Raising the Minimum Wage


Seattle recently increased its minimum wage to $15 an hour, joining other states like California and New Jersey in the quest to fight poverty in the United States. Concern about an increase in minimum wage stems from worries about the rise in unemployment and prices in order to supplement higher salaries. Advocates of raising the minimum wage say that an increase to $10.10 would reduce poverty and allow low-wage workers to buy basic necessities such as health care for example. These basic necessities will drive the need for welfare programs, thereby raising the standard of living. With more money in their pockets, not only would productivity increase, but people will be able to spend more on goods and services, thus stimulating the economy, creating more jobs and job stability, and decreasing income inequality.

However, the other side is that increasing the minimum wage would do the exact opposite and kill the job market. In order to supplement the costs, companies will start cutting back on their employees and trying to find alternative technological ways to replace those workers, in effect, increasing unemployment. Therefore, in an attempt to help low-wage workers gain more money, minimum wage actually actually damage their chances for finding jobs. In addition, a higher salary would result in higher prices, so goods and services would cost more.

There’s a Catch-22 when it comes to discussing minimum wage. Studies negate certain aspects of each side which complicates fair judgment. A study by the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE) showed that an increase in minimum wage to $10.10 would only raise the prices of goods and services by 2.5% or less. San Francisco and Santa Fe are perfect examples in which there was little effect on employment after their wages increased to $10.74 and $10.66 respectively. In fact, in a viral video concerning Walmart, raising the minimum wage of its employees to $10.10 would increase the price of products by only a cent.


However, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its own report saying that a higher minimum wage would have little effect on poverty because only 19% of the increase in income would go to families below the poverty line, while 29% would go to families earning three times more. Most minimum wage earners are from middle class families, debunking the myth that those in poverty occupy most low-income jobs. There are countless more studies that negate each other that it makes it difficult to come to a conclusion on which one is correct.

Each state and each city are different, so the effect of an increase in minimum wage may work in one city but not in another. But as more and more cities are deciding to increase their minimum wage, others are following. Slowly but surely, we will be able to see for ourselves which argument is true within our own community, whether it's the side we anticipate or not.

Photo Credit: Annette Bernhardt

Blood is Thicker than Water: The Importance of Family in the Pilipino Culture


A thin bar of plastic had descend on my shoulder. A hanger and my older sister wielding it.


My sister was crying. My clenched fist had just collided with her stomach.

I was not quite ten and she not quite fourteen.

If you have siblings then you probably are, I venture to say, familiar with this type of experience. Growing up with two sisters – who were more like brothers when they were angry – I have experienced, and inflicted, my fair share of emotional and physical blows. I cannot count how many times I’ve been hit, punched, bitten or screamed at. How often I heard the words, “I hate you!" or felt the sting of a cold shoulder is beyond me. When we fought—and we fought A LOT—no feelings were spared, no insult was unused and at least one of us walked away with a bruise.

My sister and I during a childhood Christmas.

When I reminisce about all the childhood clashes that classified my sisters as enemies, two things happen. One, I realize that my sisters and I were little barbarians when we were younger. I mean when you resort to biting an adversary, you've regressed a few evolutionary steps.  Two, I look at us now and wonder how did three people who could so easily "hate"  each other become three people who could not live without one another? I suppose some of it has to do with getting older. As the number on our birthday cakes increased, the petty differences that pitted us against one another dwindled in importance. But was it really just time that changed us? Definitely not.

A blur of flying fists and ugly words — especially now, more than a decade later— I remember very few details about our fights. What I do remember is my father saying this:

"Love your sisters. At the end of the world, your family is all you have."

Repeated each time I ran to my room in tears, my dad's advice became tradition. No argument felt complete unless it ended in his voice and these words. There seems nothing abnormal about this; just a father trying to mediate between his bickering children.  However, there was strange and remarkable about this advice: I didn't have to fling a toy at my sisters to hear it. Any situation in which my dad had my attention, he found some way to remind me how essential my family is (the man could turn conversation about Christmas dinner into a sermon about family!). But however much fun I like to poke at my father's lessons, they worked. There is no one I trust more than my little sister, no one I can joke around with like my Ate. And as I became older, I began to understand these values were not exclusive to just my family. Like the eight-rayed sun, close family bonds are indicative of the Pilipino culture.

