This week: immigrant justice isn’t relative; $15/hour relativism; affordability becomes irrelevant; and the animal kingdom gets irreverent.
Yearning to breathe free
We know workers rights aren’t what they oughtta be, but it’s still startling to learn that there’s a place on the I-5 corridor where people get paid $1 a day and you might get beaten if the supervisor isn’t happy with the quality of your mopping. But that’s the reality at the notorious privately-owned, for-profit immigrant detention center in Tacoma, according to a report this week in the Seattle Times.
Alas, xenophobia is an international phenomenon. Thousands of impoverished refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh have recently been left adrift at sea, denied the right to work or even set foot in neighboring countries. And in Britain, newly reelected conservative Prime Minster David Cameron has proposed making it a crime for immigrants to work without the proper papers. His enforcement plan: confiscate all wages, without appeal —which immigrant justice advocates say will drive more people into slavery. When will the sun ever set on this nonsense?
Would $15 by any other frame smell as sweet?
Los Angeles is set to become the biggest city yet to win a $15 minimum wage, prompting a lot of commentary on the remarkable power & effectiveness of the fight for $15… and also about how wide variances in the US economy over space & time mean that the demand for “$15” is large and contains multitudes.
First, consider that in Seattle, workers will hit an inflation-adjusted $15 in 2017 dollars; in San Francisco, $15 in 2018 dollars; and in LA, $15 in 2021 dollars. How much difference does that four years make? At just 1.5% inflation, Seattle will be at about $16/hour by the time LA sees its first inflation adjustment in 2022… though today, both can be fairly described as $15 minimum wage laws. The whole thing becomes even more of a conceptual art piece when you try to blend in cost-of-living adjustments like fivethirtyeight.com did. They figure Chicago’s $13 minimum is actually $10.31, higher than SF’s $15, which is more like $8.18, but lower than Seattle’s $15, which on their spreadsheet works out to a less-than-poetic $11.21. Of course, by this logic the 99 cent menu isn’t really 99 cents either. And don’t get us started on the existential crisis of the dollar store.
It’s like landlord of the flies
You need a full-time job paying $14.55/hour to afford fair market rent on a studio apartment in Washington State, according to the latest Out of Reach report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition. That means a lot of people are living in apartments that they actually can’t afford. In fact, half of Seattle-area renters put more of their income to rent than they should, especially in areas like SeaTac and Rainier Valley. You know things are getting rough when the TV news reports on 150% rent increases and it's not a math error.
Charlotte’s web of sin
A stuffed owl named Solomon served as an attorney to an Aspen man accused of assault . He is reputedly a “very sensitive guy” with degrees from Yale, Harvard, and Stanford. (The owl.)
A beaver went shopping in a Lowe’s in Alaska, wandering aimlessly around the plumbing aisle but never finding the lumber section. Damned if we know why.
And millions of spiders are raining down from above in Australia, filling the sky and getting tangled in beards. Conservative bloggers will surely argue this is nature’s vengeance for Australia’s $16.87 minimum wage.