The #FightFor15 is a fight that every worker should support even if you’re making well above $15/hr.
The federal minimum wage hasn’t risen in over a decade. I, like millions of others, entered the workforce during this period. While working my retail and food-service jobs, what stood out to me the most was that my co-workers weren’t just teenagers and college students like me, but people in their thirties and up. Many of my older co-workers had spouses, children, or even an elderly relative that they had to provide for. Every time I got paid, I’d think to myself, “how are they providing for their families on this?”. I then learned that many of them were only my co-workers because that was their second or third job. Many of these people were teachers, which disillusioned me because I was in school to be a teacher myself. Was I studying my life away and taking on a lifetime’s worth of debt just to not be economically secure?
Know Your Enemy
These life experiences are why I support all workers in their fight for a living wage even though I’m now fortunate enough to have secured a living wage. Unfortunately, not everyone agrees. As food-service workers mobilized to strike for their right to a decent wage, many of their fellow workers mobilized against them. These same essential workers were hailed as heroes at the beginning of the pandemic were reduced and dehumanized into ‘burger flippers.’ Regardless of how ‘unskilled’ you believe these workers are, they are essential to our economy and society. This is a fact that no one can debate because of the pandemic. However, even if they weren’t essential, they still deserve a living wage because a living wage is a human right. No one should be damned into a lifetime of poverty and deprivation, especially in the wealthiest country in the history of the world. Everyone should be able to afford to survive.
There is no such thing as ‘unskilled labor.’ This is a myth that the ruling elite has propagandized us into believing so that they can continue to exploit and rob us blind. Every job requires skills. Foodservice workers have to cook food, and if they don’t do it correctly, it could make those that they’re serving sick. They also have to deal with bad management, maintain a clean environment (again for our safety), and work in tandem with several other people. They have challenging and demanding jobs that I personally could not do. They deserve respect and basic dignity just like everyone else, and refusing them their just due doesn’t help you; it only helps the ruling class.
No matter what you do for a living or how much you make, your employer exploits your labor. Capitalist enterprises subsist on profits, and to make as large a profit as possible, they underpay their workers as much as possible, regardless of how much value those workers add. The billion-dollar compensation packages for CEOs & other board members are unpaid wages to the workers who made selling their products possible. To put it bluntly, the owning class is pissing in our faces and calling it rain.
When we shame and dehumanize our fellow workers for demanding better wages and working conditions, we’re blaming those that are even more exploited than we are for the fact that we’re being pissed on. I am no better than food-service workers, and neither are you. We’re all exploited workers that deserve better. To achieve better, we need to unionize our workplaces, fight for worker-controlled enterprises (better known as worker cooperatives or worker co-ops), and work together in solidarity to claim the fruits of our labor that we are all owed.
Most of us in America live paycheck to paycheck. In other words, we’re one unfortunate setback from being thrown into abject poverty. For this reason, we need to support each other. You may have stable employment and housing today, but your job could close up shop and move overseas tomorrow, and you’ll be just as vulnerable as those that you’re looking down on today. Someone else being worse off than you is not a reason to feel comfortable, because as capitalist crashes have shown us, none of us are ever far from financial ruin.
We must refuse to accept the myth that poor people are poor because they’re unskilled or ‘lazy.’ Low-wage workers are some of if not the hardest working people in our entire economy. I worked harder, and my job was more demanding when I worked in retail and fast food. Stepping out of that sector of the economy made me realize that a living wage, paid sick days, and guaranteed healthcare are essential rights that every human being should have. I refuse to allow the ruling class to deceive me into blaming low wage workers for their conditions because I’ve walked in their shoes. They aren’t lazy or unskilled; they’re exploited and deserve what they are owed!
To the Exploited
It doesn’t matter how punctual you are. It doesn’t matter how hard you work. It doesn’t matter what qualifications you have. The only thing that will guarantee you a living wage is an employer that sees the value and necessity of paying you a living wage, period. You don’t have to prove yourself worthy of it. You deserve it. The warped and inhumane nature of our society and capitalist economy has swindled entire generations of people into believing that it’s acceptable for the vast majority of us to be overworked wage slaves. In contrast, a minuscule amount of people control the means of production and take their workers’ added labor value. We deserve better.
Though my personal quest is complete, I’m still not satisfied. I won’t be satisfied until every single person in this country gets a fair shake in our economy. I want to uplift that if wages had kept pace with inflation, the minimum wage would be ~$24/hr. Workers, if you’re reading this, ask for even more! If you are currently caught in a dead-end job, know that it’s not your fault. It isn’t because you’re lazy or “unskilled.” It wasn’t your GPA, or your underwhelming resume, or even your occasional tardiness. None of that is keeping you down. Societal greed and moral bankruptcy keep you down.
If no one else tells you this, I’m proud of you, and I support you. You’re feeding and clothing the entire nation, yet you can barely afford to feed, clothe, and house yourself. It’s not your fault. You get up every single day and do a job that you despise to the best of your abilities just to get by. If you’re torn between working retail/fast food, joining the military, becoming a sex worker, or selling dope, just know that you’re not alone. No matter what you choose, I support you. We’re in this together, in solidarity ❤.