So I’ve been hearing all sorts of mixed responses – or even more maddening, no responses – to the current fast food workers strike. I am genuinely shocked how few people are passionate about this issue, considering how riled up we were about inequality during the Occupy movement less than a year ago.
I mean, not trying to insult you guys or anything, but you’d have to be either 1) incredibly ignorant or 2) incredibly stupid to not be mad at the unequal wealth distribution of America.
Currently our economic “recovery” looks something like this:
“Top 1% incomes grew by 31.4% while bottom 99% incomes grew only by 0.4% from 2009 to 2012. Hence, the top 1% captured 95% of the income gains in the first three years of the recovery. From 2009 to 2010, top 1% grew fast and then stagnated from 2010 to 2011. Bottom 99% stagnated both from 2009 to 2010 and from 2010 to 2011. In 2012, top 1% incomes increased sharply by 19.6% while bottom 99% incomes grew only by 1.0%. In sum, top 1% incomes are close to full recovery while bottom 99% incomes have hardly started to recover.” – Emmanuel Saez
Or, to summarize, the have’s are continuing to have more than the have-nots.
It should also be mentioned that the bulk of my argument lies on the fundamental belief that most full-time jobs (certainly fast food jobs, which are jobs from hell) should pay enough that a full-time employee should at least meet poverty line. If a 40-50 hour a week job does not pay enough to live off of, then I consider it immoral business practice – something that deserves to be regulated by the government (and don’t give me that “less regulation” crap, because if the government can regulate vaginas then they can regulate ethical business practices). And now, without further ado…
Five Reasons You Should Support the Food Workers Strike:
1) Inflation: As the manufacturing and factory jobs continue to disappear, replaced by automation and outsourcing , the face of blue collar work has changed from the factory to the burger joint. If wages had kept pace with inflation throughout the years, we would be paying our “blue collar” workers, or the working class (I hate using the term “class”, but in a blog post about social inequality, it’s a bit inevitable) around 9$. Below is a chart that shows what the minimum wage should be if i kept pace with various economic indexes:
2) Our tax money: It goes towards welfare programs such as SNAP (food stamps), Medicare, Medicaid, Unemployment, etc. Currently we spend around 668 billion on around 126 different welfare programs. SNAP- our foods stamps program, has nearly doubled its spending since 2009, coming to a grand total of 74,619.34 million dollars for 2012 (check out this chart for more details).
People who make under $2,069 per month for a family of three – or 130% of the poverty line – qualify for these government aid programs. With the minimum wage set at $7.25 an hour, that’s about $15,000 annually, the full-time service industry worker is still “in poverty”, and does not have health insurance, or job security, or sick days, or really any basic benefits at all. If a full time job with a company does not pay above the poverty line , then eventually the taxpayers (US. That’s YOU and ME) step in to make up for the employers unlivable wages, via expensive social welfare programs. We are directly subsidizing the business costs of these companies that make billions of dollars in profit each year.
Which brings me to…
3) The Employers: The multi-billion dollar companies such as McDonalds, which bagged 5.5$ billion last year, and Yum Corporations, which made 3.78$ billion. If we compare company profits to employee wage increases throughout the years, it looks something like this:
Yes, indeed. So you see why I’m so annoyed with these companies. Because they choose to maintain a greater profit margin at the price of under-paying their employees into literal poverty. What is most frustrating is that these companies, with their multibillion annual profits, and CEOs paid 819 times their average workers wages, have the gall to claim this:
4) “Higher wages would cause layoffs” or “businesses will close because of high operating cost” or some variation of that. This, we should all know, is total bullshit. Just look at Costco, or Microsoft, or any other massively successful company that has managed to succeed- even dominate- during times of economic depression (ok, maybe not Microsoft, but that’s a different story), all the while paying their employees a living wage, health insurance, and other benefits such as a 401k.
Don’t tell me you can’t fucking afford it – Mr. Fortune 500 Company – we all know you can.
And for those who are complaining that 15$ an hour is “too much” for people who have some of the most demeaning, demanding work on the job market, I leave you with this thought:
5) Advice from a 4 year old: “If you want a dog, start by asking your parents for a horse”
It’s a common bargaining technique: start by asking for way more than you actually want, then make “concessions” until you all end up relatively close to what you wanted. I’ve heard many comments like “15$ is absurd. 12$ or 10$ would be ok.” Um, yeah, that’s probably what they realistically are aiming for, but if they’d started out asking for 12$, you know they would ended up with a number closer to 9$. Hell, they’ve demanded 15$ and President Obama responded with some wishy-washy remarks on raising the federal minimum wage to 9$.
The fast food workers deserve our support, we’re all on the same “side”. We all want big companies to pay their employees fair wages, we all want economic recovery, we all want a more equal society. A highly unequal society is also highly unstable. For the good of everyone, the minimum wage should be raised.