The Perils of Louella:

Chapter 199: Louella Shows Kids Reality

by A.C. Cherbonnier
       The classroom was filling up. Louella checked her seating chart and saw that nearly everyone was present for once.
       Noticing her surprise, Danae said, “I tol’ all my friends to come here today, ’cause this lesson’s gonna be important.”
       “Well, that’s great!” said Louella. To the class, she said, “Here’s a sheet for you to fill in while we do this big problem together, okay? I want you to take it home tonight and talk it over with your parents.”
       “Aw, you be jokin’!” said James. “I don’t see no parents when I get home. My mom works nights!” Other heads bobbed agreement.
       “Well then, at least find somebody to show it to and explain it, okay? I’ll want to hear about it tomorrow. Now get out your pencils.” Amazingly, most students had one. Things are looking up, thought Louella. Maybe this teaching thing is possible after all. She handed out extra pencils.
       “Okay, now listen up! Today we’re going to talk about minimum wage. Anybody know what that is?”
       “Yo! I know! It’s what they have to pay you!”
       “Who’s ‘they’?”
       “Like, the government! Youknow!”
       “Which government? State or federal?” That stumped them.
       “Okay, no mystery! There’s a federal minimum wage--but not every company has to pay it. And then some states have their own minimums. Sometimes they’re higher, like in California or D.C., and sometimes they’re lower. If the state’s higher than the fed, you go with the state wage. If the state’s lower, that still applies to companies that are small or don’t make a lot of money.”
       Did they follow that? she wondered. The kids’ faces still looked alert. Maybe they did!
       “Like, how low we be talkin’?” asked Sandra. Louella consulted her notes. “Believe it or not, the minimum’s $1.90 per hour in Wyoming, and the next lowest I could find was $3.25 an hour in Texas and Georgia.”
       The class hooted. “Whoa, that’s lame!” said Gerard. “That ain’t nothin’! Might as well be a slave!”
       “Well, that’s the situation, okay? Those are the laws, and if we don’t like them, we have to work to change them. Are you guys with me?” Nods.
       “In Maryland, the minimum is $5.15 an hour, same as the federal minimum. Can anybody multiply that by 40 hours?” Kids began puzzling with their pencils. “Got it!” shouted Mayetta. “It’s two hundred and six dollars a week! Am I right? Am I right?”
       Louella was proud. “Anybody else got that answer?” Several nodded. “You’re right, Mayetta! Write that down on line one, everybody.” They did. “Now multiply that by 52, the number of weeks in a year.”
       Foreheads wrinkled in concentration. “This is hard!” said Sandra.
       “But you can do it!” Louella encouraged. “Anybody got an answer? Damon raised his hand first. “That would be ten thousand, seven hundred and twelve dollars a year. ” Louella nodded.
       “Wow, that’s a lot!” exclaimed Tamarra, filling in line two.
       “Is it?” asked Louella. “Anybody here know about taxes and social security and stuff like that?”
       “Heard about it,” mumbled James. Others nodded.
       “Well, let’s see how much you’d earn in a year if you were working for minimum wage, all right?”
       The fire drill bell went off. Damn, thought Louella.

- TO BE CONTINUED? -

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This story was published on August 30, 2000.