Dear Editor,

I was working through lunch today, the Chamber was closed and the front door was locked. There was a knock at the door and when I opened it, a group of about 30 maids led by a young white man tried to storm in the door.

About ten of them made it in and the rest stayed in the doorway. I asked them to leave, and they refused. One of the women asked the white guy, in Spanish, to tell me why they were here -- I interrupted her in Spanish and asked her to tell me directly.

They wanted the Chamber to stop spending so much money on Measure JJ, the Minimum Wage Ordinance (for the record the Chamber is one of the smaller supporters of JJ and the unions are outspending the business community on this issue).

I explained that Measure JJ was bad for the economy and there would be fewer jobs available for them if it passed (even the City's economist, Robert Pollin confirms this in his study). They did not believe me.

They also did not believe me when I told them that the union hotels paid lower wages than non-union hotels. I kept telling them that I was uncomfortable with them being there while the Chamber was closed and I was alone in the office. After about ten minutes they left.

I wish I could speak to them again, in a non-threatening situation where I had time to prepare. Those middle aged Hispanic women don't understand the dangers ahead if Measure JJ passes and the minimum wage increases to $12.25 per hour. Only two of them spoke English (excluding the white guy herding them around).

I told them that when I started working I made less than $12.25 per hour (which is $25,480 per year) and I spoke two languages and had a master's degree. If businesses are forced to pay this salary, they will hire people with better skills, more education and who can speak English. These new employees will have the skills to get promoted and their salaries will rise accordingly.

Everyone should have the opportunity to have a job, and the relatively low unemployment rate in Santa Monica means that most people can. If Measure JJ passes, young and unskilled people will have a much harder time finding jobs, and the economy and diversity of our city will continue to decline.

Kathy Dodson
Executive Director
Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce

October 31, 2002

Dear Editor,

My jaw dropped when I read your story challenging the economic analysis of the living wage ("Restaurants Challenge City-funded Living Wage Study," October 23). However, in the last days of a campaign, it's not surprising that business interests would join with a researcher they have previously hired and attack the work of an independent expert.

How can anyone challenge the credentials of 120 economists from the most prestigious universities of the United States, Canada, England, and Mexico? These economists have endorsed the study commissioned by the City of Santa Monica and conducted by Professor Robert Pollin of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Dr. Richard Freeman of Harvard University and the London School of Economics, regarded as one of the top economists in the entire nation, praised the study during the peer-review process.

Dr. Pollin found that the Santa Monica living wage would significantly reduce poverty among thousands of low-wage workers in the local tourism industry. He found that the businesses covered by the ordinance would be easily able to pay the wage increase, and that costs of the city would be minimal. Dr.
Pollin recently updated his study, and confirmed his original findings.

These 120 learned economists know what every overworked, underpaid hotel maid knows: that hard work deserves a living wage. I hope that voters will do what's smart and do what's right, and vote yes on Measure JJ next week.

Rev. Sandie Richards

October 31, 2002

Dear Editor,

I see where SMMUSD School Board president Julia Brownley, Vice President, Maria Leon-Vasquez, and board member Brenda Gottfried signed a letter to the Lookout ("Educators Endorse JJ," October 30, 2002) promoting measure JJ, the "living wage."

Isn't it interesting that they demand the hotels pay their employees more money, but when it comes to the schools, they let the big hotels and restaurants off real easy through Measure EE, a paltry (relatively speaking) $300 school parcel tax increase.

Under EE, the big hotels and restaurants will pay the same parcel tax as every property owner in Santa Monica and Malibu including the lowest income condo owners or homeowners in the Pico neighborhood. Does this make sense?

Unfortunately, our education is once again shortchanged by those supposedly looking after our children's welfare, but who let the big money interests get away without paying their "fair share" of school taxes. But its "OK" as long as the luxury hotels pay their housekeepers and dishwashers a "living wage."

None of these people deserve to sit on our school board, including school board candidate, Oscar de la Torre, who also seems to be more concerned about hotel payrolls than income for the schools.

Bill Bauer

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