Workers in in the U.S. strike for higher wages
As I was traveling down Wisconsin Avenue in Milwaukee, right where the main library sits, I noticed a protest. A protest by workers and their supporters in favor of raising wages for fast food workers. There must have been about 100 people, easily, out there.
Protests happened in front of the Grand Avenue Mall a little farther east, in other parts of Milwaukee and other regions of the U.S. They were protesting the fact that they make so darn little. Adjusted for inflation from early 1960 wages, they would make over $10 an hour today.
But, some make barely above $7, and if not for the minimum wage, many would make much less. Of course businesses say they can't afford to pay workers more, though strangely with much less productivity in the 1960s, they could at that time pay workers over $10 an hour in today's dollars. That is with little unemployment.
The fact is that the profit margins by businesses on the average minimum wage or near near minimum wage worker are high.
Which considering the fact that the average MW worker has very little leverage and can't really bargain (outside of a union or a collective action) with their employer for higher wages, isn't really that surprising. Two of the businesses where there were strikes were McDonald's and Burger King.
Low wages are subsidized by the government. Because workers make so little they get more in earned income tax credits, renter assistance, food subsidies, Medicaid, among other costs. To keep the profit margins of these businesses high, the government pinches in, just as they subsidize Wal-Mart (which almost single handily destroyed much of our manufacturing base) who pay very low wages.
If you are a minimum wage earner and you wanted to pay for health care insurance for your family (considering that almost no MW employer provides for health care) you would have to work 2079 hours, versus only 329 hours back in 1979.
That gives a MW worker who worked 40 hours in a workweek on average, unlikely in this economy, 1 hour throughout the year to pay for everything else. Not one hour per week, but one hour of pay for the entire year.
Workers in the U.S. have seen a sharp decline in wages compared to their parents or even, when wages are adjusted for inflation, their grandparents. Not just MW or low income workers, but all workers.
The only group whose income and pay has gone up are those in the financial elite, or in other words, the rich. Unions are necessary to ensure workers aren't exploited and I am glad to see the support of unions yesterday.
Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, stated "the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO is proud to stand in solidarity with striking fast food workers whose actions today are calling attention to income inequality, worker exploitation, and the right to a living wage and to a union." I agree