Fast Food Strike: Tired of Living in McPoverty

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mcpoverty

by Jen Giacalone

People, I promise you, I really don’t normally have a beef with MSNBC’s Chris Jansing.  She usually does a yeoman’s job (yeo-woman’s?) of covering the news.  But when she was interviewing one of the leaders of the striking fast food workers the other day, I was doing an awful lot of yelling at the television.

“So, a lot of teachers only make $16 an hour,” she asked him,  “what makes you guys feel that you’re worth $15?”

No, Chris, no.  First of all, this plays right into that old Jay Gould chestnut, “I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.”  Second of all, it ignores the bigger systemic issue with not only income inequality in general, but the gender-based pay gap and the troubling matter that so many women “choose” to go into low paying fields.  One wonders if the fields pay so little precisely because so many women are drawn to them.

The guest, to his credit I suppose, didn’t get sucked into pitting the value of fast food workers against that of teachers, but he also (frustratingly!) missed the opportunity to point out that, actually, teachers generally also ought to be valued more highly and paid better than they are.

The income inequality in America is getting to be so bad that even that bastion of socialist thought, The Wall Street Journal, is saying, “Hey guys… maybe this keeping all the money for ourselves isn’t such a great idea after all because it’s like, causing instability or something.”  It’s been said, but bears repeating, that if minimum wage had kept pace with inflation since the Johnson administration, minimum wage would be about $20/hr.  Cast in that light, the $15/hr the fast food workers want doesn’t sound like so much.  A girl could pay her own bills on that.  Probably.

But oh, the hue and cry!  And I’m not even talking about from the Stuart Varneys and other Right Wing Business News “spewing-heads” of the world with their disregard/disdain for humanity.  I’m talking about other lower wage workers.  I recently had an argument with a dialysis technician who, in her current job, with something like seven years of experience, does not yet make $15/hr.  And rather than looking at the organizing fast food workers and thinking, “Hey, that’s a good idea,” she looks at them and thinks, “Hey, who are they to think they should get paid more than me for flipping burgers?”  There’s no making the point that maybe the fast food workers getting paid $15/hr is good for her, because it strengthens her case.  She can say to her employers, “Look, the burger flippers at McDonalds are making $15, you have to do better by me or I’m going to leave to go flip burgers at McDonald’s.”

When I pressed her about this, she said, “Well, when I became a dialysis tech, they told us we weren’t going to get rich doing it, it was something we were doing because we loved it.”  Now look, there’s lots of professions you can say that about.  If you are a jazz musician playing in a club, fine.  If you are an anthropology graduate assistant living your dream of studying the mating habits of the wild Bortok Igorot tribesmen of Polynesia, fine.  If you hold people’s lives in your hands… uh, no. You should get paid as if you hold people’s lives in your hands.

There is a systematic undervaluation of professions where women are heavily represented: whether it’s fast food work (skews female by 13% among adult workers), teaching (70% women) or nursing (over 90%), the pay is often not enough to really live comfortably on, or accurately reflect the value of the work.  And we tolerate it.  When I say we, I don’t refer to myself.  I’m fortunate enough to be extraordinarily well paid for what I do.  I mean “we” as women, and “we” as a society.  We say, “That’s the way it is.” In class-obsessed, status-conscious America, people can often be caught in the trap of determining their worth as a person according to what they are paid.  It’s a natural consequence then, that someone looks at a less-skilled job and resents those workers for having the nerve to ask to be paid better.  Case in point, the dialysis tech I was arguing with; but you see this attitude reflected all over social media, even from supposed “progressives.”

It comes to this:  every last low-wage worker, in every industry, should be cheering the fast food strikers, but most especially women in these kinds of underpaid, under-appreciated but deeply vital fields.  It’s the first step to demanding human dignity and, in our class-obsessed society, respect.  Get it together, ladies.  The fast food workers are striking for you, too.

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Author: womenriseupnow

An awareness and mobilization site designed to fight back against recent attacks against womens' rights.

4 thoughts on “Fast Food Strike: Tired of Living in McPoverty

  1. I couldn’t agree more. I’m hoping that from watching Walmart & Fast Food workers showing dissatisfaction, demonstrating, walking out, striking — that more and more people will start to wake up and make more noise.

  2. Such good points and you’ve given me a lot to ponder. I live in Qatar, and watching this news the other day, I realised that we pay our cleaner an hourly rate that is actually more than the average rate for a worker in the US fast food industry.

  3. I find that is the way people respond to union workers and their higher-than non-union wages. I don’t understand the “why should I be paid less than them?” vs. the “Why shouldn’t I be paid more?” mentality.

  4. Teachers are definitely undervalued, especially in the U.S. I’m a Special Ed Teacher in Australia and used an alphabet you tube skit from the U.S. which when it got to the letter ‘T’ said: ‘T is for Teacher, when you grow up and can’t get a job, you can always be a Teacher’. I’m sure it was put in there as a joke, but I was mortified.

    It isn’t just the natural resources that make Australia financially healthy. The high minimum wages ensures people have money to spend. I remember it being explained at Uni that the reason why Marx’s predicted revolution didn’t happen worldwide was because industry cottoned on to the fact that if they paid their workers more, which they finally did in England towards the end of the industrial revolution, they would be the new spenders when the market was saturated with only the top 10% of the population able to buy things. You can’t grow an economy by restricting and indeed lowering the spending power of the general population.

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