A Living Wage – A Constitutional Right

“When he felt the time was ripe, President Roosevelt asked Secretary of Labor Perkins, ‘What happened to that nice unconstitutional bill you had tucked away?” dol.gov  And so, continued a battle for the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.

During a fireside chat the night before signing President Roosevelt warned; “Do not let any calamity-howling executive with an income of $1,000 a day …tell you…that a wage of $11 a week is going to have a disastrous effect on all American industry.” (Supra)

I will not here review the entire history of the law regarding a minimum wage but would like to point to a few probative issues as discussed from the Bench. http://www.oyez.org/cases/1901-1939/1936/1936_293.

1: An objection to a minimum wage as in conflict with the liberty to contract was addressed. “Deprivation of liberty to contract is forbidden by the Constitution if without due process of law, but restraint or regulation of this liberty, if reasonable in relation to its subject and if adopted for the protection of the community against evils menacing the health, safety, morals and welfare of the people, is due process. P. 300 U. S. 391.(emphasis added)

2: Although some remarks are directed to the case itself which involved a minimum wage for women they are probative in our discussion; “This exploitation and denial of a living wage is not only detrimental to the health and wellbeing of the women affected, but casts a direct burden for their support upon the community. Pp. 300 U. S. 394, 300 U. S. 398, et seq.”

It is important to note that the above case reviewed a challenge to a Washington state law that required in part, “If after investigation the commission found that in any occupation, trade, or industry the wages paid to women were ‘inadequate to supply them necessary cost of living and to maintain the workers in health,…” (http://dspace.mit.edu/bitstream/handle/1721.1/76255/17-01j-spring-006/contents/readings/westcoast.pdf (emphasis added))

This review is important because although the laws challenged and reviewed by the Supreme Court had to do with a minimum wage and whether or not it was permitted under the Constitution, the emphasis was not on the amount of the wage itself but rather if it were reasonable for the State to require a minimum wage to, as determined, avert the “exploitation and denial of the living wage”. As the Court explained: “This exploitation and denial of a living wage is not only detrimental to the health and wellbeing of the … affected, but casts a direct burden for their support upon the community.” The court seem to be echoing the Washington state law itself, ‘inadequate to supply them necessary cost of living and to maintain the workers in health…” All of which undeniably is viewing a minimum wage as a living wage necessary for the cost of living and to maintain a worker in health.

Here’s the Federal minimum wage number:

Jul 24, 2009 $7.25 for all covered, nonexempt workers


A question: Where is it in the United States of America that a worker, being paid a federal minimum wage, earns enough for the necessary cost of living and the maintenance of their health? If the answer to this question is not, everywhere in the United States then the question arises as to whether the Federal minimum wage statute is constitutional.

It is a rather simplistic notion to suggest that all workers in the United States should be paid a minimum of $15, $10 or $7 an hour. The only minimum to consider is a wage that would supply the necessary cost of living, health and well-being of the worker, a living wage. In addition, a major consideration when arriving at a minimum wage should also include whether that wage would alleviate any unnecessary support burden to the community.

Finally, the Constitution pens truths that are self-evident including the unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, additionally, formed a union to promote the general welfare. This begs the question: Are these Constitutional clauses satisfied if it is permitted under law that a worker be paid less than a living wage?

“No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country.”    President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1933


A Living Wage, a Solo Flight a Shared Meaning

Those of us that have taken that first solo flight brag how little stain was left in the seat. It is an experience that causes one to pay attention. For some of us it may be as dramatic as cutting the proverbial umbilical cord. Others take it in stride as one more time they become aware that they are in charge of their circumstance. However they sense the experience, the realization that they are flying is nonetheless awesome.

From that first solo flight many go on to experiences in jet planes, large transports or rockets to outer space. Each step can be viewed as the experience of an explorer. We are all explorers. It seems our destiny from our first effort.

No, I do not remember the first time I saw a face, touched another, heard a voice, felt a caress or tasted my mother’s milk but I do remember clearly the first time I drove a car, my first solo flight, my first solo sail in the ocean, and the first time I realized I was under the water and breathing through a scuba apparatus. I reached out to explore those familiar environments because as a man once said ‘they were there’. But it was more than that on a personal level. For me I was continuing my education, expanding my universe, testing the limit of my resolve.

My motivation to explore is not different than that of the history of our society. History suggests we are explorers it also suggest that we are warriors. Still, there does not appear a natural motivation to war as there is to explore. Wars are fought to limit views of others, exploration expands our view. People war when they are hungry, exploration finds new answers to food production. Humans also fight wars to advance procreation of a race, creed, or limit diversity.

Exploration reveals that the human condition is a rarity in the universe and thereby a condition that needs to be preserved in all its variety but not obliterated. Society must learn that our cultural differences are of minor significance to an expanding universe, differences that must be resolved through negotiation.

Aggressive space exploration will keep in the forefront the challenges that lie ahead for the human race and shift the focus from our cultural differences. The people of Earth were, one, the day man stepped on the moon. Whatever the limit of technology it takes to send a manned probe to Mars and beyond, it demands the attention of our entire society.

Contrary to war, society does need exploration. We must continue to search the universe for answers to questions that have baffled mankind since our first look up and give our brave explorers the tools to reach out to other life forms and permit them to find other ways to sustain the human condition. To compare our experience in space, we have just opened our eyes to see across the room. This is not the time to turn the light off.

Your search for a living wage should be an exploration. What do you like to do, where would you like to live. A living wage should not be thought of as a question of how much money you will make rather how much money it will take to live the lifestyle you choose. A living wage will provide sustenance. Your life’s choices will determine the amount necessary to sustain your requirements.


