Saturday, September 27, 2003

The Living Wage Comes To Memphis

There's been a person posting messages about various causes of the far Left to the Memphis and Tennessee newgroups. More on that person later. One of those posts is about the living wage:
This grassroots movement has been started by If you have an hour to spare please come by and show your support.

Living Wage Press Conference Tuesday Sept 23rd 2:00 1st Congo
Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride Sunday Sept 28th 3:00 NCRM

Living Wage Press Conference
Tuesday the 23rd at 2:00 p.m. on the front steps of First Congregational Church, 1000 S. Cooper (near the intersection of Cooper and Young.) Please come and bring others with you as well! We're doing it to give information but also to show our strength by having 50 to 75 people standing for a living wage.

The conference will release which city council officials support a living wage for city workers ( and people who work for firms that do city work). The language is still being crafted, but the ordinance will require all city workers, subcontractors and companies that receive tax abatements or freezes to pay at least $10.00 with benefits or $12.00 an hour without benefits.

Come out and show your support for livable wages for all.
Well, not all, of course, just those connected to City and County government. Mandating living wage in exchange for tax freezes means no business comes to Memphis. South Knox Bubba has documented this campaign's action in Knoxville over at his blog here, as has Say Uncle here, here and here. They aren't a "grass-roots" organisation in the sense they want you to believe, but are an import of a national and international movement. They appear to be making their start in Memphis.

Note too, We're doing it to give information but also to show our strength by having 50 to 75 people standing for a living wage. That's not entirely honest. They want a crowd for the cameras, to make their cause seem more popular than it may really be.

I've blogged on the Midsouth Peace and Justice Center before. They are anti-war, anti-American, anti-capitalist Leftists of the "no blood for ooooooiiiiiiillllll" stripe. During the run-up to the Iraqi War, they managed to wangle television and newspaper time with bogus anti-war demonstrations, mostly recruited from the ranks of the First Congo (as it's known here in Midtown) Church. I've Googled their members and Board of Directors to interesting result. They are small and fringe, but moderately adept at working the media to inflate their image.

I oppose the living wage, obviously. When you mandate a minimum wage that is pretty far above the community's basic level, you encourage jobs to go elsewhere. In the global 21st century, that has meant Mexican maquiladoras, China, and now even outsourcing of computer-related jobs to India. Business always seeks to lower costs; wages are the single biggest cost of doing business. Well-meaning socialism like this only hurts those it purports to help. It comes from a romantic and elitist view of people heavily weighted by emotionalism and notably lacking in rational thinking.

The person who posted the Usenet message is Kilroy238. I Googled and Yahoo'd this person. He is, apparently, William (Bill) Benson of the Overton Square area in Midtown Memphis, only a quarter mile or so from where I live. Here is a photo of him. He seems to enjoy playing Red Faction (har har har) and is apparently into the blinking lights-pink noise Mind-Machine technology thing. I've found reviews he's written on a local Memphis site and even at Amazon! Here's his review of the Robert Redford film Brubaker:
A based on a true story.One man tries to make a difference to restore the humanity to the lifes of 1500 hundred men. Only to be fought every step of the way. If you ever forget why to hate republicans and their love of money and distain for their fellow man watch this movie.
Decorum prevents me from mentioning the other review. Oh! And he's a Dennis Kucinich supporter.

Yeah, a great bunch here.

**UPDATE** Whoa! That was quick. Since I wrote the above earlier today, I've gone to the Commercial Appeal website and discovered three stories about action on the living wage by City Councillors.

On Friday, there was an article about the Industrial Development Board's approval of a range of requests. Included in the article was a mention that two City Council members, Jack Sammons and Rickey Peete, who serve on the IDB, are setting up a committee to propose just such a living wage ordinance for Memphis. They have 60 days to report back. Hilarious quote, from Sammons,"
"It's real tough for me to vote for something that will put someone to work for $8 an hour."
As opposed to the someone not working at all? Jeez....

Today, there's a follow-up story that both adds confusion and detail to the previous article. The same author as the above, David Flaum, writes:
The suggestion to create a wage floor was floated Thursday by Memphis City Councilmen Rickey Peete and Jack Sammons, who were present when the IDB evaluation committee met to review applications.

The wage floor idea was prompted by a tax freeze request from Ferco Color, which plans to create 61 jobs at an average annual pay of $16,120. That's an average of about $8.20 an hour plus benefits.....

Memphis and Shelby County Economic Development Department officials will offer a wage floor proposal for the committee to act on within 60 days.
Apparently, the details of the living wage law were farmed out to a government agency, but will still appear within the sixty day window. Don't you just love the vast inter-locking network of agencies that watch over us and our well-being?

While doing all the above research, I stumbled across a Commercial Appeal article from September 1st that shows how free trade has cost Memphis roughly 10,000 jobs. It then goes on to a very dense, numbers-rich study trying to support the living wage, even including a University of Memphis professor's study of what's required for a "living wage" in the city. Naturally, the advocates of the living wage admit that their number is more than what's minimally required because "we need to achieve a dignified self-sufficiency." Again, not numbers, but feel-goodness prevails.

Howler quote comes from Rev. Rebekah Jordan:
"If you're working full time, it's your employer's responsibility to see that you can meet your basic needs."
That's right, Mr. and Ms. Business Owner, it's your responsibility to provide for housing, transportation, food, medical, child care, education, and whatever else these folks can think up that is a "basic" necessity of life. If that means we pay $50,000 for a Ford Focus, $12.00 for a Big Mac or $50 for new Hanes underwear, well you're a mean, evil, greedy, hater for nay-saying them.

Some good critiques of the article came in the form of letters to the editor in a later edition.

You can learn more about the Living Wage movement's history, with an emphasis on the minority aspects, here, including the involvement of a prominent Memphian, Bill Lucy.

Then, there's this Faith & Values editorial from David Waters, in his usual moralising lecture mode. He quotes from a couple of folks (see the article) from "action committes" with the usual-sounding do-good names, linked in an incestuous network that inflates their numbers and reach, to hector us into feeling guilty for our successes and therefore remiss in not seeing that we have government assuage that guilt for us.

Googling around, we learn that the Living Wage Coalition is affliliated with the MidSouth Peace and Justice Center! How about that?

As is the Mid-South Interfaith Network for Economic Justice, and its director, Rev. Rebekah Jordan, mentioned above. Googling those two provided more links than I can follow up here. Click on just the first page to see the way that these groups all interlink, making them seem larger, more supported and more influential than they truly are. For example, the MSINEJ is routinely labelled "a group of area congregations." But we find out that this group numbers only twelve -- which could mean only a few hundred congregants, and even then we don't know how many of them support the MSINEJ. Amazing stuff.

I will quickly note, though, that they are affiliated with the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride, which hopes to tour the South and Southwest to bring attention to the plight of illegal workers. Already, they are running into trouble by having illegals on the bus with them.

Yeah, folks enter the country illegally because the crappy jobs we don't want to do, at wages no one would accept, are there for them. Now, well-intended idiots want to raise the wages, meaning even more illegals will be motivated to join them! And it's very, very bigoted and hateful to want to exclude them, to keep them in their own countries, because we're so rich and all, with lots to share. Not that you're going to share it; the government will take it from you to share. Nor can we go to their countries to tell them how to run things better -- and heaven forbid we invade -- because we are evil and hateful capitalists. Capitalists may create lots of money and wealth, but it's bad and we must give it away. It's a good thing.

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