Many #RaiseTheWage activists have expressed VERY strong emotional reactions to the recent report on Seattle’s wage-raising actions. They have questioned the economic wisdom of forcing employers to pay more. They’ve wondered if the critics were right. There have even been reports that some have abandoned their formerly-cherished beliefs.
None of these responses are correct and should be unequivocally rejected. Many of us, of course, have kept the faith and continued our commitment to force greedy businesses to pay a living wage to their workers. We are not giving up.
Here’s a results summary of the city-commissioned study:
- Wages would have increased anyway, due to increased labor demand as a result of economic growth.
- One analysis showed a mere $5.54 weekly income increase and another showed a $5.22 per week decrease.
- Some job losses occurred.
- Fewer workers were hired.
- Those who kept their jobs experienced a reduction in hours worked.
If you have found yourself wondering if the #RaiseTheWage movement may be on the wrong track, here are 3 things to remember (and include in your protest marches and envelope-stuffing activities):
1.) Intentions Trump Results
It is incredibly important to cast an ideal vision of the future. In every city and town in America, there are people who are being insufficiently paid. Their stories must be told. Human worth always exceeds economic value. Phrases like “How can we put a price tag on a person?” work very well. Emotion, not facts, are key.
Advancing this line of thought always involves specific stories about an individual person. There are no aggregate persons. There is Jane, for example, a single mother who has financial responsibility for 8 family members while finishing her high school equivalency classes. There is Steven, who has $275,000 in school loans to repay after getting his graduate degree in “Feminist Poetry in the 18th Century.” People like Jane and Steven need our help. So do millions of others.
Forget what HAS happened and focus on what COULD happen. Passionately and eloquently stated intentions are always front-page news, whereas actual results are always buried way in the back.
2.) Our Leaders Benefit
Maintaining political and electoral viability are increasingly important as the country becomes more and more divided. We cannot lose ground, especially in urban areas where we’ve been incredibly effective for decades.
Candidates who really care about their constituents promise to increase incomes, and this a sure vote-getter. A successful wage-raising effort is an effective reelection campaign theme. After wages have been brought up to where they should be, an “I promised to increase your income and I did!” sentence is one to repeat as often as possible.
The opportunity for visual props are magnificent as well, both before and after a #RaiseTheWage campaign. For a first-run election, a Steven or Jane (see above) can explain their plight and leader can immediately call for change. For a reelection, a Steven or Jane (or someone who kept their job after the increase) can talk about how much better their lives are now – due in no-small-part to the work of the public servant.
3.) Economic Justice Is Still Important
This critical component has two equally important facets.
Firstly, businesses regularly exploit workers by paying them the lowest possible rate. Forcing them to share profits undoes this harm. Although some businesses attempt to circumvent minimum wages by forcing workers to accept cash under the table or by hiring undocumented immigrants, increasingly effective compliance enforcement efforts have substantially decreased these occurrences.
Secondly, far too many businesses have been earning excessive windfall profits and an increased minimum wage contributes to income equality. The top 1% has successfully waged class warfare on average Americans for generations, and it is well past time for this to stop. The substandard below 3% annual GDP growth over the last 7 years is partly due to this wide income gap. To get the country’s economy growing again, profits should be directed to where they are needed the most: into the pockets of the workers and not the off-shore accounts of the wealthy.
When tempted to reconsider your commitment to the movement, remember that economic justice must be accomplished for fairness to reign.
Stay the course and keep up the good fight, no matter what!
This was originally published on Independent Journal Review
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