Pope Francis and the Living Wage

… “We have come to see ourselves as lords and masters entitled to plunder her will.” (Laudato si. 24 May 2015) Pope Francis spoke of the plundering of our environment throughout the world. Continuing in his thoughts about how we were treating Mother Earth he states: “we have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshments from our waters.”

I wonder what the thoughts of Pope Francis would be regarding corporate and political leaders that would begrudge a worker compensation enough for food, shelter, healthcare, transportation and education. I wonder if he would shout from his mountaintop that these leaders have a moral responsibility to compensate their workers, at a minimum, a living wage.

The Pope has already called for equal pay for equal work to eliminate the gender discrimination found in the workplaces of most industrialized nations. Maybe the Pope will issue yet another apology, one that would address the meager compensation paid to the workers doing Church business. Thereby, setting the example necessary for other leaders to follow.

The established minimum wage in the USA is a farce. It is not an amount that would compensate a worker enough for a meager subsistence. I do not here refer to the subsistence for an extended family, rather, the one person, the worker.

In a country whose political leaders expound an idea of a family life it seems incongruous that our laws would require less than a living wage. For if the worker cannot earn the compensation necessary to support their own subsistence how then would it be possible for them to extend the compensation in support of their immediate family.

The attitude of, our political and corporate leaders that see themselves as ‘Lord and Masters’ entitled to continue to ‘plunder’ the worker does not bode well for our future. Clearly, it did not bode well for the 18th century aristocracy of England or France nor the 20th century aristocracy of Russia.

It’s time for the leaders of the 21st century to wake up to some simple facts. They do not stand on terra firma without moral validation. They cannot continue to dash the hopes and dreams of workers and their families without untoward consequences. They cannot continue to hoard billions while their workers queue up the lines for food stamps and soup kitchens and beg landlords to wait, yes, another week, please.

Do not doubt that these workers will survive. Know also, resentment is building. It grows with each succeeding generation. I’m sure there are metrics that estimate exactly how long a line can be stretched before breaking and just as sure that continued stretching will break any line.

If you are a leader in position to make a difference please be sure your constituent workers are compensated, at least, a living wage.

A Living Wage versus a minimum wage

Is the quest for a minimum wage a red herring perpetrated by large corporations and advanced by politicians in favor of their big dollar supporters?

When one realizes that regardless of the minimum wage, if it does not reach that level necessary to support the essentials necessary to sustain a lifestyle consistent with a worker’s environment it does little more that pay lip service to a societal disparity.

We need only review the charts that reveal the upward mobility of the American worker to understand that the Regan Era “Voodoo” economics that has existed through each political Party for the past forty years is the one of the greatest destroyers of the American Dream. This Dream that through the combination of security, health, education and work your children will have a better life than you.

There is little question that it is the American Dream that stoked this Country’s fires of greatness. It is the Dream of every human, a dream, ever threatened by the greed and avarice of a few. Who are these few that would dare to dampen the kindling of the greatest social experiment in the history of civilization?

We need not look far. These few are the major owners and stockholders of the companies that pay a wage to their employees that when projected through a forty hour work week would not add up to an amount necessary for a person to provide sustenance for themselves in the location where they work.

They do this legally. Their method is to “buy” our political leaders. Unfortunately, this does not stop at the highest levels. It is a practice that continues from the highest office to the lowliest municipal politician.

We do not begrudge them their wealth nor the favor it buys but we take exception to their methods. The ancient books of every major philosophy agree of the inherent evil of the owner stealing wages from their slave. In this regard, many workers today are not better off than the exploited slave.

We urge the Department of Labor to set a determinate living wage for each Congressional District.

We urge all employers take on the responsibility of determining a living wage for their employees and to set this as their minimum wage.

America’s Promise

Constitution_Pg1of4_AC_scale125 On September 17, 2013,

we celebrated the 226th anniversary of The Constitution.

The justification for the ideas found in this enduring document were published on July 4th 1776 wherein the thirteen states joined unanimously to declare a separate and equal standing among the nations of the world. In respect to other nations this document explained why the states had decided to voice their Declaration of Independence.

This document further develops why, today, many ask, “What do these words have to do with me? That’s the government, right?” Wrong, these words define your rights and your relationship to every citizen of the United States. Most importantly, the documents explain why we are joined as a nation, a country.

With the emergence of globalism our political and corporate leaders have sometimes lost sight of the fact that this country stands independent of all others. Further, we are joined as a people for the common good of this nation.

We cannot improve on the wording but we can parse it to emphasize the context in what we refer as America’s Promise. Many cite the start of the second paragraph of the Declaration, most have seen it.

· “We hold these truths to be self-evident,

Although these truths were self-evident to the representatives of the thirteen states, the words were carefully selected to get a unanimous vote.

·that all men are created equal,

Indeed, as used in context men should not be assumed to mean men as humankind. The representatives could not agree whether this word should include women, indentured servants, African slaves, or Native Americans.

One truth self-evident today is that all are created equal under the law. We may not share the same sex, race, ethnicity, religion, social status or gender persuasion as our fellow citizens, but we have a reasonably high expectancy that we will be treated fairly and equally in our civic associations and relationships.

· that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,

· that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The Rights of all, which cannot be taken away nor given up. And so, it followed that:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union,

· establish Justice,

· insure domestic Tranquility,

· provide for the common defence,

· promote the general Welfare, and

· secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,

do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

We conclude, that the people of the United States who wrote these words and we the people of these United States that inherit them share the absolute duty to protect and preserve the union of these free people.

First by including all peoples living within our borders as equal under the law and, second, by taking the responsibility from whatever political or social standing to “promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”