It seems that the Los Angeles City Council has finally woken up to the harsh reality of what the current minimum wage laws have inflicted on millions workers in the United States. Federal and state minimum wage legislation has fostered a sub class of people living in abject poverty unable to meet basic needs and living not from pay check to pay check but from debt to debt leading to dead end despair.
The Los Angeles Times reports that members of the City Council are expected to propose that large luxury hotels of more than 100 rooms be required to pay employees a living wage of $15.37 an hour and not the California minimum of $8.00. It’s about time that the harsh reality of the minimum wage is acknowledged by an elected body affirmatively asserting that “such a hike would lift housekeepers, busboys and maintenance workers out of poverty and inject much-needed cash into a languorous local economy”.
Los Angeles has championed “living wage” regulations in industries over which it exercises control. In 1999 a city ordinance mandated that employees at the Los Angeles International Airport be paid at least $15.67 an hour and another 2007 ordinance required employees at 13 nearby airport hotels be paid a minimum of $11.97. Last year the Seattle/Tacoma International Airport, the nation’s fifteenth busiest, followed suite with voters approving a $15 minimum wage for its employees and those of dependent businesses such as car rental companies.
THE CRIMES OF THE TIMES
Published as “All the News That’s Fit to Print: The Crimes of the Times”, PECAT, the Belgrade, Serbia weekly news magazine, January 13, 2014
The New York Times, nicknamed “The Gray Lady”, is America’s newspaper of record publishing “all the news that’s fit to print” since 1896. For those of you familiar with only the International Edition, the hard copy local paper is made up of number of distinct sections: International, National, Metropolitan etc. The Arts Section covering art in all its manifestations is a prominent daily feature.
The Times shuns reporting on crime, sex and scandal leaving those lurid stories to the yellow press, the tabloids, Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post and the Daily News. If report crime it must, as in the case of financial high crimes and misdemeanors, political scandal or a kidnapping/murder that has received national attention, The Times does so in a markedly subdued fashion, “Just the facts, Ma’am” as Sergeant Joe Friday put it in the TV police series Dragnet [1951-1959].
For the past year the Times has been forced to feature art crime on its front page and the front pages of the Arts Section. It has had no choice. It seems that the art world has become mired in crime, a worldwide crime wave that sees no end in sight. The financial stakes that are in play in the art world are high and getting higher and the crimes they generate are as venal, tawdry, downright brutal as any perpetrated by the Mafia.
Pedja, an old Belgrade friend, and I have this Christmas Holiday ritual: we visit historic New York haunts and ‘nabes have lunch and catch up with each other’s life. The scenery is fascinating, the lunch long, liquid and leisurely, the conversation informative. The venue of our holiday jaunt this year was Red Hook, Brooklyn.
Red Hook, a neighborhood in Brooklyn, is very much like Serbia. Geographically it’s part of Brooklyn, one of the five Boroughs that make up New York City, but it is separate, alienated, standing alone, desperately trying to catch up with and make itself a part of that other contemporary world. Serbia is like that, admittedly in the Balkans, an outer Borough just like Brooklyn, very much part of Europe, like it or not. Yet politics and war have left her just as separate and alienated as Red Hook.
Roode Hoek was its Dutch name when settled in the 1600s. The Hoek was in fact an island, the “point”, not to be confused with the English word “hook”, from which one could control Upper New York Bay. Red Hook’s history is as old as the United States. It was an important redoubt during the Revolution, with its artillery emplacements, including the then under construction Fort Defiance, controlling the Narrows and New York harbor during the Battle of Brooklyn  preventing George Washington’s defeat from becoming a disaster and losing the War for Independence.
To call an artillery emplacement “Fort Defiance” was pure rebel bravado considering the dire military reality of the time but echoed the Revolutionary creed of “Don’t Tread on Me” of the Gladston flag, the first official pennant of the United States Navy.
Nelson Mandela is dead. His beatification is complete with accolades for his accomplishments while his Star Wars’ Darth Vader dark and sinister side is ignored. His canonization will take place this coming Sunday with America’s high priests of hypocrisy, Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama, officiating. The rest of the world’s leaders will join in and rewrite history hoping that their own transgressions and mistakes will also be ignored and forgotten when they pass away.
Nelson Mandela’s life illustrates the conundrum “Is one man’s terrorist another man’s freedom fighter?” The answer depends on one’s perspective and the time the question is asked and answered; hence my jaundiced view of political leaders who are swayed by public opinion rather than principle.
Perhaps the most unprincipled and evil politician in recent American history, former Vice President Dick Cheney, stuck to his principles, and those of his patron saint Ronald Reagan, unapologetically calling Mandela “not a great freedom fighter … but a terrorist leader.” He is both right and wrong; it’s all a matter of perspective and timing.