As expected, the Irvine City Council’s Republican majority repealed the City’s nation-leading and longstanding Living Wage ordinance at Tuesday’s meeting. Speaker after speaker, including two pastors, begged the council to keep the existing policy in place to no avail. The Living Wage ordinance was repealed on a straight party line vote 3-1 (with Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Lalloway being absent). Not a single speaker spoke in favor of repealing the ordinance. Not one.
No one was asking for an increase in the hourly rate for the Living Wage ordinance; speakers asked to keep the program as it even though an increase is long overdue. The council majority basically said we want the lowest bidder who pays employees the least. It’s economic racism to repeal a program that’s worked and has had no affect on taxpayers.
At one point, council member Beth Krom asked for a second on an alternate motion to include all of the city’s contracts under the Living Wage ordinance or to increase the hourly rate to something the represents an actual living wage for the poorest workers in Orange County. Council member Christina Shea, misunderstanding the tone of speakers, said the council wasn’t seeking to repeal the Minimum wage law (which no one contested) and admonished those who felt her championing the repeal was “un-Christian” as did council member Lynn Schott. Sorry ladies, it most certainly is especially when two pastors show up and say so.
The Pastors were the Rev. Paige Eaves, a senior pastor of United Methodist Church in Irvine and Dr. Paul Tellstrom, the senior pastor of the Irvine United Congregational Church. I received a message from Pastor Tellstrom who offered this reaction to this story: “We worked together to appeal to these city officials claims to be upright Christians, a focus of the evening, and they ended up giving faith testimonies just before voting to take money away from the poor. It’s as if they believe that Jesus loves the poor so much that they’re supposed to create more of them to love.”
Schott referenced her own Christian faith with longstanding Republican talking points that increasing hourly wages for the poorest workers results in higher unemployment for this group. And Schott referenced Seattle as being negatively impacted by raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Conservative pundits citing a Seattle Magazine saying the new wage increase has resulted in a smattering of Seattle restaurant closures has been met with a collective “what?” from said owners. If anything, the Seattle restaurant market is booming.
Form a story in ThinkProgress:
“Renee Erickson told the Seattle Times when fact-checkers emailed to confirm the Seattle Magazine story. “No, that’s not why I’m closing Boat Street.” Erickson’s three other restaurants remain open, and two brand new ones are in the works in Seattle. “Opening more businesses would not be smart if I felt it was going to hinder my success,” said Erickson, who described herself as “totally on board with the $15 min.”
Poncharee Koungpunchart and Wiley Frank of Little Uncle “were never interviewed for these articles,” they told the paper. They are closing one of their two locations, “but pre-emptively closing a restaurant seven years before the full effect of the law takes place seems preposterous to us.” Frank reportedly asked one conservative writer who had picked up the wage-menace red herring to “not make assumptions about our business to promote your political values.”
The owner of Shanik told the Times that closing has “nothing to do with wages,” and Grub’s owner explained that they’re being bought out and rebranded by new ownership because the breakfast and sandwich bistro has been “a huge success.”
And Schott’s wrong about increases in unemployment from minimum wage workers too. An increase of the minimum wage to $10.10 would benefit 95 percent of all workers positively with minimal job loss according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
From the report:
Increasing the minimum wage would have two principal effects on low-wage workers. Most of them would receive higher pay that would increase their family’s income, and some of those families would see their income rise above the federal poverty threshold. But some jobs for low-wage workers would probably be eliminated, the income of most workers who became jobless would fall substantially, and the share of low-wage workers who were employed would probably fall slightly.
For this report, CBO examined the effects on employment and family income of two options for increasing the federal minimum wage:
- A “$10.10 option” would increase the federal minimum wage from its current rate of $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour in three steps—in 2014, 2015, and 2016. After reaching $10.10 in 2016, the minimum wage would be adjusted annually for inflation as measured by the consumer price index.
- A “$9.00 option” would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $9.00 per hour in two steps—in 2015 and 2016. After reaching $9.00 in 2016, the minimum wage would not be subsequently adjusted for inflation.
Many more low-wage workers would see an increase in their earnings. Of those workers who will earn up to $10.10 under current law, most—about 16.5 million, according to CBO’s estimates—would have higher earnings during an average week in the second half of 2016 if the $10.10 option was implemented. Some of the people earning slightly more than $10.10 would also have higher earnings under that option, for reasons discussed below. Further, a few higher-wage workers would owe their jobs and increased earnings to the heightened demand for goods and services that would result from the minimum-wage increase.
The increased earnings for low-wage workers resulting from the higher minimum wage would total $31 billion, by CBO’s estimate. However, those earnings would not go only to low-income families, because many low-wage workers are not members of low-income families. Just 19 percent of the $31 billion would accrue to families with earnings below the poverty threshold, whereas 29 percent would accrue to families earning more than three times the poverty threshold, CBO estimates.
Keeping poor workers poor is about as un-Christian as it gets; the two pastors who spoke (I was unable to catch their names, so if readers could help in the comments, it’s appreciated) noted the many Bible references that deal with the need to help the poor. That’s not what this council did.
We’ll remind readers Dr. Choi runs a tutoring school. Lynn Schott has a business that helps home school educations with Judeo/Christian (read Conservative) values. Christina Shea is a realtor and lobbyist/government relations professional (her website claims Public Relations experience which made me laugh). Jeff Lalloway is a divorce attorney. If you don’t like what this council did, don’t patronize their businesses. Let the invisible hand of the free market impact their bottom lines.
I really do hope Lynn Schott reconsiders and runs for Congress in CD-46 just to see how she defends the notion of scaling back pay for the working poor.