Introduction — the working poor.
The video of Mary Poppins asking for a living wage perfectly illustrates the plight of today’s workers. Whether it’s at Amazon or Target, the culture of overwork + wage erosion increases income inequality to levels not seen since the era just before the Great Depression. Today we are working harder than ever, yet our paychecks are shrinking:
“This “artificial ceiling” (cap, limit, erosion) on our earning power is maintained, simply by routinely ignoring the ever-increasing “Cost of Living,” in any ‘serious’ discussion of our fragile economy — and workers roles in it. Never mind that …
Food goes up. Our wages remain stagnant.
Rents go up. Our wages remain stagnant.
Health care goes up. Our wages remain stagnant….”
Working for poverty wages creates difficulties when one has to choose between paying for food or rent, electricity or medicine. A key factor in addressing poverty is raising the minimum wage. With corporate profits and CEO salaries at all-time highs, it is high time that the workers who slave to create these enormous profits share in the wealth generated through their labor. When it comes to the fight over minimum wage, one paramedic offers a simple dose of the truth:
“Fast food workers in NY just won a $15/hr wage.
I’m a paramedic. My job requires a broad set of skills: interpersonal, medical, and technical skills, as well as the crucial skill of performing under pressure. I often make decisions on my own, in seconds, under chaotic circumstances, that impact people’s health and lives. I make $15/hr.
And these burger flippers think they deserve as much as me?
Good for them.
Look, if any job is going to take up someone’s life, it deserves a living wage. If a job exists and you have to hire someone to do it, they deserve a living wage. End of story. There’s a lot of talk going around my workplace along the lines of, “These guys with no education and no skills think they deserve as much as us? Fuck those guys.” And elsewhere on FB: “I’m a licensed electrician, I make $13/hr, fuck these burger flippers.”
And that’s exactly what the bosses want! They want us fighting over who has the bigger pile of crumbs so we don’t realize they made off with almost the whole damn cake. Why are you angry about fast food workers making two bucks more an hour when your CEO makes four hundred TIMES what you do? It’s in the bosses’ interests to keep your anger directed downward, at the poor people who are just trying to get by, like you, rather than at the rich assholes who consume almost everything we produce and give next to nothing for it.
My company, as they’re so fond of telling us in boosterist emails, cleared 1.3 billion dollars last year. They expect guys supporting families on 26-27k/year to applaud that. And that’s to say nothing of the techs and janitors and cashiers and bed pushers who make even less than us, but are as absolutely crucial to making a hospital work as the fucking CEO or the neurosurgeons. Can they pay us more? Absolutely. But why would they? No one’s making them.
The workers in NY made them. They fought for and won a living wage. So how incredibly petty and counterproductive is it to fuss that their pile of crumbs is bigger than ours? Put that energy elsewhere. Organize. Fight. Win.”
In 2014, Catholic Charities presented a poverty simulation to give Congressional participants some insights into the backbreaking toughness of being poor in America. With Congress responsible for dictating the legislation that can help, or hurt, poor working families, the 40 minute simulation, lets them experience, however briefly, some of the hurdles that the nearly 50 million Americans living in poverty endure every day.
“At the start of the event, about 50 participants took on different identities and were told of their financial and familial circumstances before being thrust into the difficulties of life below the poverty line… When asked the question, “How many families bought food all 4 weeks?” about five people in a room of almost 50 raised their hands. But when asked, “How many families were not able to buy food any week?” almost every hand was raised.”
It is devastating to realize that almost one in every five children in America struggle with hunger. For these children, every day is a battle, as hunger impedes learning / health and threatens their future prospects. See some of their stories here. According to a 2015 report – “Childhood Hunger in America’s Suburbs” [pdf] by Fair Share Education Fund:
“Even though food insecurity in the aggregate remains greater in the cities than in the suburbs, the rate of childhood hunger is increasing much more quickly in the suburbs. In the wake of the 2008 economic crash, childhood hunger is no longer an issue that happens ‘somewhere else’; rather it is an issue affecting nearly every American community.”
Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “America is going to hell if we don’t use her vast resources to end poverty and make it possible for all God’s children to have the basic necessities of life.” In a nutshell: we need a living wage to combat child poverty / child hunger in the land of opportunity.
