A May Day Reminder about the Fight for 15

By S. Christopher Emerson

Those who are fighting for $15/hour generally consider that wage a concession toward a “living wage.”  The argument is not just an economic issue, but moreover, a social/human issue, as in “I’m a human being and I deserve to be able to reasonably care for myself and my family while working a job.”

But in our current economic conditions, it generally takes more than $15/hour to make a living, as is shown on this map based on 2016 data from the National Low-Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC): http://resistancereport.com/class-war/wage-apartment-your-state/

One of the arguments in the Fight for 15 is that the standard of living has gone up exponentially compared to lower and middle class wages. But upper class salaries have increased in better parity with the standard of living, which indicates wage/economic INEQUITY and oppression against lower and middle class wage earners.

Another argument within Fight for 15 is actually a counter argument. Some detractors suggest that minimum wage workers (1) don’t work hard, or as hard as higher wage earners, and (2) that lower wage jobs are unskilled and therefore deserving of the meager wages they get. But there are DEFINITELY skills involved in most lower wage work and studies have shown that low wage earners work as hard, if not harder, than many middle and upper wage earners.

And then, there is the racism that is pervasive in workforce discrimination. People of color, and of course, Black folks, earn less and have a higher rate of underemployment and unemployment nationally. This is due to workplace discrimination, less access to workforce resources, less access to education, less quality education, transportation, etc. Raising wages is just one way of reducing poverty, increasing access to life building resources, closing racial and socioeconomic gaps, helping people of color build wealth, etc.

This lets us know that the Fight for 15 is REALLY just a part of this full scale human and civil rights movement that’s been going on in areas controlled by Whites, and in this case, the US, since… Since Black folks arrived here to far less than desirable accommodations.

Another important part of the struggle deals more with the human and civil rights implications within and surrounding capitalism. Quite simply, capitalism is an economic system which places profit over provision as its constantly moving goal. Even when minimum wages are increased, price setters can and probably will raise the prices to cover these costs, which is allowed in capitalism.

So part of this fight is generating support from lower and middle wage earners to bond together against socioeconomic oppression and mistreatment. Threats of divestment, boycott, etc. COULD work if more fighters were involved. But if this remains a tangential moment, upper, middle and lower wage earners who don’t see the good in raising wages will remain apathetic and price setters won’t have the necessary motivation/opposition to get them to change their selfish ass minds.

To put it simply: In the current state of economics, the rich are probably going to have to be threatened or forced to keep prices down.

Increasing wages means workers earn more, society and social programs save money and consumer markets are expanded. Specifically:

1) Crime (generally speaking, excluding crimes of greed) is largely a result of economic disenfranchisement, and therefore, poverty. So if there is less poverty, there will be less crime.

2) Less poverty equals better access to health resources, food, exercise, medicine, hospitals etc. Less poverty would save the health (emergency) care industry money, and raise profits for primary care and hospitals.

3) Less poverty results in spurring real estate, retail, investments and service economies

Just a few talking points that will help us on the way to economic justice. May we always recognize the wealth we have within ourselves and with each other.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *