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Hypocrisy of Living Wage matched only by ignorance - The "Right" Stuff

By Chris Tucker | April 11, 2002

The Living Wage discussion has continued to be one of the most visible debates around the Hopkins campus. During my three years at Homewood, I have seen more rallies, been handed more leaflets and had to deal with more sit-ins regarding this issue than any other by far. Advocates of the Living Wage even have their own Student Labor Action Board (SLAC, funny) constantly addressing the issue and extending its scope beyond campus.

For far too long I have remained idle regarding the Living Wage, allowing my liberal counterparts to drive the debate and effectively poison the understanding of the everyday Hopkins student. That stops today.

The lowest wage an employee makes working for Johns Hopkins is apparently $7.75 an hour. The conflict arises when this wage is compared to the minimum amount of money for a family in Baltimore to reasonably live, as calculated by the Baltimore City Living Wage Ordinance. SLAC-ers continue to lobby the Hopkins administration, trying to raise the lowest wages offered by the University in order to meet and exceed the standards suggested by the city. Advocates cite the fact that employees have families, not merely themselves, to provide for. They feel that Hopkins has an obligation to consider the needs of its employees when deciding on issues of wage rate.

As you may have guessed, I find fatal flaws in the Living Wage argument. The bottom line is that I do not believe that Johns Hopkins, a private corporation, should be responsible for raising wages that already far exceed the national minimum wage because a large portion of their employees are raising families. Whatever happened to companies paying individuals based on the difficulty and importance of their job? Is it such a dastardly notion to pay people for what they actually do for your company? What of the employees who have no children? Should the single, childless employee in his early twenties receive a lower rate for doing the same job as the mother of five, just because her needs are different? Take a moment to imagine a scenario where people are allotted resources as per their social needs. Sound inconceivable? Don't tell that to Fidel, he's doing just fine using a similar system in Cuba.

The concept of the Living Wage is so hard for me to grasp, in part, because I have personally never worked for as much $8 an hour ever in my life. Perhaps I am too ignorant to make a statement about the Living Wage because I'm from a small town in Pennsylvania where $8 an hour is no small change. Truthfully, there may be some merit to that statement. Still, I refuse to allow these individuals fighting for the Living Wage, whose concept of "hard labor" is sharpening pencils at their daddy's office in Manhattan for 20 bucks an hour and who have no concept of what it means to "earn" anything, continue their scare tactics and dramatic sit-ins unopposed. They certainly look the part of angry protesters, parading in front of the library with Birkenstocks and J. Crew dress shirts. I would suggest to these hypocrites that, if you indeed care about the Hopkins employees as much as you would have everyone believe, you put together a relief fund for the workers drawing from your own resources. What, you can pay full tuition to attend Hopkins but you can't spare a couple hundred for your noble cause?

In this day and age, liberals seem to have made "profit" a slanderous term, only uttered when one speaks of the crooked relationship between bourgeoisie and the proletariat. It's time we as a society get real about the purpose of industry, business and labor. Even our most liberal econ professors are forced to begrudgingly admit that there are no long-run winners when companies are forced to pay artificially inflated wages. Still, minimum and Living Wage continues to be an important political issue for Democrats all over the nation and will continue to be so in the upcoming fall elections. Fortunately, I believe we have enough intelligent people in power to realize increasing salaries for no apparent reason has the potential for grave economic outcomes.

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