Rushed living wage decision detracts from solution

Anna Johnson, Contributing Reporter

The following is an opinion article and opinion articles do not reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.

On Aug. 6, demonstrators gathered on the steps of City Hall in New Orleans to rally for an increase in the city’s minimum wage. That same day, City Councilman Jared Brossett is credited for leading his colleagues to the unanimous vote in favor of the living wage ordinance, raising the minimum wage to $10.55 an hour.

Admirable as the effort to relieve the condition imposed by the current minimum wage may be, requiring an increase of the minimum wage by almost half poses a strong risk of backfiring against the very people it is meant to help.

Attempts to increase the minimum wage have been made in other cities — New York most recently and prominently — but any trend showing long-term benefits from these policy battles has yet to surface.

Typical opposition to the idea of a living wage points out that workers are paid the amount that their work is worth. If it is not worth more than $7.50, then they will not be paid more. It is also nearly impossible, however, for an individual to maintain a lifestyle above the poverty level at this pay grade.

For Orleans Parish, a family of two working adults and three dependents would require the two workers each be paid $15.07 per hour. A family of one working adult, one unemployed adult and three dependents would require $26.25, according to a living wage calculator created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

As the #BlackWorkersMatter campaign has taken root in the larger living wage movement, race has become the undercurrent of discussions regarding the issue, raising its own host of issues.

Combining the living wage movement, unmistakably more moral than economical, with the one for racial justice, further fueled by #BlackLivesMatter, has mired the cause in such a political mess that the economics of the decisions seem to have been taken too lightly.

Considering the statistics presented by the MIT program and the swarm of social activity surrounding the proposition of New Orleans’ living wage, concern that the ordinance may have been passed for the wrong reasons and may not be the most effective way to address the city’s problems is relevant and should not be brushed aside.

While the demographics of the city’s population certainly play a role in the face of this campaign, viewing #BlackWorkersMatter through its self-affixed racial lens could be detrimental to the ultimate goal.

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