Then & Now: Livable Wage

In 1940 my grandparents moved their family of 7 children, from San Antonio, Texas to Los Angeles. My Grandfather worked for Safeway, the grocery store chain, unloading trucks at the produce depot in Los Angeles, now the DTLA Row. The job paid a wage that supported a family of nine. My grandparents were able to buy a home (Central Los Angeles on the corner of 25th and Hoover, near Adams, 11 blocks north of the USC campus), feed, clothe, and educate their children at private Catholic schools. There was no reliance on government assistance. At that time, workers earned a livable wage. No one categorized my Grandfather’s job as “transitional work” to something better, and therefore justifiably inadequately compensated. Workers who give their full time effort (eight hours a day) have committed their labor, their life, to the success of the company; the company’s profits, and existence, rests on the backs of those employees.

If you work full time for McDonald’s, you work full time, and you deserve a livable wage. If customers are not willing to pay the true cost of a hamburger to support livable wages, then McDonald’s has no right to stay in business. If just a single employee requires government assistance, then the taxpayer is subsidizing the success of the employer.

My Grandmother was born and raised in Texas and my Grandfather was born in Monterey, Mexico in 1898. According to family lore, my grandfather’s father worked for the Mexican railroad. Moving back and forth across the US/Mexican border for work was commonplace. He and his family eventually settled in Texas where he met my Grandmother; they married and had seven children. My Grandfather never became a citizen. In those early years, not applying for citizenship was commonplace, especially for my Grandfather, as he had deep roots in this country and ended up in Texas as naturally as if had been born there. However, in the 60s, immigration issues become a part of the political landscape. My Grandfather’s formal education ended after the third grade, and, I believe his lack of education made him fearful about the law, and consequently, he was nervous about applying for citizenship, out of fear of deportation, even after a lifetime of living in the US. My grandparents worked hard, together, and provided for their family, and never asked for, or expected, government assistance. They provided for their 7 children, with a single income. They were married and united as one for over 60 years.

The noblesse oblige of an employer, especially in corporate America, should be nothing short than to provide a Livable Wage. No one wants charity. When one needs charity, the help is appreciated, however, it can be, nonetheless, an indignity to one’s soul. We need to resist the evolution of a society in which human worth is essentially devalued by government provided entitlements. It is contrary to the human endeavor.

My Grandfather: 1978

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *