The media celebrity Larry Elder might be the most controversial candidate in the coming recall election of California Governor. Gavin Newsom.
Elder is not devoid of right-wing and sometimes inflammatory opinions on issues such as coronavirus vaccinations and climate change. His opinions on the minimum wage in California, however, are getting more interest as he tries to succeed Newsom.
Elder isn’t a believer in the idea of a minimum wage. While speaking to the McClatchy’s editorial boards earlier in the month, Elder made this extremely evident. “The best minimum wage would be zero,” he said.
Labor experts and economists agree that an unassailable minimum wage is vital to safeguard workers and keep as many low-wage workers as is possible over the poverty line.
“Income inequality has risen exponentially, and this is because workers lack bargaining ability,” said Sylvia Allegretto who is a labor economist at UC Berkeley. The majority of workers wouldn’t have a chance of earning a fair amount without a minimum wage that they can negotiate, she added.
The minimum wage in the United States is set at $7.25 per hour. California is one of the highest wages in the nation with a wage of $13 or $14, depending upon the scale of a company.
If Elder was to be elected governor and see the state’s minimum wage law eliminated just a small percentage of workers would be covered by the Federal standard, says Arindrajit Dube, an expert on minimum wage at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. There are loopholes and exemptions that allow certain workers to earn less than $7.25, Dube said.
“Attacking on the California minimum wage could be particularly damaging,” he said. “It will result in a massive reduction in wages for around three-quarters of the workforce and could be among the worst problems for the working Californians that I am aware of.”
It’s also important to note that the majority of Americans are in favor of raising the minimum wage up to $15.
What is the reason Elder proposing something that will likely hurt Californians and is clearly unpopular among the voters? To be precise, Elder isn’t the only one to support the elimination of minimum wages. It’s a widely held libertarian belief founded on the idea that government shouldn’t interfere with private matters.
The UC Berkeley’s Michael Reich, economist, and co-chair of the Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics together with Allegretto who has also heard the concept before. He claimed that it doesn’t hold water.
“The concept is that the employer and employee should be able to decide on the wage they are comfortable with There’s nothing coercive regarding this,” Reich said. “But an employee requires work more than an employer has to have that specific employee, which makes it an extremely uneven level playing field.”
I’m not in Elder’s head however, as I see it there are two possible reasons that the well-known recall candidate is very vocal about his views about the need to eliminate the minimum wage. The first possibility would be he’s aware it’s a controversial issue which will attract the attention of.
Another possible scenario is Elder really doesn’t realize the fact that employers and laborers do not have the same level of understanding when they negotiate an amount for a salary. For me, this is far more worrying.
When the state’s minimum wage is eliminated within California, “it will be an all-out” race to the bottom that we’ve never witnessed in the past,” according to Allegretto. Workers in desperate need of work will have to pay unsustainable wage levels, she claimed.
In an appearance on McClatchy reporters, Elder asserted his libertarian stand. “Why two adults cannot decide what the cost of labor should have to be is beyond my comprehension,” he said.
Elder’s words reveal his ignorance better than any other person’s. If he is unable to comprehend why two adults aren’t able to be fair in negotiating the cost of labor the fundamental issue is that he doesn’t understand the power imbalance between firms and workers.
“Workers are aware that they’re receiving the shorter side of the stick,” Allegretto said. It’s not true to say that employees could negotiate their way to an appropriate salary without outside assistance. Elder’s stance can be described as “completely disconnected from the past of the massive and increasing inequality in the United States,” she said.
The person selling their work will always be less powerful as compared to their boss. It’s true capitalism that capital is the priority and not workers. If Elder truly believes his ideal salary should be zero dollars and believes that this would lead to fair wages and fair wages, then his perception of capitalism is a bit away from reality.
Allegretto and Reich both agree that Elder’s comments are likely nothing more than an attempt at publicity. “Anything Elder is able to do to keep his name in the spotlight regardless of how ridiculous will benefit his cause,” Reich said.
“It’s an absurd and un-informed idea,” Allegretto said. “It isn’t possible and it will never be accomplished. This is just a far-right rant.”
If we give Elder some benefit from doubt, perhaps Elder isn’t simply seeking attention. However, if his thoughts regarding the minimum wage actually reflect his beliefs and plans as a possible governor of California, then perhaps he’s more dangerous to California than we imagined.