August 22, 2019

Letters to the editor: E-bikes, Al Gore and minimum wage

Cycling the City

I really enjoyed Rob Eshman’s column (“L.A., Meet My E-Bike,” May 6). I’ve ridden that route as well and am also concerned that there isn’t a big effort to allow bicycle riders a path to cross Los Angeles safely. I live on the Westside and would love to ride to downtown and back without worrying about getting hit. I have participated in CicLAvia and also in the Tour de Summer Camps ride, where last year there were three riders involved in a serious accident just ahead of me. I don’t know the answer, but we have to keep trying to make L.A. bike-friendly.

Ralph Hattenbach, Los Angeles

The Non-Gore Presidency Lesson

Regarding Danielle Berrin’s column “What If Al Gore Had Won?” (May 6), I completely agree. (There is still a Gore sticker on my car!) My family had the honor of spending Passover at a program that featured Sen. Joseph Lieberman and it was a sad reminder of how our democracy was hijacked, leading to the dissatisfaction of many people and the (justified) distrust of our system, which may have disastrous results this November. We will never know how the Gore-Lieberman presidency would have played out, but we should be ever vigilant to participate in the system and listen to what the candidates are saying.

Linda Rohatiner via email 

A hearty thank you to Danielle Berrin for her column “What If Al Gore Had Won?” Al Gore’s message is more important and timely than ever. Climate change deniers spread their lies and misinformation because of the almighty dollar and to the detriment of us all. I just hope we haven’t missed the boat on saving our Earth. I don’t care who says I’m exaggerating: The facts are there, and we need to be scared into taking real action before it’s too late.

Joshua Lewis Berg, Glendale

In Favor of $15 An Hour

Dennis Prager (“Why Do Jews Support a $15 Minimum Wage?” April 29) is wrong on both the facts and the values. His letter is a virtual catalogue of the misinformation that is disseminated about raising the minimum wage. Two hundred economists recently signed a letter in support of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. They wrote: “ … the weight of evidence from the extensive professional literature has, for decades, consistently found that no significant effects on employment opportunities result when the minimum wage rises in reasonable increments. … The economy overall will benefit from the gains in equality tied to the minimum wage increase and related policy initiatives. Greater equality means working people have more spending power, which in turn supports greater overall demand in the economy.” Prager’s unfounded concern for the loss of jobs should be focused on the actual moral issue of corporations earning high profits while simultaneously depriving employees of sustainable wages and the resulting struggle to survive — exacerbated by lowering the wage floor and denying access to the middle class.

Jewish tradition understands a worker’s ability to live in dignity as being equal in importance to an employer’s ability to turn a profit. For this reason, rabbis of every denomination, worldwide, have supported workers’ rights to organize for wages and benefits, which allow them to live with dignity.

Rabbi Jonathan Klein, Executive Director, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice

Rabbi Aryeh Cohen, Rabbi in Residence, Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice

I wrote my UCLA dissertation on Katherine Philips Edson, who helped to pass California’s 1913 minimum wage law and then for 18 years sat on the state Industrial Welfare Commission to administer it. Dennis Prager’s misuse of history to argue against a raise in the federal minimum wage law is astounding.

The Davis-Bacon Act applied the principle of “prevailing wage,” which called for bidders seeking federal government contracts to match their workers’ wages to rates where the job would be fulfilled. Minimum wage is different in concept and execution, and the origins, motives and historical paths of each policy are distinct. Minimum wage law established a floor, or a bottom value below which workers could not sell their labor. The first U.S. state laws passed in California and Massachusetts in 1913, and by 1926, 16 more followed, in spite of the Supreme Court’s spurious ruling they interfered with the “liberty of contract” protection. Strategists who sought minimum wage (and hours) laws for all workers were forced to narrow their goals and create a sex- (or gender-) based argument in order to at least seek coverage for the most vulnerable workers who were ignored by organized labor, i.e., women and children. Contrary to Prager’s assertion, organized labor did not support minimum wage laws because union leaders feared the minimum would become the maximum and weaken their fledgling influence.

Jacqueline R. Braitman, Valley Village