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Editor’s note: Students and young workers in San Jose, California have initiated a measure to raise the minimum wage from $8/hour to $10/hour. The Mayor, Chuck Reed, and the City Council declined to pass the measure outright, but enough signatures were gathered to put it on the November ballot.

Hello Mayor Reed,

I am Ookie, your every day San Jose individual, who writes and produces music, who worked at a 9 to 5, which did not pay him what he needed to survive, even though I busted my ass for such a small check. I worked at a convenience store and a pizza spot known as Pizza Hut. Both places were horrible experiences. They were jobs I think any politician who voted against the minimum wage increase should work and try to live off of. Mayor Reed, I feel you would gladly, and quickly, support the minimum wage increase of $8.25 an hour to $10 an hour if you had to provide for your family on those jobs’ wages.

Things were so tight for me, I couldn't even pay the Light Rail ticket that took me to work. It just doesn't make sense. How does anyone expect young people to become independent and self-reliant if we don't make the wages to make that possible?

That's why I am amazed at you Mayor Reed. You pushed against the wage increase when you could have helped make it a reality. How does it feel to be in a position of power and not want to help the working class people, when gas prices have gone up? When tuition for school has gone up? When VTA tickets have gone up?

I'm 22 right now, and how in the Hell am I supposed to pay for all that, plus rent? And I know what you’re thinking, "Why don't you go and get a second job?" How am I supposed to get a job when graduates aren't getting jobs? How am I supposed to get a job when I can't afford to even get to my job? How would you feel if your choice was eating dinner at night or being able to buy a ticket for the bus in the morning? You and me both know that you are making a hefty amount of money.

Mayor Reed, you put yourself out there as a fiscally responsible person. Well so am I. And so are the other thousands of working class residents of San Jose who need a pay increase to survive, the ones who have to constantly strategize ways to come up with that extra bit of money. I want to see you raise a family on $8.50 an hour. I want to see you work at Burger King and KFC, and other jobs like that with today's cost of living. Do you think you can do that?      

One and Only,
Ookie Robinson a.k.a Daniel Zapien

This letter is reprinted from, with permission of the author and illustrator  

In a dystopian future I am given a modest birthday cake
An expression of hope amidst ashes and dust
What is there to celebrate?

I was born in 1984
A year predicted by George Orwell
To bring about the age of Big Brother
With cameras to document your every move
And lives as unknowing prisoners
Under the tyranny of the Thought Police
I am sure some would love the luxury now…
Of having a house
Something to eat and drink
No one told us
One day they wouldn’t need us
That one day the power would be cut off
Water would stop flowing from pipes
We would all be evicted
Services would be decommissioned
Most things of value
Taken from the earth and soil
Most things of value
Stripped from our backs
Most things of value
No longer included our mouths
Our heads
Our hands
We should have known
The day the factories
Were closed
The day the schools and universities
Were closed
The day the markets
Were closed
When offshore tax havens
Became offshore fortresses
And fences appeared everywhere
We should have known
That something was changing
This thing we had called society and civilization
Had been a lie
A cruel joke
With a punchline developed over the millennia
George Orwell had been correct
The end goal had been control
But not over what the masses thought
What workers and soldiers thought
Had only been important
In a time of technological underdevelopment
When the ruling class had both something to gain
And to fear by using other people in its service
Rather, it was control
Over how much control the people had
Over the very things that had enabled us to live our lives
Every source of food
And weapons
We once had produced in their service
Once bought and sold
Now merely kept
Behind fences
And drones
That is what they had achieved in my lifetime.

We have lost it all
I struggle to remember it all
In 2084
One hundred years from the day I was born
I blow the pathetic candle out atop my birthday cake
How lucky am I to have survived to have seen this day.

Wishing for a better world…

By David A. Romero


This article originated in the People's Tribune
PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654, 800-691-6888
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