Raise the Minimum Wage!

Amen, brother! (Getty Images)

W.J. Astore

Remarkably, the federal minimum wage still sits at $7.25 an hour and hasn’t been raised since 2009. As a reminder, Barack Obama and Joe Biden were riding high from 2009 to 2016 and they never saw fit to fight hard enough to raise that paltry sum. That’s why Bernie Sanders was so appealing in 2015 when he challenged Hillary Clinton and advocated for a $15.00 minimum wage. People may forget that Hillary initially equivocated, proposing only a $12.00 minimum wage. Ah, the generosity and compassion of Hillary. No boundaries except for $12.00 an hour.

Allegedly, Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi are now for the $15.00 sum, but of course it would be phased in over several years since the peasants must be reminded of their place. It’s possible that the Covid relief plan currently in the works will finally set the country on a firm if slow path to $15.00. Even so, consider a full-time employee working 40 hours a week for 50 weeks a year. If she makes $15.00 an hour, her pay before taxes would max out at $30,000.00 a year, hardly a munificent sum. Consider that she’d have to work full-time for 22 years to make as much money as Hillary Clinton made in three short speeches to the financial and banking sectors. I’m with her (for the money)!

My father knew the score. As a factory worker, he had to fight for a dime pay raise, a story he recounted in his journal. Here’s an excerpt:

It seems that Mike Calabrese on his own asked Harry Gilson for a pay raise [at the factory] and he was refused.  Mike decided to organize the men members and go down in a group.  In our group he got ten men to approach Harry G. for a raise.  But when it was time to “bell the cat” only three fellows went to see Harry.  Well Mike said he couldn’t join the group because he had already tried to get a raise.  I knew I was being used but I was entitled to a raise.  Well Harry said to me, “What can I do for you men?”  So I said to Harry: 1) Living costs were going up; 2) We deserved a raise.  So Harry said, “How much?”  and I said ten cents an hour would be a fair raise.  So he said I’ll give you a nickel an hour raise and later you’ll get the other nickel.  We agreed.  So, I asked Harry will everyone get a raise and he replied, “Only the ones that I think deserve it.”

Well a month later I was drinking water at the bubbler [water fountain] and Harry saw me and said what a hard job they had to get the money to pay our raises.  Well, Willie, Harry Gilson and his brother Sam and their two other Italian brother partners all died millionaires.  No other truer saying than, “That the rich have no sympathy or use for the poor.”

And then my father added this pearl of wisdom: From my life’s experience I’ve found that the harder I worked physically the less money I made.

Lee Camp knows the score as well as he calls for real redistribution of wealth in this humorous article. My dad would like this guy.

I know, we can’t say “class warfare” in America, comrade. But maybe that’s because, as the billionaire Warren Buffett put it, the richest among us are so clearly winning.

22 thoughts on “Raise the Minimum Wage!

  1. I’ve seen firsthand how a job seeker can look at $15 an hour and think it’s not much money. In other words, it’s actually a pittance for the amount of labor a worker produces today. And yet, from an employer’s perspective, it’s asking for the moon. Kind of like a feudal serf’s asking to keep one of the chickens he’s raised instead of turning them all to his lord. The audacity!

    Camp’s rant is hilarious, but I’d like to see a little more detail about how the uber-wealthy have actively “stolen” all their money. Without some explanation, it comes across as merely, “We want their money!”

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    1. I like Camp’s basic idea that $10 million is enough for any one person.

      At least Bill and Melinda Gates share some of their money. And MacKenzie Scott, ex-wife of Jeff Bezos, is putting him to shame in supporting charities and philanthropic efforts. But of course this is America, where the richest people are often the stingiest, e.g. the billionaires who own Walmart.

      America’s rich often seem to think that money measures their self-worth, and obviously if you’re poor you’re worthless. And if people are worthless, why not pay them the least possible amount? Ah, the wonders of capitalism and the “free” market!

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      1. Agree completely with your comments.

