Known for Opposing Bilingual Education, Ron Unz says he Supports Rise in Minimum Wage

So this is interesting: Ron Unz who is known throughout California as being someone who has thrown his millions into ballot propositions to a) halt public affirmative action for women and minorities (Prop. 209, 1996) and b) to ban bilingual teaching in public schools (Prop. 227, 1998)  but who opposed Prop. 187 (1994), which tried to bar welfare, health care and public schooling to undocumented immigrants, is now pushing an initiative in favor of increasing the California minimum wage — by a lot.

From a conservative position of wanting to diminish the size and reach of government, he is being consistent.

…significantly raising the minimum wage would help curb government spending on social services, strengthen the economy and make more jobs attractive to American-born workers.

“There are so many very low-wage workers, and we pay for huge social welfare programs for them,” he said in an interview. “This would save something on the order of tens of billions of dollars. Doesn’t it make more sense for employers to pay their workers than the government?”

Whether he’ll be joined in that estimation by fellow conservatives who, can’t untangle their economics from their xenophobia –wild about Prop 187 in 1994 for example–  or business conservatives who will cry havoc if they have to pay workers to get near a living wage, remains to be seen.

What his own motives are, of course come into question. What he paid, and pays, his own workers would be interesting to know — not just the indispensable geeks for his software company but those who empty the wastebaskets and clean the toilets.

Those who have long pressed for higher minimum wages are not convinced as of yet:  oh, yeah?  Where have you been?

While unions have backed similar voter initiatives in San Jose and Long Beach, Calif., labor officials are now focused on permanently tying the minimum wage to the rate of inflation [which by the way, Mitt Romney has said he endorses] , and said the measure Mr. Unz is proposing could be a distraction. Steve Smith, a spokesman for the California Labor Federation, was hardly enthusiastic when informed of Mr. Unz’s plans.

“He has not shown a great deal of support for workers’ issues in the past and was nowhere to be seen in the legislative debate here, so it’s not really clear what the motivation is here,” Mr. Smith said. “But he is saying some things that are the same as what we’ve been saying all along.”

Although Robert Reich hasn’t weighed in on the Unz proposal yet, they both point to Henry Ford’s wisdom of paying his workers enough so they could buy his cars, as smart conservatism.

At any rate, it seems we’ll get a chance to consider all this:

He plans to pour his own money into a ballot measure to increase the minimum wage in California to $10 an hour in 2015 and $12 in 2016, which would make it by far the highest in the nation. Currently, it is $8 — 75 cents higher than the federal minimum.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.