A rising tide helps workers, voters

Are you paying attention?

Taking mental notes?

Storing snippets of words and deeds in the memory bank for withdrawal at a later date? Hopefully, yes. If not, it’s not too late.

No doubt the conflict between sanitation workers and executives at Republic Services—the private company that is responsible for collecting Chula Vista’s garbage from homes and businesses—stinks.

Employees, members of Teamsters Local 542, want a new contract that provides them a $2 increase over the $24 and change hourly rate they currently earn. The Arizona-based company doesn’t want to give it to them. Absent a contract workers have been on strike since December and garbage has been accumulating in the city.

Understandably, Teamsters may be hard pressed to find sympathy from anyone who is elated that they are now earning a $1 more thanks to the state’s mandated $15 minimum wage.

They’re making almost 10 bucks more than I am, what are they complaining about? they might thinking.

But it pays to look at the broader picture.

It wasn’t long ago that legislators and business interests at the state and local levels were opposed to a higher minimum wage for “menial” laborers like fast food workers, janitors and maids. Their contention was damage to the bottom line would be catastrophic and would result in more layoffs and higher unemployment.

But right-minded lawmakers saw the value in helping people earn a livable wage. Laws were passed and over time the minimum wage has increased. And people have a little more money to spend on essentials.

A rising tide lifts all boats, not just the yachts and luxury craft of the rich and ultra-comfortable. In the same way, increased wages and better working conditions for one class of laborers usually bodes well for others.

So while an increase in pay for sanitation workers may not directly benefit a barista or busboy, the current strike does present an opportunity for workers and voters to observe on which side of the fence current and would-be representatives stand.

They may not be able to take a direct role in negotiations but they can let us know who they’ll support when it comes to issues of fair wages and working conditions. That’s worth noting—especially during an election year.