The Friends of Salazar Park Seniors on June 1 recognized the developmentally disabled “Busy Bee” volunteers whose enthusiastic work has helped beautify the park and contribute to the friendly feeling that abounds at the dynamic eastside senior center.
Senior Coordinator Chris Mojica, a long-time volunteer at the senior center, said they planned the award ceremony to show their appreciation to the disabled adults who work at the park up to five days a week.
“They are a part of us,” Mojica told EGP. “They have such a good attitude and make us feel good when they are here, we just wanted to show them that we appreciate their hard work,” he said.
The awardees — who range in age from 20 to 70 — have been dubbed the Salazar Park Busy Bees. On a daily basis they help tend the garden, do custodial and clerical work and mingle with the Center’s lively, mostly Latino seniors.
Lea esta nota EN INGLÉS: ‘Abejas Ocupadas’ del Parque Salazar son Reconocidos por su Servicio
Sen. Ron Calderon’s district representative Jaime Rodriguez presented the Busy Bees with commendations signed by Calderon. He said the Busy Bees are doing incredible work at the park and are a model for other parks and agencies that want to provide productive activities to disabled adults.
“In honor of your commitment and service to Salazar Park Senior Center, as well as the dedication you have displayed upon the members and public by being friendly, courteous and dependable. I join with Senior Center Members, Park staff, volunteers and the community in expressing our appreciation and to say thank you for your service,” read the awards signed by the state senator.
The Busy Bees, who come from different behavioral day program, have been working at the Ruben F. Salazar Park, located on East Whittier Blvd in East Los Angeles, since 2008, according to Mojica and Arturo Olivas of Choix Vocational Services.
Choix serves approximately 60 clients in the program that is primarily funded by the Eastern Los Angeles Regional Center and San Gabriel Pomona Regional Center, Olivas said.
Their clients — with severe/mild mental retardation, autism and down syndrome — learn a variety of skills as volunteers at Salazar Park, including vocational and social skills, he said. A job coach also monitors their behavior; three clients are assigned to each job coach.
“It’s great to see their work. It’s so clean and green and to know that it’s because of these clients contributing to this center,” Olivas said. “They brought back life to this park.”
An honor like this doesn’t come every day for disabled volunteers, Olivas said, noting the significance of the awards presented to the volunteers is deeply appreciated.
Thirty-five-year-old Esperanza Garcia, a resident of Ramona Gardens, was smiling ear to ear throughout the event. Garcia said she helps clean the tables and sweeps the parking lot, but her favorite thing to do is hold the door open for seniors with walkers.
21-year-old Jose Contreras of El Sereno also said he enjoys his work at Salazar Park. “I always work here. It’s so great to do it a lot, I like to sweep and shake the rugs off,” he said.
A smile lit up 73-year-old Rene Otero, one of a few elderly Busy Bees, when asked if he liked to work at Salazar Park.
“I like to clean the park,” he said. His job coach, Lizette Mendez of Easter Seals, based in Whittier, said Otero gets upset when he can’t come to the park. Otero and two other clients attend the park 4 out of 5 days a week, she explained.
Mendez said beside taking pride in their work, the Busy Bees are making friends and exercising on the park equipment.
Gloria Valdez, president of Friends of Salazar Park and member of the East Los Angeles Lions Club, said the Busy Bees do everything, including participating in Bingo and crochet sessions. The Lions Club is a supporter of the senior center, which presented the awards, she explained.
Ray Guerrero, a volunteer senior coordinator at the senior center, said the Busy Bees are angels and he enjoys seeing them happy to be able to provide a service to the community.
Guerrero said he helped establish the East Los Angeles Remarkable Citizens’ Association, Inc. (EL ARCA), a trailblazer organization that helped bring services to disabled individuals in the East LA area.
“My brother is disabled… [people need to] recognize that they are people like us,” said Guerrero, “they just need a little understanding and patience.”
Dressed head-to-toe in authentic Mexican folkloric dress, a group of local teens and young adults at Sunday’s Lummis Day Festival gave a dance performance that was anything but typical.
The six dancers, ages 13 to 25, are part of the Northeast Los Angeles based Tierra Blanca Dance Company.
While some traditional dances, like the zapateado, were performed, they were intermixed with dances performed to music from a different era, including a tune that once served as the theme music for a 1980s Mexican television show.
Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Grupo Rompe los Estereotipos del Baile Folclórico Mexicano
Two thirteen-year-old dancers performed to “Mexico de Noche” (Mexico at Night), from the TV show “Noche A Noche” produced by Argentinean composer Bebu Silvetti, according to Tierra Blanca founder and president, Blanca Soto.
Silvetti recorded “Mexico de Noche” for an album in Mexico, Soto said.
The instrumental melody with a slight disco beat, both excited and surprised listeners who didn’t know what to expect as they watched the girls add jazz moves to their folkorico performance.
A song by a Brazilian composer was also included in the performance, but all the songs have a tie to Mexico, Soto said.
“One of our goals is to fuse the new styles and the new music with history and the backgrounds of the music,” Soto said about the multiculturalism reflected in her work.
Tierra Blanca, established in 1996, seeks to promote Mexican culture and traditions through music, dance and regional folklore. But dance students get more than a lesson in moving their bodies to counts and memorizing original choreography, they learn the story and history behind a song and experience their cultural roots in a non-stereotypical way.
Soto’s non-profit, Tierra Blanca Arts Center, has focused on bringing dance to low-income Latino communities where cultural institutions are lacking.
“That’s a reason why we started the dance company, there are a lot of kids with great potential but they don’t have support to develop their talent and learn more about their culture,” she told EGP.
Soto, a Cypress Park resident who studied Theater and Dance at the University of Guadalajara before immigrating to the US, has primarily taught dance to Spanish-speakers in the Southeast cities, like Huntington Park. But Tierra Blanca also works closely with local Northeast LA art institutions Plaza De La Raza and the Bilingual Foundation of the Arts.
For the last four years, Tierra Blanca has also produced Semblanza Latinoamericana, a showcase of diverse Latino dance companies. Last year the show focused on African-inspired dance and song, this October, however, the show will feature Asian influence in music, she said. The production unites cultures through music and tradition, Soto explained.
Tierra Blanca is comprised of three age-specific dance companies; for more information visit www.tierrablancaartscenter.org
Cancer survivors dressed in purple shirts kicked off a 24-hour relay walk on Saturday with a lap around the track at Cantwell Sacred Heart High School in Montebello. Halfway around the track, they passed batons off to family and friends traveling toward them from the opposite direction.
The relay raised $32,000 for the American Cancer Society’s cancer research and services. It also served as an annual gathering for cancer survivors and a memorial for friends and family who lost their lives to cancer.
Breast cancer survivor Nora Ochoa, 51, was among the participants. She was not only marching for herself, but also for her father and sister-in-law who passed away from cancer. When she put together her team for last year’s relay, chemotherapy had left her bald, and she was thinking of her sister-in-law and father when she lit her candle during the Saturday night-time portion of the relay.
Ochoa says last year, when she found herself surrounded by forty other people in her relay team, she was overcome with emotion and could not help but burst into tears. “[The march] brings you together with people and makes you feel that you’re not alone out there,” she said.
According to committee vice chair Patsy Sandoval, the annual event is attended by hundreds of people every year. Not all of them have suffered from cancer or know people who have, but they are compelled to give support, she said. There were also information booths at the event to raise people’s awareness about cancer.
The money they raise goes to cancer research, as well as services for people with cancer, such as a program that provides rides to the doctor, according to Sandoval. She says the annual relay plays an important role in helping people with cancer cope with their disease. She has known people with cancer who have kept it a secret from their families, but she says it’s important to tell people, and it’s okay to lean on others for help, such as asking a neighbor to go to the grocery store.
“The people around you are scared too, and they want to help,” she says.
A combination of cost-saving measures that included contract re-negotiations, grant opportunities, and cuts to programs at the city skate park has allowed Montebello officials to stave off layoffs and avoid further cuts to public safety in the latest round of city budgeting.
“Layoffs will not take place at this time,” City Finance Director Francesca Tucker-Schuyler announced at a May 30 budget study session. She said city revenue levels will be monitored on a month by month basis.
When the budget planning started the city was looking at a $3 million deficit. The balanced budget presented last week projects a surplus, with $44.49 million in revenues and $44.42 million in expenditures for the 2012-2013 year.
Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Montebello Economiza, Ahorra para Equilibrar el Presupuesto
Tucker-Schuyler, who recently also took over as the interim city manager, said while the balanced budget presented at the meeting is “not an ideal budget,” it is nevertheless “adequate.”
Furloughs, negotiations over pension payments and layoffs have already occurred in recent years. Instead of going for savings through cutting employee salary costs, the city made a “concerted effort” to trim operating and maintenance budgets and renegotiate or drop outside contracts with vendors and consultants, said Tucker-Schuyler.
The city also redistributed expenditures in their enterprise funds, in particular the golf course fund, which has recorded a deficit for years. According to officials, the fund was being used to not only to pay for golf course expenditures, but also the expenditures of the adjacent hotel and banquet hall.
The resulting balanced budget presented last week benefited from efforts by each department’s to trim operating costs. Each of the departments scrimped and saved between $50,000 to $200,000 depending on the department, and ultimately, the effort paid off in keeping the fire and police department budgets whole this year. Even though the public safety departments made their own cuts, they actually saw some increases to their budgets mainly due to merit increases in employee salaries.
The fire department’s budget increased from $8.7 million to $8.8 million for the upcoming year, even after making $50,000 in cuts, and getting awarded a grant for a new fire engine. Fire Chief Tim Wessel says they are pursuing more grants, but competition with other fire departments throughout the country continues to be stiff.
Wessel said they already saw a “drastic change” this past year when they reduced daily staffing levels from 16 to 15 firefighters a day, which has resulted in one of the department’s paramedic engines getting downgraded to a paramedic assessment unit.
He thanked the other departments for taking cuts so that they would not have to reduce staffing levels even further. “Quite frankly, I came in here early last week and was prepared to start defending the possibility of staff lowering… any further reduction in staff and we were going to have to look at the closure or browning out of a fire station,” he said.
The fire department had been considering eliminating vacant positions, but Tucker-Schuyler said they “went back to the drawing board, and had additional conversations with other department heads.”
The police department also saw increases in their budget despite efforts to cut. Police Chief Kevin McClure reported they were able to cover $350,000 in overtime costs by using asset forfeiture funds, and saved $275,000 in maintenance and operating costs. Their overall budget however is going up next year, from $13.9 million to $14.4 million.
McClure said they took a much closer look at their contracts, and determined they could get rid of some them. “We had contracts that was dessert, but we don’t have the money to eat dessert right now,” he said, adding they have a better handle on every contract and will continue to work with vendors to reduce costs, keeping only the “meat and potatoes.”
One of the areas the city could see actual service cuts and employee hours, beyond what’s already occurred, is in the municipal services department, which runs parks and recreation services. Teen activities at the city’s skate park were cut in the budget, and part-time workers are expected to work reduced hours. The department as a whole also handles the maintenance of trees, parks, and streets. The total amount cut from this department is $342,000, which brings the municipal service’s budget down to $3.4 million.
Other departments, including the administrative branch, have trimmed their operating budgets. For example, some departments lowered their printing budgets and limited their legal spending in order to meet the balanced budget.
The balanced budget presented last week rounds out a year that started with the city seeking a private loan because it did not have enough in its bank account to pay its employees on time. The city got its loan, but they still had a projected $3 million deficit in the upcoming year to deal with
Tucker-Schuyler was offered the job of interim city administrator when Keith Breskin resigned at the end of May, leaving little time for her to finish up and package each department’s budget in time for the budget session. A version of the budget now posted on the city website still needs to be polished and revised, and will be brought back at the next council meeting for final approval.
City council members said at the study session that Tucker-Schuyler, who has in the last 16 months become closely acquainted with the city’s financial difficulties, is especially suited at this time to helm the city. The city will also save $157,000 because it will not be paying for the city administrator position.
The final budget will be presented and approved at a future city council meeting.
Jackie Lacey and Alan Jackson — two Los Angeles County prosecutors — will face each other in November in a race to replace their boss after L.A. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich failed to make the cut even though he had more money and name-recognition than they did, election results showed Wednesday.
The top vote-getter in Tuesday’s race was Chief Deputy District Attorney Jackie Lacey. With 100 percent of votes counted, she had 203,889 votes, or 31.9 per cent, according to election results released Wednesday by the Los Angeles County registrar of voters.
