Friday, July 24, 2009

Minimum Wage's Increase

I remember being 16 years old, working at Wendy's and feeling like I was queen of the world on payday with my part-time, minimum wage paycheck. I was lucky...I worked fast food but Wendy's doesn't have waitresses, so I wasn't hoping for good tips while earning only $2.13 per hour.

In going online, it looks like Iowa's minimum wage in 1990 was equal to the federal rate, of $3.85. Looking back, that just doesn't seem possible.

"Today, the federal minimum wage goes up to $7.25 an hour. That comes out to a bit more than 12 cents a minute - or $15,080 a year." Patrick Wilson and Philip Walzer's article in The Virginian-Pilot earlier today (07/24/09) brought back those feelings of youthful abandon with the paycheck, and at the same time, reminded me at how good I've become at budgeting, especially while on unemployment. I guess that really proves you're never too old to learn something new, or that unemployment doesn't have to be a horrible, dry time in your life.

I've been spoiled with my various jobs since high school (at least up until getting laid off in May). It's mind boggling to think people had to survive on $7.13 or so per hour. And to top it off, if you're working at a minimum wage job, you're not getting benefits. It's fine for a teenager, living at home with Mom and Dad, but grown adults need and deserve better. Because let's be honest here...if you're earning minimum wage, you probably don't have a lot of bills for things like cable or cell phones. You're making do with the basics.

Wikipedia had an interesting bit of history about how minimum wage came to be. "Minimum wages were first proposed as a way to control the proliferation of sweat shops in manufacturing industries. The sweat shops employed large numbers of women and young workers, paying them what were considered to be substandard wages. The sweatshop owners were thought to have unfair bargaining power over their workers, and a minimum wage was proposed as a means to make them pay 'fairly.'"

Sure, a mandatory increase in federal minimum wage is going to hurt employers, especially during a recession, but I really can't feel any sympathy for them. It's not out of spite, but rather happiness for those who are getting the increase.

Wilson and Walzer ended their article with this nugget: "U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, in a conference call with reporters Thursday, said there's scant evidence the minimum-wage increase will lead to significant job loss. She cited an estimate from the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington research group, that it will generate $5.5 billion in consumer spending over the next year." I think Solis might have her head up her rear end. Scant evidence? Who has she talked to, to get that information? The reporters talked to four people, employers and an economist (his quote is below), and they all said it's going to hurt to have to pay more. I tend to agree with them.

"Some economists worry that plenty more owners, already strapped with declining incomes, will lay off low-paid help rather than pay the raises.

"Unfortunately, this is bad timing for the economy," said Peter Shaw, a business professor at Tidewater Community College."

I personally think the economy will kind of level out at where it is now, for quite some time before it gets any better. I think it's going to both good and rough, increasing minimum wage, but it needs to be done. It's like a necessary evil.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Why Doesn't Virginia Have Leash Laws?

Doesn't Virginia have leash laws? According to, the Commonwealth doesn't have leash laws. Individual areas have their own.

Why doesn't Virginia have it's own statewide leash laws???

Arlington, VA's leash laws are pretty cut and dried:
"When off their owner's property, all dogs in Arlington must be leashed and under control of the owner or another responsible person. The only exception to this law is if the dog is in a county-sanctioned, off-lead dog exercise area.

§ 2-6. Leashing dogs:
All dogs shall be kept secured by a leash or lead, and under the control of the owner or other responsible person, or within the real property limits of its owners. A waiver to this requirement for a specific time and place may be obtained from the animal warden's office for such activities as off-lead training, obedience matches and trials, when the dog has a skin condition which would be exacerbated by the wearing of a collar, and other activities which promote animal control. Nothing in this section of the County Code nor in any other section shall be deemed to make unlawful the exercising of dogs not upon a leash in areas of the county specifically designated for such exercising."

Even Rocky Mount, VA is considering leash laws. "Rocky Mount Town Councilman John Lester has proposed that the town look into the possibility of adopting a dog leash law," reported Joel Turner.

As a dog owner in Hampton Roads, I'd support leash laws. There are leash laws in area parks and on the beaches, but I'm talking about city-wide laws.

I'm tired of walking my dog and getting bum rushed by other dogs, out running loose, clearly not in their owners' control (either physically or vocally). If I can control my own dog, it's safer for him, and for other people and dogs in my neighborhood. My dog isn't dangerous, but even I don't know how he might react if provoked by another dog. Leash laws, if followed correctly, make environments safer for people and their animals.

And it looks like I'm not the only one in the area that would support local leash laws. In February 2009, someone wrote in for the Waggin' Tails blog why leashes are good ideas. "I live in a neighborhood where some people think that it’s okay to just let their dog out the door to roam. They say their dog will come back when it’s ready. They also think they don’t need a leash when walking with their dog."

I walk my dog on a leash and I keep him under my control when he's in our fenced in front yard. Shoot, I even clean up after him when we walk.

So what's my problem with people who don't leash their dogs? It happened again tonight. My leashed dog and I are walking home when we get rushed by an aggressive dog of some kind. She's barking and growling, and circling my dog, like she's trying to get behind him. She definitely wasn't in a butt sniffing kind of mood...the dog body language going on here wasn't good.

And my problem is that this has happened a couple of times before, because the owners sit on their front porch at night with their dog, who "normally listens" even though she won't come back to them when she's called. She's clearly not under their control. This dog won't even let her owners grab her when she's loose. They have to chase her home.

I'll admit that tonight, it finally pushed me too much. I started cussing out that dog and didn't really accept the owner's apologies with any kind of grace. My dog is well behaved and he's not a fighter. I'm sick of having to put up with that. As of tonight, I think we're going to have to cut that block out of our walks. And that's not fair to my dog so we'll have to find a new block to add to our route to make up for it.

How safe is this? If I let my large breed, non-aggressive, neutered dog run around like that, you know I'd catch hell from people in the neighborhood. I think leash laws would make us all safer dog owners. For those of us who use leashes already, our lives wouldn't change.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Until There Are None, Adopt One

I have a soft spot when it comes to animals, especially dogs. As I had posted before, I volunteer with American Brittany Rescue, but I'm also with Virginia German Shepherd Rescue as well. I like hearing about the work that ordinary, everyday people do across the country for animals. Bill Smith in Pennsylvania would be one of those people.

"Bill Smith has dedicated his life to fighting "puppy mills," the warehouses where dogs are raised for profit in tiny cages, denied sufficient medical care, and often killed when they get sick or can no longer breed. Smith noticed that many of the farms around his shelter facility, near the heart of puppy-mill country in Lancaster County, Pa., were displaying signs boasting that they were organic dairy operations," Suzanne Smalley reported in Newsweek on July 11, 2009.

It wasn't enough for Mr. Smith that these puppy-millers gave up their puppy "operations." He wanted Whole Foods and other such businesses to know what their suppliers were doing, in conjunction with their milk operations.

If it drives the puppy-millers out of business, then more power to Mr. Smith.

But there are those out there that might argue this is crossing the business line. Is being in both the puppy mill and the organic milk industry a conflict of interest? Probably not, but if those dairy farmers can take good care of their milk cows and produce quality organic milk, then why not show the same level of care for their dogs?

The ASPCA estimates there are at least 10,000 puppy mills in the United States, twice as many as there were in the mid-1990's. The number of puppies they supply to pet stores is staggering.

"Illness, disease, fearful behavior and lack of socialization with humans and other animals are common characteristics of dogs from puppy mills. Because puppy mill operators fail to apply proper husbandry practices that would remove sick dogs from their breeding pools, puppies from puppy mills are prone to congenital and hereditary conditions" the ASPCA reports.

Sickly and crammed into tiny, poor accommodations just doesn't seem right for such a royal species that is totally dependent on their human families.

"In 1997, UCLA biology professor Robert K. Wayne and his colleagues startled the dog world by announcing that their genetic research suggested dogs were first domesticated as early as 100,000 years ago. They also confirmed that dogs are descended only from wolves, not jackals or coyotes as some had surmised," said Working Dog Web.

For their love and loyalty, for keeping us company and protecting us, this is how some people thank their dogs, by buying them from those puppy mills. It doesn't quite seem right, on various levels.

For anyone out there thinking about getting a dog, please stay away from puppy mills and pet stores. Until there are none, adopt one. Somewhere, the greatest dog in the world is waiting for you, either with a rescue (either an all dog breed rescue or a breed specific rescue) or in a shelter. You might even find the greatest dog for sale or for free in an ad from an owner that can't keep it anymore.