With the economic climate the way it is (translated: It's a hailstorm of flesh-rotting acid followed by a rain cloud filled with salt), now's the perfect time for Missouri politicians to enact House Bill 61 and Senate Bill 110.
Bills 61 and 110 would repeal the minimum wage cost-of-living increase, part of a law passed in 2006, and prohibit state minimum wage from exceeding federal minimum wage.
Luckily, The Kansas City Chapter of Missouri Jobs With Justice and Recycled Rockstar Industries have collaborated and are throwing a benefit concert for the Save Our Raise campaign. The Gusto Lounge will host the benefit on Friday, April 22, at 9 p.m. There's no cover, but donations for the cause will be accepted, and the Gusto plans on matching the first $200 raised. Local rock bands Red Kate, Under the Black Sails and Dream Wolf will perform.
Below are Shawn Saving's (Red Kate bass, singer) thoughts on the Save Our Raise campaign and the upcoming show.
The Pitch: Who created the event? I'm assuming Red Kate (and you) had a lot to do with the event?
Shawn Saving of Red Kate: This was my idea. I'm always looking for new avenues for playing shows and I knew the campaign needed the money, so it just made sense. The guys with Recycled Rockstar Industries helped me get the Gusto as a venue and helped me get in touch with bands.
Do you think rock fans will be inclined to come out? I know most are opinionated.
I think so. Many rock and punk-rock fans are service-industry people who get paid 50 percent of the full minimum wage ($3.63/hr); their take home pay is on the line. And people that go out to see live music tend to be younger, and they, too, are more likely to be working at or near minimum wage. Besides, the minimum wage is kind of a no-brainer. Who the hell thinks $7.25/hr is an adequate wage?!
Can you tell me a bit about Save Our Raise?
Save Our Raise is a campaign of Missouri Jobs With Justice, the statewide umbrella organization for Kansas City Jobs with Justice (St Louis has a chapter as well). Save Our Raise educates the public and organizes minimum wage workers around this issue so that they will be agitated to take action, like writing their legislator and the governor, and lobbying in Jefferson City.<
JWJ led the fight to get Prop B (the min wage initiative) on the ballot in 2006 and has led the fight to protect it every year since. Republicans, at the behest of the Restaurant Association, the Chamber of Commerce and the usual corporate suspects, have tried to undo the law in some way every year since. They've targeted workers 20 and under, trying to exclude them from the law; they've targeted tipped employees specifically, trying to knock them back to the federal min wage of $2.13/hr; and this time they're going after the annual cost-of-living adjustment that keeps the min wage tied to inflation. The COLA is vital to keeping workers out of poverty. The federal minimum wage was last raised in 2007. Before that it had stayed flat for 11 years! Same thing happened in the 1980s under Reagan. If the minimum wage were to have kept pace with inflation, it would be over $10/hr now. That's a living wage; $7.25/hr ($15,000/yr) is a poverty-level wage. It will only get worse if it isn't allowed to adjust with inflation.
How did you get involved with Save Our Raise? How did you hear about it?
I've been involved with KC Jobs With Justice since its inception in 2007, and my girlfriend, Molly Barlow, has been a volunteer for the Save Our Raise campaign for the past couple of years. JWJ works on all sorts of economic and worker-related issues, but minimum wage is the one that really resonates well with the independent music scene. I'm not sure we could get many people to go to a punk-rock show for the Employee Free Choice Act, at least not yet.
Have you always been involved in politics, and has your passion always been in fair wages? I realize that sounds odd, but I think you know what I'm getting at. Everyone who's political has a cause. I know I do.
You've heard the saying "If you aren't outraged, you aren't paying attention"? That pretty much sums it up. I come from a family who taught me the value of a person's labor and that every one of us deserves dignity and respect in the workplace. The working person's labor is as valuable as the businessman's capital. Neither would have anything without the other. And once you learn how the system works, you can't unlearn it. You can either be cynical and accept it or be cynical and fight it. I chose the latter. When you dig into the issues that progressives care about, you realize that it all leads back to one thing: respect and dignity in the workplace. Nearly all causes progressives care about start in the workplace: civil rights, gay rights, free speech, environment, economic justice. We spend more time at work than anywhere else, and if we don't have equal rights there, if we don't have a clean, safe work environment, if we don't have economic power, how can we have them in society at large? Corporations control and shape our culture in so many ways, yet unlike government, we can't vote out CEOs or change corporate policy through lobbying, but we can organize our workplaces and check the power of the corporations to enforce their will upon us.
People aren't happy with the state of the economy, and, in part, the economy exists like it does because of our own apathy to change it and sense of powerlessness against it. But the kind of society that we want (and the kind that we had not that long ago) was not given to us by the powers that be. It was fought for and won by the people who demanded it. There is only one thing that can stand up to the power of organized money, and that is the power of organized people.
Why the Gusto Lounge?
I saw a show there on New Year's Night that was put on by the guys from Recycled Rockstar, Industries. I thought it was a cool room, not too big, and since they don't have shows there regularly, I figured it would be easier to get a weekend date. When planning shows, you're always looking at factors that will help or hinder turnout, and Gusto's location, clientele and walk-up traffic were all positives. We'll see if I calculated correctly.
Have you been involved in any other events like this is in the past or is this your first? If you have, how have they gone?
This is KC JWJ's first fundraiser like this. We wanted to start with something small and see how it goes.
Is there anything special planned for the show? Set lists? Any special festivities happening that night, too?
I can't speak for the other bands, but we have a couple of songs that fit the theme of the night. But as of now, no surprises, just music. I'm trying to keep it simple.
Any plans for future events like this?
During the legislative off-season, the campaign will continue to organize minimum wage workers into an active force that can respond to next year's legislative attack that we know will come. It's likely that we will continue to hold these kind of events. We do a lot with little, but we still need some money for printing, phones, travel to Jefferson City, etc.
If there's anything you'd like to add, please do.
We want people to come out and have a good time. It's a party. There won't be any speeches, but there is a purpose to the evening. We want people to learn about the minimum wage, of course, but perhaps more important, we want people to meet others who are in solidarity with the cause of economic justice and understand that we can, and do, win these fights. It's easy to be discouraged, especially around these parts, but there are more of us out there than we may realize. It's time we made ourselves heard.