In second place, guaranteeing his place in the runoff, was Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson with 151,199 votes — 23.6 per cent. Trutanich had more than $1.1 million in campaign funds, the strongest name recognition of all the candidates and a number of important endorsements, but he ended up in third place with 142,576 votes, or 22.3 percent.
Jackson sounded almost as if he had won the whole contest when he announced victory over Trutanich early Wednesday morning, framing the contest between the two as a David-versus-Goliath affair.
“We see tonight as a huge victory,” he said in a statement. “The Jackson campaign took on Carmen Trutanich and saved the people of Los Angeles County from a politician who was more concerned about winning the next office instead of winning the next case.
“We were outraised, outspent and outsized by the City Attorney. Yet, we prevailed because voters clearly want a modern prosecutor, not a politician.”
Lacey was one of five current county prosecutors running to replace retiring District Attorney Steve Cooley, but she was the only one with the endorsement of her boss.
A Los Angeles native and USC Law School graduate, Lacey has worked for the D.A.’s office since 1986. She has prosecuted thousands of crimes and tried about 60 felony cases to jury verdicts, including 11 homicides and the county’s first trial of a race-motivated hate crime, according to her campaign. She has emphasized her management skills and low-key temperament as key to leading the District Attorney’s Office.
Lacey also said she has overseen crime-fighting initiatives focused on preventing animal cruelty, prosecuting graffiti and assigning gun cases to jurisdictions likely to obtain maximum criminal penalties. She had the endorsement of the Los Angeles Times and City Councilman Bernard Parks, a co-endorsement (with Jackson) by the Daily News, and the support of several other news outlets.
Trutanich was endorsed by Gov. Jerry Brown, Sheriff Lee Baca, six Los Angeles city councilmen and most of the largest labor unions in the region, including the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO. Former Lakers star Shaquille O’Neal made robo-calls on his behalf.
But he also had to contend with negative press for his broken 2008 campaign promise to serve out his full term as city attorney before seeking further office.
Trutanich was elected city attorney in 2008 and said he has fought gangs and worked to confiscate guns while saving taxpayer dollars. The city attorney’s office has won 82 of 89 trials during his tenure and cut outside legal fees by 70 percent, according to his campaign website.
Trutanich grew up in the South Bay and earned an MBA from USC before pursuing a law degree from the South Bay University College of Law. He worked in the district attorney’s gang unit and later focused on environmental litigation, eventually starting a private practice.
Jackson may be best known for his murder prosecution of music producer Phil Spector in 2009 and his appearances as a legal analyst on shows such as NBC Dateline’s “Unsolved Case Squad.” Raised in Texas, Jackson served in the Air Force and then went on to the University of Texas and Pepperdine University School of Law. He has worked for the D.A.’s office for 17 years and is the assistant head deputy of the office’s Major Crimes Division.
Jackson led prosecutions of nearly 70 felonies, nearly half of which were homicides, including the killings of racing legend Mickey Thompson and his wife. In interviews, Jackson has said he would seek to repeal AB109 — the state’s move to reassign responsibility for low-level offenders to counties — and allow counties to contract with out-of-state correctional facilities. He has the endorsements of County Supervisor Michael Antonovich and several police unions.
The Peace Officers Research Association, the state’s largest law enforcement group, endorsed both Jackson and Lacey. The Daily News co-endorsement of Lacey and Jackson offered the opinion that the winner should be “anyone but Carmen (Trutanich).”
Lacey is anticipating a hard fight to the finish, saying Tuesday she thought there would be “blood on the floor” before the race was over in November.
The Los Angeles-based sponsor of the federal challenge to Proposition 8’s ban on same-sex marriage lauded Tuesday’s appellate ruling not to review the contentious case.
“Today’s order is yet another federal court victory for loving, committed gay and lesbian couples in California and around the nation,’’ said Chad Griffin, co-founder of American Foundation for Equal Rights, sponsor of Perry vs. Brown, the federal constitutional challenge to Proposition 8.
The full U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday decided not to reconsider the February ruling of a three-judge panel. In a 2-1 vote, that panel found Proposition 8 — an amendment to the state constitution — to be at odds with U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment guaranteeing equal protection under the law.
The panel stated that the proposition “serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians.”
Tuesday’s ruling opens a 90-day window in which supporters of the proposition can appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Same-sex marriages in California will be on hold until the matter is decided.
Andy Pugno, an attorney for ProtectMarriage.com, said he was not surprised by the ruling.
“We have anticipated since the beginning that the case will ultimately be decided by the United States Supreme Court,” Pugno said. “We will promptly file our appeal to the nation’s highest court and look forward to a positive outcome on behalf of the millions of Californians who believe in traditional marriage.”
Said Proposition 8 opponent Griffin: “The final chapter of the Prop 8 case has now begun. Should the U.S. Supreme Court decide to review the Ninth Circuit’s decision in our case, I am confident that the justices will stand on the side of fairness and equality.”
Voters approved the change in the state constitution in November 2008, defining marriage as a legal bond between a man and a woman.
Loyola Law School professor Doug NeJaime said he did not expect a U.S. Supreme Court ruling until October at the earliest.
The Supreme Court will eventually weigh in on this,” he said. “Now, we just have to wait and see.”
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called the ruling “another momentous step on the path to full equality and dignity for all Californians and all Americans.”
Today we celebrate … Tomorrow we prepare for the hoped-for last chapter in our decades long fight for marriage equality — a ruling by the United States Supreme Court,” Villaraigosa said. “Between now and then, we will continue to make our case. Love doesn’t care if you’re gay or straight, love doesn’t discriminate.”
The Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved a motion June 1 to form a task force to look into how the Southwest Museum of the American Indian and Casa de Adobe, both located in Mount Washington, could receive more resources to improve their accessibility as cultural resources to the public.
Last Friday’s motion, made by councilmen Jose Huizar, Ed Reyes and Tom LaBonge, comes a year after Huizar first proposed forming a “working group” to bring city and community stakeholders and the museum’s operators, the Autry National Center, together with the intent of reopening the Southwest Museum as a fully functioning museum. Formation of the group was approved by the city council, 11-0.
The Friends of the Southwest Museum Coalition and the Autry National Museum have been locked in battle for years over the museum’s future. Both groups, however, say they back the formation of a “working group,” and expressed hope that it will foster a spirit of cooperation between the dueling interests to come up with a plan and the financial resources to give the Southwest Museum — completely closed in 2010 — a second life as a cultural institution.
In May, the Autry opened a small exhibit of selected ceramics and archeological artifacts from the Southwest Museum’s vast collection in the venue’s hallway. The museum, which is undergoing conservation efforts and the surrounding property, including the outdoor garden and a Hopi Trail, are now also assessable during the Saturday only exhibit hours.
The Autry took over the cash-strapped and run down historical properties as part of a 2003 merger deal. Soon after the Friends of the Southwest Museum Coalition formed to ensure Los Angeles’ first museum would continue its long legacy as a historical and cultural destination. The coalition is made up of numerous local organizations and members of the community.
While the Coalition has expressed happiness that a “tiny section” of the museum has reopened, they continue to press that the Autry National Center not neglect the local museums and funnel its resources only to their museum in Griffith Park.
The Autry contends it cannot financially afford to support both its Griffith Park center and the Southwest Museum, and that it would like to see the group work toward bringing in grants and other partners, such as nonprofit cultural or educational institutions, to share the venues in Northeast LA.
The Autry says it has so far spent more than $9 million on conservation efforts to save the Southwest Museum’s vast collections, and to make necessary earthquake and other structural improvements to the museum site.
The “City Family” task force—which will be led by the LA’s Chief Legislative Analyst’s Office and supported by the Chief Administrative Officer, the Recreation and Parks Department, and the Cultural Affairs Department—will investigate and report back on ways the city can assure “greater equity” between the Griffith Park museum and the Casa de Adobe and Southwest Museum, according to the Coalition.
The City’s Historical Society and the County Museum of Natural History, at Councilman LaBonge’s invitation, could possibly also participate in the task force.
The group is scheduled to report back to the Council’s Arts, Parks, Health & Aging Committee within 60 days, according to the Coalition.
Last week, one of two lawsuits brought to stop the Autry from moving the Southwest Museum’s collection to its Griffith Park facility was dismissed by a judge on the grounds that the Autry’s planned facility expansion in Griffith Park is unrelated to the Southwest Museum, and was righty treated as such by the city’s Board of Recreation and Parks Commissioners and the city council.
