Team argues minimum wage

Public debate on hot topic issue attracts crowd


Tyler Mortimore

Debater Collin Brown speaks during the April 27 debate at Pittsburg City Hall.

The decision to raise a minimum wage is always a contentious one, and it provided ample fodder for the Los Medanos College debate team as they took the stage Wednesday night at Pittsburg City Hall to argue over a $15 minimum wage.

Professor Kasey Gardner welcomed the full house and explained the rules of the British Parliamentary style debate — four teams of two, two teams to a side, Government is for the wage increase, Opposition against — and let the debate get underway.

Prime Minister Kyle Marshall began the Government’s argument by invoking Dolly Parton’s blue collar anthem “9 to 5,” arguing that while folks are still barely gettin’ by, the new reality is an 8 to 5 workday, which opens the door to wearier workers who will in turn work less efficiently and more dangerously.

“America is a strong house, and every strong house needs a stronger foundation,” Marshall argued over the noticeable hiccups of a young audience member.

Opposition leader Collin Brown kept up the pop culture motif, arguing that — for minimum wage earners, at least — mo’ money means mo’ problems. Recognizing his audience, Brown focused his argument on the minimum wage’s effects on college campuses, citing cases at University of Oregon and Oregon State where student positions were cut and tuition was raised by 5 percent in response to a wage hike.

Deputy Prime Minister Richard Stanfield took the lectern to highlight the historical rebuttals against labor laws and minimum wages.

“If we don’t allow child labor, it’ll be a job killer,” he said, aping turn-of-the-century capitalists.

Member of Government Taylor Gonzalez pointed out the societal benefit of increased wealth among the working class.

“When people are paid more, they spend more,” said Gonzalez, advocating for trickle-up economics.

The Opposition also featured arguments from Gennaro Mauricio, Christian Robinson and a closing argument from Amata Abatcha, while the Government closed with Israel Castro.

Both teams provided compelling arguments, as a vote-by-knock by the audience provided no clear winner.

Professor Marie Arcidiacono opened the floor to the audience, who asked members of both sides questions ranging from debate tactics to the possible effects of the wage increase.

The April 27 debate comes about three weeks after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that would increase California’s minimum wage 50 cents a year for two years and then $1 a year until it reaches $15 in 2022. Its passage was praised by prominent figures on the left like Sen. Bernie Sanders — who hailed the “living wage” — and criticized by conservatives who claimed it would cause an increase in unemployment, though Gov. Brown ensured there would be an opt-out option if the economy began to stall. No Republican in the state house or senate supported the bill.