Raising the minimum wage for workers nationwide has proved very controversial.
From federal action pushed by the White House that failed in the Senate, to Seattle's recent increase to $15/hour, this fight is having mixed results.
Well under the radar of that polarizing debate, right here in Los Angeles, the L.A. Unified School District has agreed to increase the minimum wage for its service employees to fifteen dollars an hour. That's not the teachers, its all the other workers who make the school run — custodians, bus drivers, cafeteria staff — some 33,000 of them.
For Van Nuys high School Facilities Attendant, Raul Meza, that's up from $9.85 an hour. He came by the studio yesterday with his wife and preschool aged son to talk with Take Two about what the raise will mean for him and his family.
How long have you worked at Van Nuys high school?
On August 11, I’m going to have 10 years at Van Nuys.
When I started there, we were just focusing on the restrooms. And now, we do custodial work that we shouldn’t be doing; but we do it because we try to help out, because we’re short on staff.
You’ve been earning $9.85 an hour. How does that work out for you, say on a weekly or a monthly basis?
It’s really hard for me…Because now we’re three of us and if I don’t hustle, if I don’t look for other things to do, you know, it’s not going to be enough to pay my bills.
So, in my weekends, I’m never home, I’m always working. I have like a little catering thing and we cater tacos for parties.
Both of us try to do as much as possible. My wife stays home, she doesn’t work, so…I support the family. So I try to bring as much as possible.
Tell me about your son. Do you get to see him much in between working full-time at Van Nuys high school and doing all these other jobs?
Not really. Sometimes I leave from my house and he’s asleep, I come back home and he’s asleep. So when he sees me, he tells me, ‘Daddy, please don’t go,’ and it breaks my heart; but I have to go work to bring money because, if not, I can’t support my family.
I’m guessing that this wage increase from $9.85 an hour to fifteen dollars an hour is going to be a big deal to you.
Yes, it’s going to bring me more money into my home. And I think I’m going to spend more time with my son and with my family.
I’m looking at your wife and son and I can see that your wife is tearing up. This is clearly very hard for her.
Yes, because there’s days, you know, that we don’t even have money for food for the house. And it’s hard for both of us to see. Sometimes, we go to the store, and my son says, ‘Daddy, I want a burger,’ or ‘I want something.’ And, you know, he’s a little boy, you know. He doesn’t understand that daddy doesn’t have money to buy him the burger or to take him wherever he wants. He doesn’t understand, he’s just barely four.
What’s the first thing you think you’ll do once that first paycheck comes through with that extra money in there?
I think, take a vacation, take my son to Disneyland, and go have fun, all three of us; to make him happy.