The scandal of the nation is that the poor and working classes are constantly squeezed to satisfy the greed of the super-wealthy.
You could say that as a nation, we seem to hate our poor, as much as we’re taught to slavishly feed the rich:
When Obama declares a pay freeze for federal workers, that’s actually a tax on federal workers. It comes to the same thing, and, of course, this is right at the time we say that we can’t raise taxes on the very rich.
Having a market society automatically carries with it an undermining of solidarity. … [I]n the market system you have a choice: You can buy a Toyota or you can buy a Ford, but you can’t buy a subway because that’s not offered. Market systems don’t offer common goods; they offer private consumption.
We do indeed feed the rich; we feed them ourselves, our livelihoods and the product of our work. Unsurprisingly, they’re always hungry and never get their fill.
But times are changing, thanks to people like you, and people like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Alan Grayson. They’re calling it various names, this new aggressiveness, including Warren-style “economic populism,” but by any name the tide is turning. Click the links above to see how.
(I hope you’re noticing, by the way, that the money-leadership of the Democratic party is pushing back against this “populism“, and Warren is pushing hard against their pushback. Good. The cracks along this Dem-side class-war fissure are widening. Let’s make it a chasm.)
Not only are real progressives finally attempting to increase social insurance benefits — more on that later — but they’re also trying to increase the minimum wage to something like what it bought in the 1960s. (For more on that, check out the graph at the bottom of this post.)
Want to see wages rise in this country? You can help. We have to start somewhere. Let’s start with fast-food workers. The certainly deserve a raise, and there’s a lot of them. I’ll bet you met one just this week already.
Fast-food workers are striking nation-wide on Thursday, December 5
Fast-food workers in 100 cities are walking off the job:
Fast-food workers are poised to walk off the job in 100 cities Thursday, the latest action in a nationwide push for a $15-an-hour wage.
Organizers said Thursday’s one-day job action will be backed by protests in 100 other cities by social justice groups that support the fast-food workers’ demands.
Want to help? You can use your lunchtime to rally in support. To find your own lunchtime fast-food rally, click here. And smile as you show your support; you may be on the evening news. If so, good. You deserve to be in the news, and the wages of fast-food workers deserve the exposure.
Why increase the wages of fast-food workers?
If we want wages to rise in this country, we have to start somewhere, and if we can win once, we can win again. We’re starting with fast-food workers for a number of reasons, and Richard Eskow has put together a great cheat-sheet — “12 Fast Facts About Thursday’s Fast-Food Strike” — to show what they are. Here’s a few (my emphasis and some reparagraphing):
12 Fast Facts About Thursday’s Fast-Food Strike
This Thursday, December 5, workers at fast-food restaurants around the country will be striking for higher pay and better working conditions. Their primary demand is an increase in their base hourly wages to $15 an hour.
Here are 12 things you should know about Thursday’s action.
1. If wages had kept pace with productivity gains, the minimum wage would be over $16 an hour.
Corporate profits have soared. Workers are producing more, but they’re not sharing in the rewards.
Productivity and the minimum wage generally increased at the same rate from 1947 to 1969, during this country’s postwar boom years. Using a conservative benchmark, economists Dean Baker and Will Kimball determined that the minimum wage would be $16.54 today if it had continued to keep pace with productivity.
The strikers are asking for $15 an hour. (Source: Baker and Kimball, Center for Economic and Policy Research)
2. The average fast food worker makes $8.69 an hour.
Many jobs pay at or near the minimum wage, which is $7.25 per hour. And an estimated 87 percent of fast food workers receive no health benefits. (Source: UC Berkeley Labor Center)
3. The CEO of McDonald’s Corporation makes $13.8 million per year.
That’s a 237 percent pay increase over last year, when he was paid a “mere” $4.1 million. Presumably health benefits are also included. (Source: USA Today)
Did you catch the dollars in that McDonald CEO pay increase? In one year, from $4.1 million to $13.8 million — more than triple. Out of whose pockets did that money come? And whose wage increases did he steal to get it?
By the way, true story, there’s a passel of people like that running any big-revenue company — not just the CEO, but the CIO, CFO, CMFO, COO, the VP of This and That. The top ten people or so all get the same sweet deal, the same skim off the profit pool. They just get a little less of it than the alpha predator in the pack.
If you’re reminded of jackals and prey, there’s a reason.
Raising fast-food worker wages saves your money too
Two more from the article, and then I’ll let you read the rest. These two are a pair — feel free to do the math:
4. McDonald’s cost the American taxpayer an estimated $1.2 billion in public assistance per year. …
5. McDonald’s made $1.5 billion in profits last quarter. …
Get the picture? You pay at the counter, and you pay again at tax time. Fast-food giants — and their big money CEO types — get 20% of their yearly profit by putting their workers on your payroll too.
The rest of the article is just as good, and Eskow as always is a clear and easy read, as you can see from the clips above. Do click through.
Who are fast-food workers?
Fast food workers are no longer just the iconic image of the high school kid flipping burgers. They’re adults. And they’re parents with kids to feed. Sam Stein tweets an illustrative paragraph from a recent NYT story:
The minimum wage story in this country
Our big-money CEO class really is shameless. As Eskow noted above, profits have soared, the CEO skim of profits has soared, and wages are flat or falling. This is true of all wages below the top, but it’s especially true of minimum wages. In the 1960s, the minimum wage was enough to keep a family of three out of poverty. No more. Today, the minimum wage won’t keep a family of two out of poverty.
Here’s a handy graph:
This is what you’re fighting for. You’re fighting for your own wages, by fighting in solidarity for everyone’s wages. We can only win one fight at the time, but the people behind this effort aren’t just fighting for fast-food workers. They want good wages for us all. We just have to start somewhere, and given the publicity around the burger-and-fries industry this year, fast-food workers are a great place to start. Your turn can’t come if no one’s turn comes.
Or as the writer I quoted at start of this piece said:
If you care about other people, that’s now a very dangerous idea. If you care about other people, you might try to organize to undermine power and authority. That’s not going to happen if you care only about yourself. … [I]t’s actually highly authoritarian, but that doctrine is extremely important for power systems as a way of atomizing and undermining the public.
That’s why unions had the slogan, “solidarity” … And that’s what really counts: solidarity, mutual aid, care for one another and so on. And it’s really important for power systems to undermine that ideologically, so huge efforts go into it.
Don’t let them split us. Stay solid, friends. We’ve been winning lately, on many fronts. We can win this too.
To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius