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How much different is low-wage work from slavery?

To the editor: Steve Lopez reports on the economic plight of Rafael Leon and other hard workers stuck in low-wage jobs that they feel do not show them respect. The column prompts this question, which I hope someone can answer honestly: What is the functional difference between pre-Civil War slavery and today's minimum-wage jobs? ("A meager lifestyle for workers who cater to the high-flying," April 18)

Slave owners provided their workers with the minimum of food, shelter, clothing and healthcare needed to keep them able to do their jobs. Leon and millions of other hard workers like him have no more than that, and often less.

Answering my question by saying "Well, Leon and those in his circumstance can always find other jobs" or "Well, they aren't being whipped" would be dishonest. They can't easily find other jobs, and they are being whipped by the lashes of mental anguish, blocked aspirations and denied dignity that leave deep, deep scars.

John F. Rossmann, Tustin

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