As I was traveling down Wisconsin Avenue in Milwaukee, right where the main library sits, I noticed a protest. A protest by workers and their supporters in favor of raising wages for fast food workers. There must have been about 100 people, easily, out there.
Protests happened in front of the Grand Avenue Mall a little farther east, in other parts of Milwaukee and other regions of the U.S. They were protesting the fact that they make so darn little. Adjusted for inflation from early 1960 wages, they would make over $10 an hour today.
But, some make barely above $7, and if not for the minimum wage, many would make much less. Of course businesses say they can’t afford to pay workers more, though strangely with much less productivity in the 1960s, they could at that time pay workers over $10 an hour in today’s dollars. That is with little unemployment.
The fact is that the profit margins by businesses on the average minimum wage or near near minimum wage worker are high.
Which considering the fact that the average MW worker has very little leverage and can’t really bargain (outside of a union or a collective action) with their employer for higher wages, isn’t really that surprising. Two of the businesses where there were strikes were McDonald’s and Burger King.
Low wages are subsidized by the government. Because workers make so little they get more in earned income tax credits, renter assistance, food subsidies, Medicaid, among other costs. To keep the profit margins of these businesses high, the government pinches in, just as they subsidize Wal-Mart (which almost single handily destroyed much of our manufacturing base) who pay very low wages.
If you are a minimum wage earner and you wanted to pay for health care insurance for your family (considering that almost no MW employer provides for health care) you would have to work 2079 hours, versus only 329 hours back in 1979.
That gives a MW worker who worked 40 hours in a workweek on average, unlikely in this economy, 1 hour throughout the year to pay for everything else. Not one hour per week, but one hour of pay for the entire year.
Workers in the U.S. have seen a sharp decline in wages compared to their parents or even, when wages are adjusted for inflation, their grandparents. Not just MW or low income workers, but all workers.
The only group whose income and pay has gone up are those in the financial elite, or in other words, the rich. Unions are necessary to ensure workers aren’t exploited and I am glad to see the support of unions yesterday.
Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, stated “the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO is proud to stand in solidarity with striking fast food workers whose actions today are calling attention to income inequality, worker exploitation, and the right to a living wage and to a union.” I agree
Contrary to the opinions of many of our friends and acquaintances, we are not crazy. We may not be on the most mainstream path, but we are not, as some seem to think, two mental/emotional cripples helping each other hobble blindly through life. We have a plan and we will stick to it. Our choice to camp our way through the next few years is a reasonable alternative to what has become an unreasonable set of societal rules.
We aren’t paying a landlord or a bank for the roof over our heads. Technically, there isn’t a roof over our heads. As a matter of fact on nice nights, we can take the top off of our ‘house’ and lay down to a view of the stars. That, I think, trumps any house or townhome or apartment that I’ve ever lived in.
We aren’t chipping in to pay the bonus of Alliant Energy’s CEO. We pay less than $200 a month for our rent/water/gas/electric. Our internet and TV come for free from a connection that is technically legal, but pretty much ignores the spirit of the law. We live on a cash basis only. No loans, liens, or other outside obligations. Have I mentioned that we’re saving money?
And speaking of Alliant Energy’s CEO, what about Bank of America, Citibank, Wells Fargo, et al? What creates all that black ink in their ledgers? Their interest in your car, your boat, your house, your TV, in fact your very lifestyle. Their employee’s enormo-bonuses are largely based on their accumulated collateral. Wake up America. Have you thought about paying cash for your purchases recently? It can be done.
I think back to our original post. At that point we were expecting our water to be shut off at any time, and Autumn’s suggestion was that we think about it as if we were camping. My how things have changed. We no longer have to think about the minor hardships or deprivations as camping. Those minor deprivations are, to an extent, part of camping. Except there are always work-arounds, and the positives so outweigh the negatives that the negatives hardly seem to matter. Our back yard is beautiful. Our dogs, particularly Maka, seem happier than they ever have. Our expenses are so small that they seem almost irrelevant. Life is good.
Regarding deprivations, our most recent upgrade was a refrigerator. At 4.6 cubic feet, it’s certainly not what most of us are used to, but what a happy improvement. The ability to store food without the hassle of ice is freaking wonderful. Also a money saver, as we can, at least in a small sense, stock up on sale items. We’ve also gone from cardboard box storage to store-bought shelving and plastic storage bins. From a strictly psychological point of view this has helped me enormously because I appear to be a bit OCD when it comes to organization.
The down side has been monsoon season in SE Iowa. The rain has been relentless. Combine that with cooler than expected temperatures, and we have been driven to do laundry in town on two occasions. Normally, Autumn takes care of laundry by hand, but doing laundry outdoors in 40 degree rain doesn’t work out too well. I believe we are turning the corner this week weather wise though, so that should be coming to an end.
And the dogs? They think we are the coolest people ever. They get daily car rides. They get to run and play outside every day, not just on dog park day. The best smells in the world are outside. And every payday they get a McDouble apiece. Unless they get a McChicken sandwich. If they could talk I’m sure they would say … “What the hell was wrong with you? What was up with that freakin’ house? We’re supposed to be outside. Except at night. So … thanks for bringing a queen size bed.”