“Friends of the Southwest Museum Coalition, on behalf of the many organizations and individuals within our Coalition, will work closely with the city staff to advocate for having community representation and expertise with the working group. In addition, we are already working on gathering current and relevant information, such as current cost estimates, that will be needed to inform the workings of this new group,” the group said in an email.
Democrat: Barack Obama received 344,416 votes (100.00%)
Republican: Mitt Romney received 173,163 votes (78.24%); Ron Paul received 23,881 votes (10.79%); Rick Santorum received 11,891 votes (5.37%); Newt Gingrich received 8,647 votes (3.91%); C E Roemer III received 2,195 votes (0.99%); Fred Karger received 1,532 votes (0.69%)
United States Senator (runoff finalists): Dianne Feinstein (Dem) received 397,802 votes (56.38%); Elizabeth Emken (Rep) received 80,963 votes (11.47%); Dan Hughes (Rep) received 30,086 votes (4.26%); Dennis Jackson (Rep) received 19,518 votes (2.77%); Orly Taitz (Rep) received 19,194 votes (2.72%); Rick Williams (Rep) received 18,048 votes (2.56%)
United States Representatives
27th District (Runoff finalists): Judy Chu (Dem) received 38,689 votes (60.0%); Jack Orswell (Rep) received 14,690 votes (22.79%); Bob Duran (Rep) received 11,077 votes (17.19%)
32nd District (Runoff finalists): Grace F. Napolitano (Dem) received 19,764 votes (46.11%); David L. Miller (Rep) received 17,947 votes (41.87%); G Bill Gonzalez (Dem) received 5,151 votes (12.02%)
34th District (Runoff finalists): Xavier Becerra (Dem) received 22,004 votes (78.08%); Stephen C. Smith (Rep) received 4,378 votes (15.54%); Howard Johnson (PF) received 1,798 votes (6.38%).
40th District: L Roybal-Allard (Dem) received 13,642 votes (65.89%); David Sanchez (Dem) received 7,063 votes (34.11%)
California State Senate
District 33: Ricardo Lara (Dem) received 28,606 votes (100.00%)
California State Assembly
49th District (Runoff finalists): Matthew Lin (Rep) received 16,254 votes (51.26%); Edwin Chau (Dem) received 11,277 votes (35.56%); Mitchell Ing (Dem) received 4,179 votes (13.18%)
51st District (Runoff finalists): Jimmy Gomez (Dem) received 8,362 votes (37.56%); Luis Lopez (Dem) received 5,453 votes (24.49%); Arturo Chavez (Dem) received 5,204 votes (23.37%); Richard Friedberg (Dem) received 2,370 votes (10.64%); Oscar Gutierrez (Dem) received 875 votes (3.93%)
53rd District (Runoff finalists): John A. Perez (Dem) received 7,966 votes (59.61%); Jose T. Aguilar (Rep) received 2,194 votes (16.42%); Michael Aldapa (Dem) received 1,890 votes (14.14%); Roger A. Young (Dem) received 1,314 votes (9.83%)
58th District (Runoff finalists): P A Kotze-Ramos (Rep) received 7,272 votes (27.87%); Cristina Garcia (Dem) received 6,906 votes (26.46%); Tom Calderon (Dem) received 6,011 votes (23.04%); Luis H. Marquez (Dem) received 3,221 votes (12.34%); Daniel Crespo (Dem) received 1,702 votes (6.52%); Sultan “Sam” Ahmad (Dem) received 983 votes (3.77%)
Los Angeles County
District Attorney (Runoff finalists): Jackie Lacey received 203,889 votes (31.95%); Alan Jackson received 151,199 votes (23.69%); Carmen Trutanich received 142,576 votes (22.34%); Danette E. Meyers received 84,857 votes (13.30%); Bobby Grace received 33,412 votes (5.24%); John L. Breault III received 22,256 votes (3.49%)
Measure H: Los Angeles County Hotel Occupancy Tax Continuation Measure
YES received 411,663 votes (60.41%)
NO received 269,800 votes (39.59%)
Measure L: Los Angeles County Landfill Tax Continuation Measure
YES received 425,511 votes (62.74%)
NO received 252,750 votes (37.26%)
State Ballot Measures
Proposition 28: Limits on Legislators’ Term in Office
YES received 431,572 votes (61.50%)
NO received 270,184 votes (38.50%)
Proposition 29: Imposes Additional Tax on Cigarettes for Cancer Research
YES received 351,491 votes (49.26%)
NO received 362,079 votes (50.74%)
Vernon City Council (term ends 04/14)
Reno Bellamy received 21 votes (56.76%)
Luz A. Martinez received 16 votes (43.24%)
Central Basin Water Board of Directors, Division 1
James B. Roybal received 9,840 votes (63.26%)
Ed Vasquez received 5,716 votes (36.74%)
June marks the 100 year anniversary of the first minimum wage law passed in the United States. And, while there is nothing new about low-wage work — we should take this occasion to recognize an even more dispiriting fact about the low-wage workforce: It could have been a thing of the past.
