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From Draft NOtices, July-September 2015

The $15/hour Minimum Wage Campaign Is Counter-recruitment

— Rodrigo de la Rosa

More and more cities have begun to pave the way toward economic justice by supporting the nationwide initiative of increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Cities such as Seattle, Los Angeles, and Portland, OR, have committed themselves to this goal within the next few years. In states such as Texas, where the minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, this change would more than double income in households earning less than $15,000 per year. Although the campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour began as a fast food worker campaign, it has now been implemented in many other service sector jobs and has ultimately become a working-class campaign. In California, where the minimum wage is currently $9 per hour, a single mother or father earns $17,280 per year; that’s $6,570 below the poverty level for a single person without dependents. In San Diego the campaign to earn $15 an hour has been going for a little over a year and has already gained an outstanding amount of support.

This campaign not only advocates for economic justice, but it will also have an impact on military recruitment, because the most powerful factor that drives people in working-class communities into the ranks of the military is POVERTY.

High school students in low-income communities have programs such as JROTC that serve as a gateway and recruitment tool for the military. Military recruiters conduct more class visitations and attend more career fairs than college recruiters in low-income schools. Meanwhile, programs such as JROTC and military recruiters are much less present in schools in affluent communities.

Because the military has such massive exposure in high schools with a majority of working-class students of color, it becomes a much more likely option for them to become economically stable and perhaps have a career. Because these schools often have very limited guidance resources and their families face economic strain, it is difficult for students to see themselves developing a career by attending college. Many students, like me when I was in high school, then come to the conclusion that they are fated to either go into the military or become part of a low-paid workforce upon graduation. It is much easier for recruiters to entice young vulnerable students to join the military when the federal minimum wage is $7.20 per hour and the California minimum wage is $9.00.

If the minimum wage were to increase to $15 per hour, not only would it be a fair and dignified wage for the those who are currently the lowest paid workers, but it would also be more difficult for recruiters to make military salaries sound appealing compared to the civilian workforce. (According to a U.S. Army website, a soldier with less than two years of experience earns somewhere between $18,000 and $20,000.) It would give many young people a reason to consider alternatives to joining the military.

As more and more cities start to advocate and support the $15 per hour wage and the right to form a union at the workplace, it is important to understand the connection and impact that it will have on recruitment into the military specifically within the communities of color who are targeted by recruiters. By supporting the fight for $15 per hour we are not only advocating for economic justice but we are also supporting counter-recruitment demilitarization efforts.

For more information on the $15 minimum wage campaign, visit: Fightfor15.org

This article is from Draft NOtices, the newsletter of the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (http://www.comdsd.org/
       

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