We can pay everyone a livable wage – busting the copouts

So I was reading this article about the increase in temp workers in the US, and their lot in life.

I don’t know the definition of slave labor, but this seems to be as close as you get could without legally considering people chattel.

As usual, reading the comments on Reddit tends to be as interesting as any article posted there, and there are a few points that always seem to come up when people talk about labor issues in the US.

Copout #1 – This is just supply and demand. Economic realities suck, but there’s nothing we can do about it.

This is an such a myopic statement. If a river suddenly started flowing through your house, I doubt you’d say “Water flows downwards, there’s nothing I can do about it”. No, you’d probably want to change the flow of the river by digging ditches and creating irrigation. The government should be providing that irrigation by setting laws that take supply and demand into account and make them work for them.

Copout #2 – Even if we wanted the laws changed, our government doesn’t listen to us if we are peaceful, and the police will crush us if we aren’t.

Cop-out, get it?

Anyway,  I’m not a firm believer in peaceful demonstration myself. It can be effective, but usually only because the threat of violence is there. It’s important to start off in a in a peaceful manner while gathering support, but always keep the threat of violence thinly veiled. Show that people are getting angry and desperate and something needs to change or something very bad could happen. Something that ruins political careers.

It’s not a great idea to fight the police head on. Remember that police officers are citizens as well. They get paid a salary; well above minimum wage mostly but still pretty meager for the work and the hours they put in.  Riot duty has to be particularly unpleasant. They have families, debt and bills just like you and they can be reasoned with before they don the riot suit and the molotovs get thrown at them. At that point it’s kind of late to get their support.

Anyone that studies history can tell you that the most successful, least bloody revolutions are those that recruit members of the police and military to work with them instead of against them.

Copout #3 – Companies can’t compete if they have to pay everyone a higher wage. The jobs would all go to China.

First off, temps do a lot of jobs that can’t be done outside the US, including warehouse jobs, stocking shelves, office work, etc. I wonder if the people driving the temps around are also temps…

There’s a lot of countries, including Canada, France and the UK, where the minimum wage is much higher than in the US, and the do pretty well for themselves. These three are all in the top 10 GDP after the US, even if they have much smaller populations.

But this doesn’t take currency values and cost of living into account. If we attempt that (By measuring minimum wage as a % of GDP per capita), there are less than 20 countries  in the world that have a lower minimum wage than the US, and most of them are “developing countries”. (source for minimum wage, source for GDP)

Copout #4 – I don’t even live in the US. This has nothing to do with me and I can’t change it

People are being exploited on a daily basis. They work like animals, live in squalor and get put out (not to death, just outside) if they get injured or old. If you care about people, this has to do with you.

This also sets economic standards. The economic realities in your own country might not be this bad, but this is what your government is competing with. A little part of every politician and every economist in your government believes that the country with the largest GDP in the world must be doing something right.

And there’s plenty you can do. Participate in letter-writing campaigns to senators. If you send them mail from a .com address, there’s no way they will even know you aren’t an American citizen. Support activist groups you believe can affect change. Either financially or through virtual volunteering. Or just spread the word and move others to action.

In a world where you can stream video of your cat instantly to your friends in five different countries, it’s easy to get politically active in any well-connected country.

But don’t forget your own country. A part of why we get so upset about things that happen in the US is because we have so much information about it. How do the poorest workers live in your country? Do you even know?


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