Thursday, September 4, 2014

Buy a Burger! Support a Worker!

“All across the country right now there is a national movement going on made up of fast –food workers organizing to lift wages so they can provide for their families with pride and dignity. There’s no denying a simple truth. America deserves a raise.”

The president made these remarks in a Labor Day speech before heading off to the NATO summit in Wales. His comments are part of a White House initiative to push Congress to pass a Democratic proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10.
Today fast food workers in 150 cities across the country will march in support of increasing the minimum wage. The “Fight for $15” campaign is seeking a $15 minimum wage and union representation.

In spite of the groundswell of support to increase the minimum wage, Republicans stand in opposition. Republicans say that small businesses are the engine that drives the economy by creating jobs. They believe that increasing the minimum wage will hurt small businesses, increase unemployment and weaken the economy.

Over the past 30 years the American economy has been rigged to benefit the business community. Corporations have received the benefits of the Bush Tax Cuts, tax loopholes, tax abatements and government subsidies. As a result corporate profits have soared; the DOW routinely posting record highs. Since 1980 the nation’s productivity is up 31% and its GDP has grown by 29%. Corporate executives pull in huge seven figure paychecks. Even incompetent chief executives who run their companies into the ground walk away with multi-million dollar golden parachutes.

Meanwhile hourly wages for everyday Americans remain flat…rising only 15 cents in the past 30 years. And as if refusing to pay a livable wage isn’t bad enough; businesses exacerbate the situation by cutting employees’ hours in order to avoid paying for their benefits.

History tells us that one of the greatest threats to the survival of our republic is the ever widening gap in income inequality. As the economic plight of the masses deteriorates the climate for unrest and upheaval grows exponentially. Economic equity breeds stability. A flourishing stable economy encourages an atmosphere of creativity and advancement in science, industry and the arts. None of that is possible when the vast majority of the people cannot make ends meet no matter how many jobs they work. Paying employees a livable wage is the fastest way to generating the income equality necessary for a health, vibrant, growing society.

The argument that increasing the minimum wage will harm the business community and increase unemployment is pure partisan nonsense. The Republican mantra that small businesses create jobs is false. Small businesses do not create jobs. Demand creates jobs. You can make the best whatchamacallit in the world. But if people can’t afford it they are not going to come into your shop to buy it. Find ways to put money in peoples’ pockets and you will see more of them in your store searching for your wonderful whatchamacallit. More money = more demand = more employees needed to service the demand.

The notion that increasing the minimum wage increases the unemployment rate is also false. Studies show (and there are several to choose from) that the unemployment rates in those states which adopted an increase in their minimum wage saw NO measurable increase in unemployment rates as compared to bordering states that chose NOT to increase their minimum wage.

Will some small businesses operating on the margins fail due to a mandatory wage increase? Yes! But the vast majority will have to hire more workers to meet the demand created by more customers looking to spend the new found cash in their pockets.

Republicans are being disingenuous when they express their concerns about the affects of a minimum wage increase on small businesses. They give the impression that they are worried about the mom and pop grocery store on the corner. In fact their real concerns are the profit margins of millionaires and billionaires who fund their campaigns. Remember, depending on the type of industry, you could have 500, 1000, or even 1500 employees and still be considered a small business. Billionaires like Warren Buffet, Steve Forbes and Michael Bloomberg are small business owners. You have to question the veracity of Republicans’ statements when they are advocating for businesses employing 500 or more people.

If republicans want to win national elections they need to get on the right side of this debate. Agree that an increase in the minimum wage is good for the country…but get something in return. Perhaps Republicans could agree on an increase in the minimum wage in exchange for the president’s approval to begin construction on the Keystone pipeline. Everybody gets something they want and the country moves forward.

It’s time to increase the minimum wage. A citizen working a full time job in the richest most “exceptional” country in the world should not be living in poverty.

Today, when you feel those hunger pangs, head to your local fast food restaurant. Buy a Big Mac, a Whopper, or a Double Cheese with everything on it. Shake the hand of a fast food worker. Give them your support. Buy a burger…support a worker.

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