The fight for higher minimum wages seems to have stagnated since last November. Despite campaign promises for making the plight of working class Americans “great again,” Trump has thus far refused to hold a vote for raising minimum wage, and has hinted at plans to repeal wage protections for construction workers.
Missouri Republicans are close to undoing a St. Louis minimum wage increase that took effect last week.
The Wall Street Journal ran a largely-anecdotal article last week titled “Minimum-Wage Boost Squeezes New York City Restaurants” while completely ignoring the fact that restaurants employed a record-high number of 170,500 people in both full-service and limited-service eateries as of last March.
So this viral Facebook post of paramedic Jens Rushing’s brilliant response to New York’s $15/hr wage victory in 2015 felt particularly urgent yet again. You can read the original post here, or scroll down to read the full text:
Fast food workers in NY just won a $15/hr wage.
I’m a paramedic. My job requires a broad set of skills: interpersonal, medical, and technical skills, as well as the crucial skill of performing under pressure. I often make decisions on my own, in seconds, under chaotic circumstances, that impact people’s health and lives. I make $15/hr.
And these burger flippers think they deserve as much as me?
Good for them.
Look, if any job is going to take up someone’s life, it deserves a living wage. If a job exists and you have to hire someone to do it, they deserve a living wage. End of story. There’s a lot of talk going around my workplace along the lines of, “These guys with no education and no skills think they deserve as much as us? Fuck those guys.” And elsewhere on FB: “I’m a licensed electrician, I make $13/hr, fuck these burger flippers.”
And that’s exactly what the bosses want! They want us fighting over who has the bigger pile of crumbs so we don’t realize they made off with almost the whole damn cake. Why are you angry about fast food workers making two bucks more an hour when your CEO makes four hundred TIMES what you do? It’s in the bosses’ interests to keep your anger directed downward, at the poor people who are just trying to get by, like you, rather than at the rich assholes who consume almost everything we produce and give next to nothing for it.
My company, as they’re so fond of telling us in boosterist emails, cleared 1.3 billion dollars last year. They expect guys supporting families on 26-27k/year to applaud that. And that’s to say nothing of the techs and janitors and cashiers and bed pushers who make even less than us, but they are as absolutely crucial to making a hospital work as the fucking CEO or the neurosurgeons. Can they pay us more? Absolutely. But why would they? No one’s making them.
The workers in NY *made* them. They fought for and won a living wage. So how incredibly petty and counterproductive is it to fuss that their pile of crumbs is bigger than ours? Put that energy elsewhere. Organize. Fight. Win.
Nathan Wellman is a Los Angeles-based journalist, author, and playwright. His less-political Youtube channel can be found here. Follow him on Twitter: @LightningWOW