Tag Archive: workers

Nov 03 2013

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: The Fast Food Workers Movement – The Ants on the Elephant by Geminijen

“We are the Workers, the Mighty, Mighty Workers

Everywhere We Go,

The People Want to Know

Who We Are, So We Tell Them…
.”

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As I walked toward the demo of the Fast Food Workers in Union Square, I heard the words and sounds of this song and couldn’t help but grin.  We were back!  The workers that is – not the “middle class,” not the “deserving poor”, not “the 99%.” As a working class kid from a union factory family, I got it.  Not only because you can’t really go around shouting “Middle Class of the World Unite” or “We are the Mighty Mighty Middle Class” – let’s face, it, it just doesn’t resonate – but because the very concept of “worker” which this movement seems to grasp intuitively changes the very nature of the struggle.  

“The Middle Class,” “the poor” and even “the 99%” define us in terms of how much wealth we have or do not have, regardless of how we got it, in the upwardly mobile mantra of Capitalism. As workers we are defined, instead, by what we do, how we appropriate the materials and provide the services necessary for the survival and comfort of the human species. And that is a pretty important difference.



Obama’s “middle class” framing of all that is good and important in society (and god know we all want a better lifestyle) is no more than the standard capitalist divide and conquer, the promise of individual upward mobility for the few at the expense of the many.  You too can be one of the chosen. And we often buy into it. We want to see ourselves as “better” because we have been able to buy our own home, or send our children to “private” or “charter” schools.  And we rationalize that it is because we deserve it – we’re smarter, more industrious, stronger, our skills are more necessary–not due to the whim of the time and place we were born into or that our skills and success are built on the back of the skills and hard work of others.

All of us have known an aunt who raised kids, worked outside the home all her life, carried on intelligent conversations about the world’s problems, worked for the community and has ended up relatively destitute.  What is her value? Is she poor because she deserved it?  How about many of our young people today who bought the American Dream, worked hard, even went to college if they could afford it and now, through the vagaries of capitalism are jobless or working in low paying jobs that will not allow them to get that middle class dream (unless they can still inherit it from their parents)?

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The term “workers” reunites the labor movement by removing the distinction between the mostly white, working middle class (who usually got their middle class lifestyle through union benefits that their grandfathers fought for) and the less affluent workers who are often people of color, single mothers, immigrants, and increasingly young college educated workers who missed out on the brass ring due to the recent failing economy. As one worker put it:

“I don’t care if you’re blue collar, white, collar, pink collar or no collar — all of us have value.  Have you ever stopped to think how hard people work?  The people who cook for you, the bus driver who drives you to work in the morning?  The people who clean your house and your clothes?  Have you ever stopped to say ‘thank you’?  If you don’t know how to do that job, or if you don’t want to do that job, the best way to say thank you, no matter how much you make, is to stand in solidarity with us and RAISE THE MINIMUM wage!”

Aug 31 2013

Who Can Live on Today’s Minimum Wage?

If you're stuck working minimum wage jobs like I am, you know what everyone else who earns the lowest pay allowed by law knows: You can't live on minimum wage, certainly not on the part-time hours employers give.

That's why it's heartening to see fast food workers across the nation going on strike to demand better pay.  I pull in $8.30 an hour at around twenty hours a week.  I can't afford even the cheapest of apartments on that.  As a single white male with no dependents, I am ineligible for most public assistance, including welfare, housing assistance, and medical assistance (Medicaid).  I get a pittance in food stamps every month, but it's not enough to keep me fed on a regular basis.  I'm lucky if I can eat once a day.

My entire paycheck is spent paying bills before I even get it deposited to my bank account, which is typically at or near empty.  That is the reality for me and for everyone else who works a minimum wage job.

Some stupid motherfucker was posting on a friend's Facebook page yesterday about how unfair it would be if fast food workers got an increase in wages to earn the same amount as he does in his construction job, because he doesn't expect that an increase in the minimum wage would necessarily bring an increase in his own pay.  According to him, we minimum wage monkeys don't do any real labor, and therefore don't deserve to make anywhere near the same amount of money as someone whose job involves backbreaking physical labor.  This same stupid asshole thinks that we can get higher paying jobs if we wanted to, and that we don't want to.  Bullshit.  If I could get a job working construction, I'd be working it right now.  I've applied for those jobs and they haven't even granted so much as one interview.  Most require that I have my own transportation, which I can't afford because I don't make enough to afford my own vehicle.  Those that don't haven't deigned to give me an interview either.

I can tell you right now that this ignoramus wouldn't last even one full shift working at McDonald's.  He couldn't keep up with the fast pace, and he certainly couldn't deal with impatient, often angry customers, standing on his feet for eight hours or more.  I've done that and it's exhausting.  My back is still screwed up from nearly three years of bending over a work table marinating, trussing, and spitting chicken carcasses for roasting, and I left that job in 2005 — eight years ago.  These days I grind lenses for an eyewear company for barely above my state's minimum wage.  I have to clock out for lunch if I work over six hours, costing me a half hour's pay, because the corporation for which I work doesn't want to pay me for a shift that's long enough to necessitate taking a few minutes to restore my energy levels.

News articles about the fast food strike state that the demand for fifteen dollars per hour would raise pay for full-time workers to thirty-one thousand annually, more than double the current annual average of fifteen thousand.  Some, however, quote workers pointing out that most minimum wage jobs don't provide full time hours.  They allow twenty or under, meaning someone like me might make $7,500 a year or less, and very often it's a lot less.

In an article on NBC Washington, it's revealed that financial woes actually have a negative impact on a person's IQ.  That is, the sheer stress of not being able to afford even the basics, like adequate food and drink, is literally making people dumber.  Starvation wages lead to actual starvation, so the body can't get the nutrients it needs to maintain a healthy brain.  Financial worries force people to devote more of their mental power to worrying over how they'll afford to live, leaving much less time and energy for other matters.

Who the hell can live on the current minimum wage?  No one, not without public assistance, which is already slashed to the bone with Republicans and Democrats cutting the social safety net even further.  Many of us are either homeless or soon shall be (myself included).  No one is out there advocating for us.  No one is doing a damned thing to lighten our financial burden.  The vast majority of our tax dollars (yes, we poor folk do pay taxes) go to fund wars and Wall Street, with things like education, housing, food, and Social Security getting less and less.  Yet we're told by ignorant assholes to “suck it up”, stop asking for “handouts”, to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and make do or die.  If we could do that on what we get paid, we would.  But we can't, and even though we work and pay taxes (unlike the obscenely rich), we aren't allowed to have a say in how our tax dollars are spent.

So what's to be done?  Well, I don't know about you, but I for one have no intention of crossing any picket lines, and neither should you.  Don't let striking fast food workers do this all by themselves.  Support them in whatever way you can.  Join them, in fact.  If you know in your heart that everyone has the right to work “a useful and remunerative job” that pays enough to live on, then join them in solidarity and demand an increase in the minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour.  Call and write members of Congress in both houses, call and write the White House, march on Washington in the millions and shut the place down, join striking workers on the picket line, donate whatever money and food you can afford to help people who are starving.

This country and this planet are going to hell in a hand basket, but only if We the people let them.  Don't let them.

Dec 07 2010

Sen. Mike Enzi’s ‘Pack of Lies’ vs. 9/11 Victims

The best people America has to offer have been getting sick and dying from their heroic efforts at the World Trad Center. As you can see from this recent Daily News front page, Mike Enzi is not the only Republican to tell the 9/11 first responders and heroes to drop dead.

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act that provides $3.2 billion for long-term health care for rescue and construction workers at Ground Zero, plus another $4.2 billion in compensation for others who were exposed to airborne toxins will be out of time once the Republicans control the House.

These heroes who answered the call for help on September 11, 2001 and the horrible weeks that followed have been pushing hard for justice before it is too late. After a barrage of local media coverage, multiple visits to Washington from Ground Zero worker, victim’s family members pleading with the Senate and a huge bipartisan effort from tri-state politicians, one Republican has signed on. The rest have voices disagreement with Sens. Schumer and Gillibrand’s method of financing healthcare for heroes. The cloture count is now at 59 and their big day in the Senate is tomorrow.  

Now that there is some hope for a bill named after an NYPD detective who died at age 34 of a respiratory disease attributed to participation in the rescue and recovery operations at the World Trade Center, Mike Enzi is working hard to stop the bill from going forward. His reasoning is that the nation has already given enough.