To Unionnize, or not to Unionize?

by steal this post on September 16, 2013 - 8:57pm

Article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jan-schakowsky/to-celebrate-labor-day-gi_b_3855532.html

 

The article is about the recent labour movement in the United States, which is aiming to increase the salaries of workers in the fast food industry, as well as give them the right to unionize. The movement itself started out of a one-day strike by fast food workers and was a nationwide event. The author attended a rally on August 29th to show his support and solidarity with the workers and to oppose the growing inequality in the country.

The article cites workers salaries and working hours (the average McDonald’s worker in the United States works 24 hour weeks, and the federal minimum wage is a measly 7.25$ per hour) and compares this to the CEO of the company, who makes about 6 611$ an hour, which is about 13 million dollars a year.

The extent to which the McDonald’s CEO disregards the well-being of his workers in the article is staggering. In the "Practical Money Skills" packet which he supplies his workers with, which suggests their allocation of income, it is advised that six hundred dollars a month should be able to cover your mortgage or rent, and that twenty dollars each month go towards health insurance. The article then goes on to say that these amounts “are suitable only in his (Donald Thompson, CEO of McDonald’s) fantasy world (Schakowsky)”.

The workers themselves are asking for a doubling of their wages – from the seven dollars and fifteen cents an hour to fifteen. They are also demanding the right to unionize – as unionized workers make substantially more than non-unionized workers; two hundred dollars more than non-unionized workers, to be exact, according to the Service Employees International Union. This amounts to about ten thousand more dollars for workers – which, the article states, are obviously why employers threaten to fire workers trying to unionize (and effectively squashing any iota of revolt). The labour movement in general is dying; between 1973 and 2011, productivity increased by 90 percent, while wages increased by 4. Today, union membership in the private sector is only 6.5 percent (Schakowsky).

At the rally, two workers spoke about the impossibility of living off of low wages and being mistreated at work. A list of demands was drafted by workers in Chicago – where the specific rally the author of the article attended – which included things ranging from forcing employees to pay discrepancies in the register with their own wages to being allowed to drink water when the kitchen gets too hot.

The article ends on a somewhat ironic, yet saddening note: The author states that “we commemorated the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom” (Schakowsky) The march intended to raise the minimum wage to two dollars an hour, which, adjusted for inflation, is fifteen dollars (Schakowsky).

It is obviously clear what the worker’s value; they value their right to well-being and to a living wage. They value the right to a comfortable life. The employees, CEO’s and owners of property and capital value their right to run a business as effectively as possible – which is as American as apple pie. This is a classic antagonism that screams 1886, and ironically enough, the specific rally mentioned takes place in Chicago.

I side with the workers for this. My values and ideals have always stood alongside working people and their struggles. And to deny workers the right to a comfortable and lively working area only hurts productivity in the end. To make matters worse, it is stated in the article that wages were actually better when adjusted to inflation that they are now. The wealthy have always been living comfortably – but they insist on taking even more from working class people and those suffering from extreme poverty to line the pockets of the rich which are seemingly bottomless.

The final deciding factor in why I support the workers one hundred percent is the simple fact that these people are suffering, and their employers insist on making them suffer more than what they gain in terms of leisure.

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

 

Schakowsky, Jan. "To Celebrate Labor Day, Give American Workers a Raise | Jan Schakowsky." Breaking News and Opinion on The Huffington Post. Huffington Post, n.d. Web. 12 Sept. 2013. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jan-schakowsky/to-celebrate-labor-day-gi_b...

Comments

The topic of your review sparked my interest in light of how many students work at fast-food restaurants such as McDonald's. Students are able to relate to this issue because so many of us are consumers of fast-food and workers in the very restaurants that, according to the article, may not even allow them to drink water in the kitchen when hot. For this reason, I found your post fascinating.
My position on the topic is similar to yours; the workers should not be denied the rights to a comfortable working environment. From the sound of things in the article you responded to, the environment in which the unionized employees were previously working does not sound like one a country as developed as America should be running. Additionally, since when are Americans not permitted to form unions? A company that prevents such unions from taking place by deterring the employees is one that needs to be taught a lesson about the times: workers have rights. This has been a fight since before the Second World War and should continue to be a fight in light of the ever increasing gap between high-wage workers (like Donald Thompson) and middle class workers.
In what direction is the economy going at this rate, if the employees of large corporations continue to get paid less than a livable income and the head of the companies get paid more than they can spend?

About the author

far from being a dialectical improbability, the elimination of the work-concept is the precondition for the effective elimination of a mercantile society.