Sioux Falls restaurateur and known liberal Steve Hildebrand got to serve Governor Dennis Daugaard on Friday. As a tip, the Governor left a signal that if the Legislature wants to kill the minimum-wage increase we voters passed Tuesday, that would be hunky-dory:
So, Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard came into my restaurant this morning to meet with a newly elected Republican legislator who frequents the place. After their meeting and before he walked out the door, I asked the governor if he had a minute to talk to me. I asked him to not let Republican legislators repeal the cost-of-living adjustments for the minimum wage increase that the people of South Dakota just passed by a healthy majority.
His response: "I don't believe in the minimum wage. I believe we should let the market set the rates of pay." I said, great. Then people in South Dakota will work for $2.50 an hour.
And then I pointed out to him that Sioux Falls has a 3% unemployment rate, but that 50% of our school-aged kids qualify for free-or-reduced lunches - and that poverty is a REAL problem in our state. I asked him to pay attention to low wages, poverty and to take this very seriously. His aides, were very rude and escorted him quickly out of the restaurant. I was left with only one thought - the governor of my state doesn't care that families are working in poverty level jobs, can't make ends meet. Too bad he can't have a reasonable conversation with a local business owner who knows how hard it is for people to make ends meet when wages are so low.
And what a shame if Republicans attempt to repeal a law passed by the voters. Not that they haven't done it many times. But really, wages for people working in poverty-level jobs. Shame on them [link added; Steven C. Hildebrand, Facebook post, 2014.11.07].
Almost everyone is working, but with only the meager protection of a minimum wage still well below what workers deserve for their productivity, half of the families need help buying lunch for their kids. Governor Daugaard, should the market also determine which kids eat?
Blogger Michael Larson suggested that we should lower the Governor's pay to parity with the Lennox mayor's, $3,200 a year. Let's go one better: let's let the market determine Dennis Daugaard's salary. Remove his legally guaranteed salary of $107,121.62 (plus that really valuable house he gets to live in on our dime, and the nice state cars and planes that haul him and his rude aides around). Let him work, and at the end of each month, we'll conduct a poll to determine just what they think their Governor's labor has been worth. Maybe he'll get $10,000. Maybe he'll get $10, and Mrs. Daugaard will have to go jerk espresso at Pier 347 or substitute-teach.
I suppose we could argue that's how we do state executive salaries right now. We poll the "market"—comprised mostly the Governor's fellow Republicans in the Legislature—and they compose a state budget that locks in pay for the Governor along with all state employees.
But not one of these executives is anywhere near subsistence living at $8.50 an hour. Not one of these executives needs a second income to feed the kids. Not one of these executives faces the reality of a market that would throw them into welfare or bankruptcy in a month if the law didn't protect their basic dignity as workers.
Citizens, take your new legislators to coffee this month. Remind them that you are the market, and you have spoken: workers deserve at least $8.50 an hour, with indexed increases each year. Legislators, don't mess with Initiated Measure 18.
Update 14:04 CST: Todd Epp suggests some might call a Legislative repeal of IM 18 totalitarianism. Indeed, we might.