Join The Fight for $15

$15DSAThousands of people across the country will be taking part in a huge strike for better pay and working conditions  on April 15.  From fast-food to home care, airport, construction, and Walmart workers to adjunct professors and other underpaid workers, folks from every corner of the country and the globe will be joining together across industries on Tax Day, April 15th, for the Fight for $15.

Will you stand with them this Wednesday? Find an action near you.

You and I know that it’s inevitable in the capitalist system for bosses to exploit workers. But it’s not just happening at the level of individual workplaces. Corporations must compete with each other or die, and that means avoiding expenses as much as possible. Low-wage workers struggle to make ends meet and, if they can navigate the deliberately complicated application process and the constant shaming that comes with public assistance, they get the support they need from taxpayers while their employers get off the hook for paying higher wages. That’s what I call corporate welfare.

All workers deserve a union to demand their fair share of the fruits of their labor, but in the meantime, let’s demonstrate that collective action can be society-wide, not just in one workplace. It’s good practice for building a movement for democratic socialism. Continue reading

Raise the Minimum Wage

by Lawrence S. Wittner

RaiseTheMinimumWageASome 47 million Americans live in poverty, and a key reason is the decline of the minimum wage.

First established under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, the nationwide minimum wage was designed to lift millions of American workers out of poverty and to stimulate the economy. Unfortunately, however, it was not indexed to inflation, and big businesses — hostile from the start — fought, often successfully, to prevent congressional action to raise it. As a result, over the past forty years, the purchasing power of the minimum wage has fallen sharply. If Congress had kept the minimum wage in pace with inflation over this period, it would today be $10.74. But, in fact, it is $7.25 — about two-thirds of its previous purchasing power.

A major consequence is that increasing numbers of workers and their families live in poverty. The annual salary of a full-time American worker employed at $7.25 per hour is $15,080 — less than the official federal government poverty level for a family of two. The poverty level for a family of four is $23,550 — considerably beyond what a minimum-wage worker earns.

At the same time, the rich have grown far richer. Between 1968 and 2012, as the minimum wage declined in value, the top 1 percent of households doubled their share of the nation’s income. The typical CEO of a big business received a 16 percent raise in 2012 — to $15.1 million. That year, the pay of Wal-Mart’s CEO, Mike Duke, rose 14 percent, to $20.7 million. By contrast, Walmart — the largest employer in the United States — pays its sales associates an average wage of $8.81 an hour. It is much the same story at McDonald’s, which employs large numbers of the nation’s low wage workers. In 2012, the CEO of McDonald’s was paid $27.7 million. Although his income roughly tripled in 2012, the income of McDonald’s fast food workers remained abysmal. Thanks to this pattern, the United States now has the most unequal distribution of income in the industrialized world.

Another consequence of keeping the minimum wage low is that, by under-paying workers, corporations are shifting the real costs of doing business to the general public. According to a study released this October by the University of California and the University of Illinois, 52 percent of America’s fast food workers receive assistance from public programs like food stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and Medicaid thanks to their poverty-level wages. As a result, taxpayers are contributing $7 billion per year to pick up the cost of supporting these fast-food workers. The study estimates that public assistance to McDonald’s workers alone amounts to $1.2 billion a year — the equivalent of one-fifth of that corporation’s annual profits. Taxpayers are also paying enormous amounts to support the impoverished employees of Walmart and other giant companies. Continue reading