        And how bizarre is it that $10 million would take care of the needs and wants of pretty much anyone I know, many times over, and yet it’s chump change in today’s developed countries?

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  2. Here is a long list of what our leaders think can be covered on $15 an hour: Health care, credit card debt, food, water, student debt, electricity, internet access, television service, cell phone service, rent or mortgage, day care, auto payments, auto insurance, rent or mortgage insurance, personal property tax, real estate tax, sales tax and FICA.

    Along with that is periodically having to replace the microwave and all other appliances that no longer last as long as they used to.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Whatever one wishes to call the ruling elite (i.e., oligarchs, plutocrats, kleptocrats, the ownership class), I continue to be flabbergasted at how consistently they line up against the working class and middle class to maintain downward pressure on wages and earnings. Once in a great while, a news report comes out about how proud a business owner is to be able to raise employee compensation. But it’s rare, and it’s usually disingenuous. Mixing metaphors, it’s a dog-eat-dog, zero-sum game in a war of all against all producing a frantic race to the bottom except for a very few at the top and their acolytes / sycophants / functionaries / apologists / wannabes.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A full time job, some employers avoid the full time employees like the plague. Servers at restaurants have an even lower minimum wage, because supposedly they make so much money in tips.

    I noticed a lot of the big box retail groceries, hardware stores etc, have self serve check out. I refuse to use those self serve, it is a human thing. The big box retailers save on employees (humans) – If you use self-checkout – You become in essence a “Free Employee” for the company. You do not get a discount for checking out self-serve.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes — I shy away from self-checkout. But they try to get you to use them by having fewer cashiers, which causes lines, which makes self-checkout tempting in our hurried lives.

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  5. Bernie Sanders on the $15 minimum wage: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/feb/25/bernie-sanders-mcdonalds-walmart-workers-congress-minimum-wage

    An excerpt:

    As Congress debates the first rise in the minimum wage in over a decade, the Vermont senator said he had “talked to too many workers in this country who, with tears in their eyes, tell me the struggles they have to provide for their kids on starvation wages” even as the chief executives of companies including McDonald’s, Walmart and others take home multi-million dollar pay packages.

    Executives from Walmart and McDonald’s were invited to the hearing, titled Should Taxpayers Subsidize Poverty Wages at Large Profitable Corporations? They declined to appear.

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  6. Surprise, surprise:

    “The Senate parliamentarian has dealt a potentially lethal blow to Democrats’ drive to hike the minimum wage, deciding it must fall from a massive COVID-19 relief bill the party is trying to speed through Congress, Democratic Senate aides said Thursday.”

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    1. This is what one would call the tarnish on America’s gilded class. They are so much less than impressive.
      Until wealth creation uses its currency to reach down and lift the unwashed masses up from the sweatshops they imprison them in; one can diagnose their condition, to their face, as a deadly conceited desire that no doctor can cure. These folks have been the cause of untold suffering and they should be reminded of it at the ballot box. The working class must stop voting against their own interests. They need to get educated about Justice Powell’s war on labor that he began in the ‘70’s; and organize accordingly.
      Your dad was one cool dude. I loved the story, and he’s to be commended for documenting the abuse. Here’s to a fair days work for a fair days pay. Let it be!
      I’ve been a big fan and supporter off Lee Camp for a long time. He’s not shy and has the energy of George Carlin in his soul. Definitely RAW! But, if this imbalance doesn’t cause your heart to bleed for humanities plight and create your head to feel like it wants to explode you will probably not enjoy his medicine. But, I’ve always enjoyed a stiff shot of Lee for tonic against this painful inequality. He actually says what I’m usually thinking.

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  7. Having the employer decide what to pay is the very basis of profit. It sets the floor for expenses so in America, where profit rules, it isn’t surprising that the wishes of the capitalist come first. The private company feeds on labor that is as cheap as possible, slavery being ruled out.

