Sign up for email alerts, from breaking news to weekly commentary:
Lifting America up by raising the wage floor
The good news is that it's not all bad news these days.
Take the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour – please! That's a poverty wage, a shameful stain on our extremely rich nation. But don't count on Washington to lift our wage floor – indeed, pigheaded Republican congress critters refuse to consider it, even declaring there should be no wage floor to sustain America's middle-class framework.
So where's the good news? Probably right where you live. Millions of low-wage workers themselves – from fast food workers to adjunct college professors – have been organizing and mobilizing, pushing local leaders to take action against the immoral inequality that's ripping our society apart and sinking our economy. Sure enough, local officials are responding – Seattle, Chicago, New York City, Austin, Providence, San Francisco, and even Oklahoma City, as well as other locales, either have raised their wage floors or are battling the corporate lobbyists to get the job done.
And here's a pleasant surprise: Breaking away from the McDonald's-Domino-Taco Bell herd of low-wage exploiters, several smaller fast food chains are acting on their own, raising their starting pay levels as high as $15 an hour, plus benefits. The Boloco burrito chain in New England, for example, has raised its minimum to $9 an hour, plus subsidizing its employees' commuting costs and contributing to their 401(k) fund. A Boloco co-founder says, "If we're talking about building a business that's successful, but our employees can't go home and pay their bills, to me that success is a farce."
Exactly! If you can't pay your workers a decent wage, then you don't have a legitimate business. The multimillion-dollar executives at poverty-pay outfits like McDonald's aren't running a business, they're running a labor extortion racket.
"Push to raise wage floor a state-city fight," Austin American Statesman, July 6, 2014.
"Paying Employees to Stay, Not to Go," The New York Times, July 5, 2014.