The first minimum wage law in the United States was established on June 4, 1912 in Massachusetts. More than a dozen states would follow over the subsequent 10 years, and by 1933 the new U.S. Secretary of Labor, Frances Perkins, wrote an essay to make the case for a federal minimum wage.
Reading Perkins’ essay today reminds us of the potential that minimum wage laws hold for shaping a fair and productive economy.
At the time of her writing, the nation was in the midst of the Great Depression, and Perkins feared the destructive potential of the growing number of “fly-by-night” sweatshop operators attempting to gain an unfair advantage over their competitors by selling cheaper products made possible by rock-bottom labor costs.
These low-wage sweatshop operators were, in other words, cheaters. They offered cheaper products by taking advantage of workers who, in a period of record unemployment, had no choice but to accept whatever job they could get – in some cases, earning only 3.5 cents per hour.
The purpose of a minimum wage law was not only to protect workers from abuse by their employers, but to also ensure fair competition by requiring that all businesses play by the same rules.
The first federal minimum wage law was established in 1938, five years after Perkins’ article appeared. Yet, after several decades of Congressional stewardship maintaining a strong minimum wage, the real value of the minimum wage was allowed to plummet over the last four decades. As a result, the minimum wage peaked in 1968, and has since trailed behind the rising cost of living. In fact, the minimum wage would be well over $10 today if it had simply kept pace with inflation. Instead, it’s only $7.25 an hour – or just over $15,000 a year.The problems associated with low wages are no longer just an emerging threat, as Perkins once feared, but have instead come to define a significant share of the labor market. These problems will persist. Low-wage industries are now among the economy’s fastest-growing sectors, and some of the lowest paid occupations are expected to create the largest numbers of new jobs over the next several years. For many employers low wages are part and parcel of a robust growth strategy. As of last year, no fewer than 35 of the nation’s 50 largest low-wage businesses had posted profits that exceeded their pre-recession levels.
Meanwhile, the vast majority of businesses in the U.S. have yet to recover from the recession, particularly small businesses. A Gallup poll from earlier this year revealed that fully 85 percent of small businesses still have no intention of hiring or expanding their business because demand remains so weak.
We are now three years out from the official end of the recession, and workers’ wages are actually declining rather than rebounding. From March 2011 to March 2012, real average hourly earnings fell 0.6 percent for all private sector workers and declined by a full 1 percent for nonsupervisory and production workers.
Perhaps the saddest fact is that the low-wage workforce has become an all-too-familiar fixture of the American economy. If Perkins were alive today, she would only need one look at our outdated minimum wage law to know that our economy has become an anticompetitive environment where low-road employers can thrive at the expense of both other employers and workers.
Now, 100 years after the first minimum wage law was passed, low-wage industries once again threaten to impoverish America’s workforce and derail the entrepreneurial ambitions of small business owners. And the American people have noticed. According to a recent poll, more than two-thirds of Americans support raising the minimum wage to over $10 per hour. This support is behind a proposal by Senator Harkin (D-IA) that would raise the minimum wage to $9.80 an hour, significantly raise the minimum wage for tipped workers (currently $at 2.13 an hour), and provide for annual cost of living adjustments for both.
There was nothing inevitable about the low-wage economy that we find in the U.S. today. What decades of experience tell us, however, is that unless we seriously acknowledge our responsibility to maintain the value of the minimum wage, we have little reason to expect anything different in the century ahead.
Owens is executive director of the National Employment Law Project. A version of this op-ed appeared in The Hill.