I had never picked up a video camera in my life before I interviewed Jessica, a low-paid mother of four, for the 7 Days @ Minimum Wage project. Her searing story and her quiet eloquence, both of which emerged absolutely spontaneously, blew me and the ACORN/AFL-CIO project team in D.C. away–so much so that her interview is being shown in its 13-minute entirety, with one small edit to protect her privacy. View that story here.
As I begin work on the 7 Days @ Minimum Wage video project, I keenly remember when I first moved to the Windy City in 2003. I moved midwest on the shaky strength of a job offer that shook apart just as I was arriving. Now here I was, with an urban planning masters degree, without an apartment, and with the sinking feeling I was about to return, albeit temporarily, to the crap jobs of my college days. I wish it had been that easy.
It’s about to happen. On Monday, October 23, the national video blog I was invited to work on for ACORN and AFL-CIO goes live on the Net. Here is a list of the people who’ll be telling their own stories–including Jessica, the amazing mother of four whom I had the honor to interview–and whose story is the centerpiece of the week-long event.
Last week I wrote that I was helping to produce a national video blog kicking off on October 23, 7 Days @ Minimum Wage, highlighting the hardships people go through when they’re stuckat the bottom of the wage ladder. I thought I would just be doing Internet outreach coordination. Instead I was tapped to find and interview participants–one of whom will become the project’s centerpiece.
This summer, when I jumped head-first into Chicago’s big-box wage debate, I repeatedly said that the best way to promote a wage increase was at the state level. Little did I suspect that, three months later, I would be selected for the national publicity team of a week-long, ACORN/AFL-CIO sponsored Internet campaign to raise the minimum wage in six states. Well, I have been.
Perhaps only with the opening of new big-box stores in Chicago’s most challenged neighborhoods will suporters of the defunct living-wage law finally be able to see the stores as a uniquely good thing. Not appropriate for every city or even every Chicago neighborhood. But the best–and only–game in town for Chicago ‘hoods in greatest need of a commercial revival. And then maybe Joe Moore will finally get his nose out of the south side and attend to the needs of his own constituents.
Well, the Chicago city council exercised its will yesterday, passing the controversial big-box $10 wage bill by a veto-proof 35 to 14 margin. Previous discussion here on Chicago Carless examined both sides of the issue. Now, as the dust settles and the city holds its collective breath and waits to see whether and when Walmart or Target flee the city for more profitable, suburban pastures, I can’t help but feel an entire side of the debate was, simply, missing.
Several good points were made in the comments thread of Thursday’s post regarding Chicago’s proposed $10 big-box living-wage ordinance that deserve a fuller airing. Voices have been passionate on both sides of this issue, with the Chicago controversy being but a part of a truly national debate. However, the main opposing points are singular enough to summarize: Wal-Mart would bring jobs; but Wal-Mart could also kill local businesses–and so could the proposed ordinance.
Everyone has a right to a living wage. But just what that wage should be–or who should have to pay it–is a debate that has been raging through Chicago’s city council this summer, possibly with disastrous consequences. On July 26, the council will vote on a bill to require big-box retailers doing business within the City of Chicago to pay their employees $10 an hour. Can a law like that be put into practice without workers losing their jobs?