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2000 Reasons To Support Measure JJ, The Living Wage

By Father Mike Gutierrez

If you're still undecided about Measure JJ, the living wage law, consider the story of Flora Andrade, recently profiled in the Los Angeles Times:

Flora is a 41-year-old single mother who works full time at the DoubleTree Guest Suites as a housekeeper. The DoubleTree is a luxury hotel managed by one of the largest hospitality businesses in the country, Hilton Corp. Nevertheless, Flora earns so little that she must live in government-subsidized housing. The DoubleTree does not provide health benefits, and she can't afford to buy insurance, so she and her three children-one of whom has a heart condition--go without.

Is this the American dream?

As Tuesday's election draws near, Santa Monica voters must answer a fundamental question: Should people who work full time earn enough to support their families in dignity and stay off taxpayer-funded anti-poverty programs?

That's the essence of Measure JJ. It's a simple idea that reflects a core American value: work hard and you'll create a better life for you and your family.

Without Measure JJ, a better life will remain out of reach for most of the 2,000 men and women who will be covered by the living wage law. Despite working hard and playing by the rules, they are on the short end of the American dream.

Troubled by this inequity, hundreds of local and national leaders have endorsed Measure JJ. They range across the spectrum, from educators to religious and civil rights leaders to elected officials. Here are a few of their names:

· Congressman Henry Waxman
· State Senator Sheila Kuehl
· Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante
· California Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres
· Assembly Education Chair Jackie Goldberg
· Assemblywoman Fran Pavley
· Santa Monica Malibu Unified School Board President Julia Brownley
· Santa Monica College Board of Trustees Chair Patrick Nichelson
· Santa Monica Mayor Mike Feinstein
· Former Santa Monica Mayor Paul Rosenstein
· Former Santa Monica Mayor Jim Conn
· Southern California Board of Rabbis President Steven Carr Reuben
· Santa Monica Bay Interfaith Council President Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels
· Los Angeles Roman Catholic Archdiocese Bishop Gabino Zavala
· Los Angeles Episcopal Diocese Bishop Jon J. Bruno
· United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta
· USC law professor Erwin Chemerinsky
· Author Barbara Ehrenreich ("Nickel and Dimed")

Measure JJ has also won the backing of 120 economists from universities across the country. They reviewed the economic studies and concluded that Measure JJ would achieve its goal of helping working people while protecting Santa Monica's economy.

These endorsements are important, showing the tremendous breadth of support for Measure JJ from all sectors of our community.

Equally important is to understand who's behind the campaign against Measure JJ. Since January 2000, the hotel industry has spent more than $2 million to stop the living wage. All the mailers, ads and opinion pieces opposing Measure JJ are designed to do one thing: make sure that Santa Monica's luxury hotels don't have to pay their workers a living wage.

But when it comes right down to it, Measure JJ is about people like Flora Andrade. If you were to talk to Santa Monica hotel workers, you would hear Flora' story repeated over and over. You would find out that Maria Mena, who has worked as a housekeeper at the Four Points Sheraton Hotel for 18 years, earns $8.25 an hour, with no benefits, no sick leave and no vacation. You would learn that her co-worker Rina Cortez, who has been at the Four Points for 12 years, makes the same wage with the same lack of benefits.

You may never meet Flora, Maria or Rina, but on Election Day, you have a chance to change their lives for the better. It's a rare opportunity. Please join me in supporting Measure JJ.

Father Mike Gutierrez is the pastor at St. Anne's Catholic Church

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