    Compare the fight for the $15 minimum wage with the ease with which, starting with the “Reagan Revolution”, a revolution for the 1%, regulation was scaled back, Glass Steagall was degraded steadily and then dumped entirely then after the result – the predictable housing market disaster of 2008, the mild Dodd-Frank legislation has been similarly neutered. All of this not a surprise, but the result of real work done for the 1% by Congress, its employee for which there is no minimum wage, but pay according to the results obtained, raised as needed with no ceiling and a bargain always.

    What this comparison shows is the system works relentlessly and steadily for profit making and fights doggedly in opposition to the interest of the people, the 99%. Why shouldn’t it when lobbyists are on the job with Congress, an army-for-profit on duty regardless of administration, funding campaigns without limit thanks to a compliant Supreme Court. The 1% benefit again and again because they have the power to influence legislation behind the scenes, to get into the gears of the machinery, leaning on senators and reps all the time, in private meetings, socializing, running into each other at Cancun, a strong and steady force we don’t hear about.

    But when the minimum wage issue comes up, or national health care, or anything substantial to benefit the people, then there is no behind the scenes discussion, because this is anathema that goes without saying. So the talk is all public, Sunday TV shows buzz with reasons it just isn’t a good idea, we can’t afford it, everyone will pay with higher prices. A virtual army of ready to talk guests turn out and fill our ears with talking points for the 1%.

    What this tells us is our government is completely corrupt. I support the $15 minimum wage, but I would pass on it in a second if we could get private money out of election campaigns because that is the rotten core of our plight.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. At the same time, the top 1% now makes 81 times more than those in the bottom half do, when you compare average earnings. For American adults on the lower half of the income ladder – some 117 million of them – earnings haven’t changed since the 1970s.

      This is not a wage gap – it’s a chasm.

      The most widely accepted measure for calculating income inequality is a century-old formula called the Gini coefficient. What it reveals is startling. Today the United States has the most unequal society of all developed nations. America’s level of inequality is comparable to that of Russia, China, Argentina and the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo.

      https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/dec/02/nomadland-living-in-cars-working-amazon?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

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    1. We’ve already got job loss due to automation.

      Most of these low-paying jobs are grunt work that can’t easily be automated.

      Job loss could be reduced if CEOs and other high-level managers took pay cuts. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have a small, personal example here. By the time of my departure (ouster, really) from the company where I was most recently employed, there were a few support functions I performed for sales reps that literally no other single person in the company could do. Therefore, once I was gone, several people throughout the company, in different departments and locations, would have had to be consulted to collate the various data that the reps used for customer service. As headcount cuts were ongoing, that data collation grew more and more unfeasible. I asked my boss how the reps would get their metrics once I was gone, and her reply was, “Well, I guess they’ll just do without them.” The fact was, however, that certain large clients based their annual advertising spending on those metrics. If the reps couldn’t provide them, renewal contracts were in jeopardy. The suits at corporate didn’t care about that, however. They just decreed that the reps had to meet sales goals determined by executive management, period. If the reps lost tools they needed, it mattered not. Eventually, ALL the people who could have provided any of the metrics (in addition to their other substantial responsibilities) were jettisoned.

        The moral of the story is that, when jobs are cut, somewhere along the line, customer service inevitably suffers. No two ways about it. But the CEOs don’t care about that, especially if there isn’t much competition in their markets. We all know that from being at the mercy of cable, internet, and essential service providers. Corporate planning now turns on six-month, even quarterly increments, with expense reduction the most important goal, whatever the eventual cost of employee cuts. The mantra of growing the company through excellent customer service has become a dinosaur in most cases.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m willing to pay more for goods and services to ensure a living wage for workers.

        Increased labor costs: Again, you’re focusing on the workers. CEOs and mid-level managerial types could take a cut in pay to ensure all workers have a living wage — thereby keeping labor costs constant.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. And in the cases of small businesses, let them have the subsidies instead of the enormous, monopolizing profit-hogs. Make GE pay its taxes, along with Amazon and every other big corporation that skates on technicalities and/or off-shoring.

          Liked by 2 people

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