Here’s how you keep wages down: make people who make very little angry at others who are trying to make their lives better.
It worked for Scott Walker in Wisconsin when he successfully cut the legs out from under teacher unions: by falsely claiming that teachers were lazy moochers luxuriating under massive teacher salaries and 3-month vacations (yeah, right), he made enough of the people of Wisconsin believe that the teachers were hurting everyone else and should not be allowed, therefore, to use their unions as a way to fight for better conditions:
“We can no longer live in a society where the public employees are the haves and taxpayers who foot the bills are the have-nots.”
That’s the trick: if someone down below is having some success at making things better for themselves, then instead of making everyone else feel they should also have better conditions, generate resentment against the ones being successful and make them get the same crappy wages and conditions as everyone else.
You have to admit, it’s a brilliant strategy for the corporations: get the people you’re abusing to force others to stand for even more abuse.
It’s happening in places where fast food workers are demanding $15 an hour. Many people in other professions are now apparently grumbling about how “burger flippers” are making more money than people who are trained as professionals in more serious jobs—but the complaints are about how the fast food workers don’t deserve it, and are not about how the professionals should be getting much more.
Which is idiotic. $15 an hour is a sustenance wage, it barely lets you escape poverty. It is not living high off the hog. If you’re an electrician and you’re making less than that, you shouldn’t be mad at the fast food folk—you should be pissed at your employer, and you should be asking yourself, “How can I do the same thing that the burger flippers did?”
That correct thinking is embodied in this brilliant and reasoned Facebook post by one such professional:
I’m a paramedic. My job requires a broad set of skills: interpersonal, medical, and technical skills, as well as the crucial skill of performing under pressure. I often make decisions on my own, in seconds, under chaotic circumstances, that impact people’s health and lives. I make $15/hr.
And these burger flippers think they deserve as much as me?
Good for them.
Look, if any job is going to take up someone’s life, it deserves a living wage. If a job exists and you have to hire someone to do it, they deserve a living wage. End of story. There’s a lot of talk going around my workplace along the lines of, “These guys with no education and no skills think they deserve as much as us? Fuck those guys.” And elsewhere on FB: “I’m a licensed electrician, I make $13/hr, fuck these burger flippers.”
And that’s exactly what the bosses want! They want us fighting over who has the bigger pile of crumbs so we don’t realize they made off with almost the whole damn cake. Why are you angry about fast food workers making two bucks more an hour when your CEO makes four hundred TIMES what you do? It’s in the bosses’ interests to keep your anger directed downward, at the poor people who are just trying to get by, like you, rather than at the rich assholes who consume almost everything we produce and give next to nothing for it.
And that’s the point that everyone should be focusing on. Not how the person below you deserves less than you, but rather on how everyone deserves a decent living. And why you get paid squat while CEOs and shareholders deserve the lion’s share of the profits. Economic theory suggests that because CEOs have such critically important, one-of-a-kind talent, they deserve 300 times more than you. Really?
Sadly, when some CEOs with the right way of thinking actually try to make things better, petty jealousy fostered amongst workers can screw things up. Remember Dan Price, that standout CEO of the Seattle credit card processing firm? The guy who slashed his own salary and benefits so he could give everyone in his firm a “minimum wage” of $75,000 a year?
His business is failing. And you know why? Partially because enough selfish asshats critical to the company’s success were pissed that this gave them less of a raise in pay then people “below” them. That’s right: the boss actually raised the pay of some workers by thousands of dollars a year, and they quit because others who started later got a proportionally larger raise than they did.
Were they happy that they got a raise? Were they happy that they now got paid better than industry standard?
Apparently not. They felt snubbed because someone else was getting the same as them.
“He gave raises to people who have the least skills and are the least equipped to do the job, and the ones who were taking on the most didn’t get much of a bump,” she said. To her, a fairer proposal would have been to give smaller increases with the opportunity to earn a future raise with more experience.
A couple of days after the announcement, she decided to talk to Mr. Price.
“He treated me as if I was being selfish and only thinking about myself,” she said. “That really hurt me. I was talking about not only me, but about everyone in my position.”
You’ll have to forgive me, but that person is a first-rate dick. Seriously? Your boss does you and everyone at your company a solid, he cuts his own pay so he can give you a raise, you’re getting better than other people who do the same work as you… but you get all whiny, drive away customers, and leave your company in the lurch because you resent others who you feel aren’t as worthy as you?
Screw you, you selfish, self-absorbed prick, and don’t expect anyone to buy that self-serving crap about how you were really concerned for others and not justing resentful for yourself. You’re what’s wrong with labor today. You should have been happy that everyone was making a good wage, you should have been grateful to your boss for cutting his pay so you could get better, and you should have worked harder out of that gratitude—so that the company could be more successful, and then you and everyone else could get even more.
Not that this person was the only problem, or the main one: apparently, generosity is not widespread in the Price family, as soon after Dan Price made the wage increase, he got sued by his brother over money issues. Not, the brother claimed, over the wage thing. Right. It’s just a coincidence that the suit came just as Dan Price raised everyone’s wages.
So now, Fox News and many others are reveling in showing how the company that dared pay a decent wage is floundering, as if the boost in wages was the real culprit, instead of selfishness and greed amongst people who just wanted more for themselves and were willing to cripple the company out of spite if they didn’t get it.
Because instead of celebrating the little guy and wondering if the CEO really deserves 300 times more pay than the average worker, instead of noticing that CEO pay has risen 90 times faster than worker pay, we should instead get pissed off because someone who was working 70 hours a week and was still below the poverty line should win a raise that lets them not live in squalor, just barely. We should get angry at other workers because we didn’t get as big a raise. And instead of going to the CEO of the hospital where you work and ask if a small part of that billion-dollar profit the institution made could be directed to horrifically underpaid staff who do all of the critical work—instead, you should fight to shove the fast food workers’ heads back underwater. Just like the people of Wisconsin did when they thought, “My salary isn’t great, so let’s punish teachers!”
My company, as they’re so fond of telling us in boosterist emails, cleared 1.3 billion dollars last year. They expect guys supporting families on 26-27k/year to applaud that. And that’s to say nothing of the techs and janitors and cashiers and bed pushers who make even less than us, but are as absolutely crucial to making a hospital work as the fucking CEO or the neurosurgeons. Can they pay us more? Absolutely. But why would they? No one’s making them.
The workers in NY made them. They fought for and won a living wage. So how incredibly petty and counterproductive is it to fuss that their pile of crumbs is bigger than ours? Put that energy elsewhere.