Bill Maher used the ‘sharing economy’ to address income inequality (VIDEO)
Bill Maher points out that the Trumps of the world want to blame Mexico and China for our desperate “race to the bottom” economy.
The reality is that many jobs are not being replaced by undocumented workers or cheap overseas labor… “We did this to ourselves as usual by worshiping greed. From replacing people with robots, to exploiting interns, from the slave labor we used overseas, to the music everybody steals at home. We have all become so good at scheming, cheating, and venting, raiding, gouging and just plain f%cking each other, that we woke up one day with this ‘sharing economy’, where the one thing we are not sharing are the profits…”
According to Peter Finn, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 856:
“The ‘sharing economy’ is really just the 1% making money by stripping workers of the rights for which the labor movement has fought so hard to secure… [‘Sharing’] companies are built on… the use of independent contractors. Unlike employees who are afforded many protections, independent contractors have no rights, no health benefits, no retirement security, no sick or vacation days, no workers’ comp, and no state disability insurance. Independent contractors also lack the legal right to form a union…[They dismantle] basic worker protections such as the minimum wage, overtime, and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). In doing so they are eroding the cornerstones of good middle class jobs, like healthcare and a pension.”
The rise of freelancers / contractors in today’s ‘sharing economy’ has prompted billionaire venture capitalist Nick Hanauer to team up with David Rolf, vice president of the Service Employees International Union [SEIU], to propose a twenty-first-century social contract — ‘shared security standards’. In an article in Democracy – a Journal of Ideas, they wrote:
“We must acknowledge the radically different needs of a new generation of Americans—many of whom already have more employers in a week than their parents had in a lifetime—by adopting a new “Shared Security System” designed to fit the flexible employment relationships of the ‘sharing economy’…
We propose a system that endows every American worker with, first, a “Shared Security Account” [ie.health insurance, sick leave, paid vacation, unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation insurance] in which to accrue the basic employment benefits necessary for a thriving middle class and second, a new set of “Shared Security Standards” that complement and reinforce that account….
“Shared security benefits would be earned and accrued via automatic payroll deductions, regardless of the employment relationship, and, like Social Security, these benefits would be fully prorated [ie. if an individual works 30 hours at a job, she should earn three-quarters of the benefits offered by a full-time 40-hour-a-week job], portable [accrued benefits must follow the worker from job to job, or contract to contract] and universal [thereby ensuring] that all workers accrued basic job benefits regardless of the changing nature of employment….”
In a lecture on socialism, Professor Eric Foner, a historian at Columbia University mentioned that: “the socialist movement is the abolitionist movement [fighting to eliminate wage slavery] of the 20th century”. Eugene Victor “Gene” Debs (November 5, 1855 – October 20, 1926) was one of the founding members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or the Wobblies) and a five times socialist Presidential candidate. He was quoted as saying:
“Now my friends, I am opposed to the system of society in which we live today…We were taught under the old ethic that man’s business on this earth was to look out for himself. That was the ethic of the jungle, the ethic of the wild beast. Take care of yourself, no matter what may become of your fellow man. Thousands of years ago the question was asked: ”Am I my brother’s keeper?” That question has never yet been answered in a way that is satisfactory to civilized society. Yes, I am my brother’s keeper…What would you think me if I were capable of seating myself at a table and gorging myself with food and saw about me the children of my fellow beings starving to death…”
Today another socialist is carrying on that tradition. Bernie Sanders believes that both the economy and society should be run democratically to meet everyone’s needs, not to make profits for a few. Bernie’s platform includes: strengthening unions, breaking up ‘too big to fail’ banks and increasing public sector involvement in infrastructure as a remedy to both Climate Change and unemployment. You may want to read the 10 ways Bernie Sanders would make the economy work for everyone:
“At a time when we are experiencing more wealth and income inequality than at any time since the 1920s, and when Wall Street and large corporations are enjoying record breaking profits, I believe that we should be asking the very wealthiest people in this country to start paying their fair share of taxes. That way, we will not only lower the deficit but we will bring in enough revenue to invest in our economy and create the millions of new jobs we desperately need…”
Now more than ever, we need a socialist candidate – we need Bernie!!!