The family stands at the center of the Pilipino culture. A beautiful feature that only adds to the richness of our culture, many Pilipinos - myself included - do not often ask why. Why is family such a crucial part of life for Pilipinos?  According to Ador Vincent Mayol in the Global Nation Inquirer, religion is the driving force behind this mentality. Mayol asserts that the family is a gift from God and as a cohesive unit it is a representation of the Lord. It is no surprise, then, that the arduously Catholic Pilipinos feel the need to strengthen family ties as another means of showing reverence to God. No doubt, the family, my family,  is a great blessing. However, I would like to share a different possibility.

The Philippines is a poor country. Yes, it houses the very modernized, very affluent Manila, but the greater majority of this island nation is in a state of seemingly perpetual poverty; its poverty level have remained stagnant for the past six years.  So impoverished is the Philippines that the goal of many of its younger residents is to leave the country, unwilling to raise a family in these dire conditions. This is a disheartening fact, but it is one that, I believe, encourages Pilipino families to develop such unshakable relationships. When you have  no financial stability and very few material possessions, and when you live in fear that at any moment you could be removed from school because of insufficient funds, the only constant thing is your family. In a country whose economic state is constantly testing the physical and emotional resilience of its people, the family in the Pilipino culture is a gold mine of strength.  It is the cushion for when one falls and the holler of joy when one succeeds. The family provides, for Pilipinos, a sense of togetherness and emotional stability vital in a situation earmarked by toil and inconsistency.

Am I glad that my parents, my titos and titas, my grandparents faced such hardship? Never. No one should have to wonder if they'll have enough money to buy a decent meal or suitable clothes. However, I do consider myself lucky having been born to Pilipino parents, born into a culture defined by endurance and a clear understanding about the importance of family.

"We never had a lot, but we always had each other." -Glenn Estavillo, my dad

Emerging Leader: Tina Fischel

Screen Shot 2013-06-27 at 12.43.08 PMAge: 22Hometown: Irvine, CA Future residence: Denver, CO (starting in August) College of William and Mary, 2013 Kinesiology and Health Sciences

Tina Fischel is about to make a big move. At the end of the summer, she will relocate to Colorado to work as a health educator for the Metro Community Provider Network (MCPN), an affiliate of the Health Corps. While there, she will work in a clinical setting among health professionals. Her duties include conducting individual patient consultations on nutrition, diabetes and smoking, and helping to educate a community of historically underserved Spanish-speaking refugees and migrant workers.

Fischel is very excited to see her academic and professional paths converge. For the past eight years, she has been organizing and fundraising for Relay for Life. She is passionate about fulfilling the American Cancer Society’s mission to reduce incidents of cancer, as well as the suffering that comes from cancer.

When she was an EMT, Fischel was exposed to the realities that aren’t necessarily visible to the rest of society.

“[As an EMT] you’re going into people’s homes uninvited and you see things like addiction and poverty. You also see people coming into the ER as a first and last resort,” she explains. The experience shed light on just how complex and inefficient modern healthcare is.

“If I can contribute to a solution or remedy, that’s what I want to do,” Fischel adds. She is motivated to enact change in healthcare, particularly at the community level.

“What inspires me is the people who do it best. When someone does [their job] right, you notice. The patients notice and the people around notice,” Fischel states. Fischel is referring to the 'human connection' that sometimes is lacking in primary and preventative care. This connection includes giving patients the full attention and time that they deserve in order to address their individual diagnoses. She will strive to work in this manner once she’s in her new role in Denver.

When asked about her Fil-Am identity, Fischel looks back on her time before college.

“In my past, my only connection was the fact that I was brown,” she laughs. Fischel’s mom is from the Philippines, while her dad is of Eastern European descent. Growing up, they’d have Adobo once a month, which was always something Fischel and her siblings looked forward to. When she transferred from UCLA  to William and Mary for her sophomore year, she joined the Filipino American Student Association. It was a positive experience, because not only did she learn about Pilipino history and culture, but also saw just how hospitable Pilipinos can be.

“Even though we are not in the Philippines, we are [known for being] welcoming. People around the world notice it, too,” Fischel remarks.

Fischel describes how it’s been a goal of hers to live in Colorado. After casually mentioning it to a friend who worked for AmeriCorps, she was encouraged to apply for the position in Denver. As of a result of what may appear to be a stroke of luck, Fischel offers the following advice to other emerging Fil-Ams and Pilipinos.

“You can’t just give up and settle. Don’t be afraid to look to other people for inspiration. You can gain direction from your peers, and you shouldn’t be afraid of that.”