Friday, October 18, 2013

Don't Like Welfare? Then Demand A Liveable Wage for Workers!

Fast food workers demand higher wages in August.

Question: When was the last year a worker earning $90 a week (net) could live on it? I am talking about food, rent, and transport etc. The answer is 1968, when the dollar was worth approximately 4.5 times what it is now. I can vouch for this because I was such a worker, at an Oil Company in New Orleans, taking a hiatus from university studies. As a geologist's assistant responsible for preparing geological stratum sections (disclosing salt domes), I took home 90 bucks a week, and I also needed no welfare support to make it.

The rent for my efficiency apartment,  located in the upscale Garden District (off St. Charles Avenue, and 3 blocks from Loyola) came to  $75 a month.  My electric bill was usually about $30 a month and groceries came to about $35 a week, and that was being extravagant - with fare such as steaks, shrimp, etc.. Add in going out to eat at the 'Buck Forty Nine' twice a week and food came to around $40 or so a week. Transport was a cinch at 15 bucks a month. It cost one thin dime to get on the St. Charles trolley and go directly to my job on Lee Circle, and one thin dime to get back. Add in the trolley fare for dates, escorting Loyola coeds to the Saenger Orleans downtown on Canal St. for a flick, then dinner, and you had the balance.

Now, fast forward to today's workers earning 90 bucks a week take home. Do they even exist and if so can they make it? Not likely! A fast food worker earning $7.25 an hour today and putting in a 40 hour week will stand to take home just over $246, or more than two and a half times what I earned.  But can he or she afford to live like I did? Hell no! Rents in most urban areas start at around $650 a month if you're lucky. In the same area I lived in New Orleans 44 years ago, they're now $780 a month and more. How is a worker earning only $246 a week going to make it, with also having to shell out at least $100 a week for groceries, and likely $150 a month for utilities (electric, gas, water). Add in cost for transport, even if the worker is lucky enough not to need a car (to which maintenance costs must be added) and you have a small economic nightmare.

"Do the math" as they say, and you find the workers such as those shown will always end up short and without enough to eat, or to pay for medical needs. No surprise then, that they will need additional monetary input which I didn't need in 1968. (And NO, it isn't fair or right to tell them to "work two jobs". That's the response of an asshole.) 

I bring this up because a new study on behalf of the National Employment Law Project has disclosed that "about 52 percent of the fast food workforce receive some kind of public assistance, compared with 25 percent of the general workforce." (Denver Post, 'Fast Food Help Takes A Big Bite Out of Welfare', p. 12A, Oct. 16)

The study also found that California led the country with $717 million spent in welfare for those workers. The study was completed by the University of California- Berkeley Law Center, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Commenting on the dismal stats, Corrine Fowler of the Colorado Progressive Coalition was quoted:

"It's pretty outrageous that workers can't meet their basic necessities even after working 40 hours."

Indeed, and this is why fast food workers in nearly 60 cities had pressed for a living wage - defined as $15 an hour - to help them meet their basic needs, which again, are no where near as extravagant as the welfare haters would have you believe.

Doing the math, as I showed above, indicates that only a totally uninformed putz (or math deficient putz), Tea Party idiot or asshole would bitch about people getting welfare who are working hard - at least 40 hours a week - and can't make it, so need government assistance.

Author Charles Reich is blunt in his book  ‘Opposing the System’, Crown Books, pp. 125-126:

The claim that government is free to reduce or cut off welfare and other forms of support for people in economic need is totally mistaken. Welfare is not a gift, nor is it, despite frequent assertions, a transfer from those who earn a living to those who are not.  Welfare is rather an obligation from society – and from those who are working- to those who have been deprived of work and the opportunity to earn a living. If we want to speak of transfers, it would be more accurate to say that those with a secure place in the economic system are enjoying a transfer of wealth from those who have been excluded from the economic system. Welfare then is partial compensation for a deprivation of livelihood that allows others to work.”

Clearly, a welfare model then must be based on the premise that welfare is an obligation from society and not a ‘gift’ or Freebie, i.e. reluctant transfer from the working to the non-working.

As Barbara Ehrenreich, the author of 'Nickel and Dimed' , noted, working at Walmart didn't even help her pay both food and rent at a dump motel. She had to go on food stamps to survive. (At least with that one 40 hr. job). There is a real moral problem here too, since without a living wage, economic warfare is all that remains- with each little person fighting and struggling against each other little person for survival.

Predictably, of course, the Employment Policies Institute declared if they paid any such living wage their profit margins would collapse unless they raised prices, and Cheeze Louise, the Customer demands low prices!

Puh-leeze! The Economic  Policy Institute has found the needed increase would be minimal and not kill any fast food addict's budget.  As an example, your bare bones special "dollar burger" from the BK  "Dollar menu" would go up to maybe $1.25. Big freakin' deal! Look, if you can afford a buck you can sure as shit also afford a buck twenty-five. NO one in his right mind is going to argue and tell me that a paltry 25 cents will spell the difference between buying the damned burger and not buying it!

Besides, after you cough up that extra quarter or whatever, you then won't have to bitch about so many getting welfare!

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