Seeing the latest rounds of advocacy in NYC and the U.S. around living wage, corporate greed, and affordable quality education; I see common arguments emerging when this organizing hits the airwaves:
“If everyone had a bachelors then who’d make the morning lattes?”
“If wages were raised then that would make the cost of everything go up!”
My first reaction is usually an eye roll. Then I thought about these comments. How embedded capitalist culture is in us. Try to imagine a world, where education is available at all levels. If one would like to learn about solar energy, they should be able to. If someone wanted to learn how to service their community and learn about agriculture in urban environments, wouldn’t a community garden be better than seeing yet another Dunkin Donuts pop up? Is your morning latte really more important than sustainable local economies? Is your access to a processed cheeseburger really the signal of a better economy and world?
What if the sanitation workers could work toward green certifications to be able to build environmentally sustainable neighborhoods? People could gain an education and improve their surroundings. They could work towards this with good jobs. Jobs with benefits and a suitable pension. While still being technically “service workers”. But not in the way capitalism has put out the potential lights in people and beacons to communities.
The argument of “everything will go up” once wages raise is not a valid economic argument if you have actually read and tracked economic arguments surrounding living wage.
– No, “everything” will not go up. Why? Because costs of goods and services have been rising at fast rates regardless of increase of wages. Over the past 20 years, productivity among workers have been increasing yet the rate of their wages have not been matching with that amount of work. Also, the finance sector (Wall Street) have had their wages increase at a much higher rate than ALL sectors. Past their actual rate of productivity. Yet, no one was concerned for the costs of goods then; and this has been happening for years.
–“They don’t deserve to be paid $15 an hour for flipping burgers”……yes they do actually. Get off your high horse. Also, the service sector goes far beyond fast food. It also includes home aids, nurses, airport workers, etc. Catering to your condescending ass isn’t worth anything, but they should at least get $15/hr or adjusted living wage. Especially since service sector workers don’t really have health insurance, life insurance, and all the good things that came with your job. AND have to give someone like you a morning breakfast sandwich, only to be looked down on because you assume they don’t want to “work harder”. Fuck you, seriously. And don’t even start with the whole “well I know this one guy who was like that”. Get that anecdotal shit out of here.
This need to still operate in the confines of what capitalism has taught us what is possible (and other systems of oppression of course), hinders us moving forward as a society. We can’t seem to let go of the fear of what we might lose if we don’t operate within those confines. When in reality our possibility of gains could be more than we’ve ever seen. “Free markets” in a capitalist system have done nothing but deregulate major financial institutions and suck the overall 80% of the economy dry (because the old money folks have been doing just fine this whole time). Yet we middle class people are more afraid of losing our “chance to become a millionaire” than establishing the futures of our families and situations. The labor movement is why we even have paid sick days off. People sacrificed and organized because they knew for a fact it can only get worse.
Try to envision a better world is what I ask. Outside of what the billionaire nation wreckers told you what was possible. Yes I know they told you “work hard and everything else will follow”, but if that were true…how come the millions on low wages haven’t seen a fraction of the fruits of that hard labor? How come the few that make it refute that evidence? Then people say they didn’t work hard enough and want better for themselves? That’s just judgmental, cruel, and far from the truth.
Lets stop falling for the ploys and actually construct a better place to live.