Fast Food Strike: Tired of Living in 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.


5 Reasons Why Arming Teachers is the Worst Idea Lawmakers Have Ever Proposed

Governor Rick Perry thinks the problem of mass shootings can be solved with guns, more guns and...he can't remember the third thing.

Governor Rick Perry thinks the problem of mass shootings can be solved with guns, more guns and…he can’t remember the third thing.

I have a question for Governor Rick Perry of Texas, State Rep. Mark McCullough of Oklahoma, State Rep. Dennis Richardson of Oregon, State Rep. Betty Olson of South Dakota and all the other (mostly Republican) lawmakers who have publicly voiced their support for arming school teachers:

Are. You. Out. Of. Your. Fucking. Minds?!!!

It’s one thing for these Second Amendment enthusiasts to balk at the very real threat of tougher gun laws being passed in the wake to the Newtown shootings. It’s another thing entirely to look at the specifics of that shooting (or of ANY mass shooting) and think than any of those situations could have been improved by more flying bullets fired by untrained individuals. You know, because that usually ends well. Especially with CHILDREN literally in the crossfire.

Before this post disintegrates into me shouting ‘What the HELL are you thinking?’ at digital images of the aforementioned lawmakers, let me establish a plan. I’m simply going to list my top five reasons why arming schoolteachers is a stupid, asinine, ill-conceived, arrogant, short-sighted, and (perhaps deliberately) distracting “solution” to the very real problem of mass shootings in this country. Then I’m going to go hug my daughter.

Teachers are not Navy SEALs, Special Forces, or SWAT Officers. They’re teachers. Perhaps these lawmakers have been swayed by action movies that depict heroes who can neutralize bad guys with two or three expertly targeted shots to the chest without harming a single bystander but it simply does not work that way in real life. Even with training, the emotion of a tense situation can dramatically affect a person’s ability to shoot at and hit a specified target. Police officers, federal agents, and military personnel with decades of experience hit and kill bystanders in standoffs with alarming regularity. Do really we think a schoolteacher with a roomful of terrified minors will have the concentration, focus and sheer luck to shoot the bad guys and ONLY the bad guys? For a recent example of this look no further than the August 2012 incident at New York’s Empire State Building where NYPD officers pursuing a suspect shot and wounded nine bystanders before killing the actual shooter.

Guns aren’t always used on their intended targets. The teacher who carries a gun into a school to protect themselves or their students may have the best intentions but it ultimately may not be up to them how that gun is used. Nancy Lanza bought her guns to protect herself and while we don’t know precisely what she wanted to protect herself from, we seriously doubt she envisioned what her son would ultimately do with them. The same is true for the father in Western Pennsylvania who accidentally shot his seven year old son to death in the parking lot of a gun store this November. He was simply trying to put his gun away when it fired. Similarly a teacher would not foresee a situation wherein he or she is overpowered by an intruder, a coworker, or even a student for a gun or one where the gun accidentally fires and hits an innocent bystander. For a firearm to be useful as protection, it needs to be accessible to the user. But how, in a crowded school, is a firearm going to be both accessible to the user and secure from everyone else?

Guns in schools complicate emergency situations for actual law enforcement officers. Picture this: an elementary school is in lockdown. The local SWAT team is called in to “neutralize” an armed intruder. There are five adults on the premises with firearms drawn, one or more of them may be teachers. How is law enforcement supposed to figure out who the intruder is? Remember, these incidents happen fast. Split seconds fast. What is the likelihood that this situation doesn’t end with one or more dead teachers?

Students may not respect or fear guns; they may see them as toys or movie props. All the lawmakers who have proposed arming schoolteachers and/or allowing teachers to carry their own weapons have stressed that said teachers would be “trained” in the use of firearms and would therefore pose no threat to the children. Really? Have they met children? Have they seen news stories about children of all ages getting shot playing with guns? In every classroom in every school in America, there are children who simply do not understand what guns can do. Their concept of guns may come from movies, television, or (more likely) video games. This is what they know about guns: if you get shot you hit the “restart” button and try again, hopefully firing faster than your digital opponent. To them a gun in a classroom might seem cool. It may be something that are irrevocably drawn to: to touch, to try to take apart, to hold, perhaps so they can emulate someone or something they’ve seen. Again, a gun kept accessible for the teacher may be easily accessible by a curious student. And in the upper levels of middle or high school, when the students grow to be almost the physical equal of their teachers, what stops a student from taking a teacher’s gun by force? Then what?

A teacher trying to use a gun in an emergency focuses on him/herself and the gun and not on the students. The lawmakers who propose arming teachers or permitting teachers to carry their personal weapons paint a picture in which a teacher with a gun learns of an intruder, retrieves his or her weapon and uses it on the intruder thus preventing unnecessary bloodshed. Simple, right? But is that really how it would play out? And in this scenario, who exactly, is focusing on the students? Who is making sure the youngest students are remaining calm and quiet, helping them hide, getting them to more secure locations, and doing any of the other truly heroic things that the teachers in the Newtown shooting did that saved the lives of children? A teacher who is armed at the direction of the school district or state has split priorities: eliminate the threat and protect the children. Can we really expect them to do both? Isn’t a teacher holding a weapon and looking out for a gunman inevitably focused on that first and the children second? For the last time, teachers are teachers, not law enforcement. If you want safer schools, focus on funding better law enforcement and passing better laws, do not add to the list of things a teacher needs to do in an unimaginable crisis.

These are my top five reasons. There are likely many more reasons that you can come up with, given that you might be slighter calmer than I am at this given moment. I’ve been in constant state of stunned/enraged disbelief that any lawmaker who has actually been in an American public school could possibly think this is a good idea. Perhaps that’s the problem? Have the lawmakers who’ve proposed these laws actually visited schools? Talked to teachers? To law enforcement? To parents?

As the mother of a middle schooler, the wife of a high school teacher, and a school volunteer, I’m in and out of school buildings almost every week day. I want them to be safer. We need them to be safer. Putting more deadly weapons into them will not, I repeat, not achieve that.

Please share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.