By Jake S.
If you are able to duck out of work today, I hope you'll be able to join the thousands of American workers who are taking to the streets to demand a living wage. If you're in the US, you can find the nearest protest to you by entering your zip (protests are planned in various cities around the world).
According to a recent article in the New York Times, three-quarters of families on public assistance are headed by a worker. That someone could work full time and not earn enough to feed their family is disgraceful, particularly in such a wealthy country. It is time for the American rich to stop hoarding our wealth. We demand a living wage, $15 an hour at the very least.
But legislating a new minimum wage is not enough. Listen to Sandra Roman, a 34 year old mother of four from Oakland, CA:
“I’m joining the fight for $15 and a union. I want everyone to know that when the minimum wage went up [in Oakland, it went up to $12.25 from $9 in March of this year], they took away many of my co-workers’ hours. If I get sick and call in, I get suspended. That’s why I want to join the union. I want to be protected.”
Capitalists will always try to reverse any gains made by the people. They dismantled much of the Great Society welfare system in the nineties; what remains is constantly under threat. Any legislative victory will be fleeting if the people remain unorganized. If you work, there may be a union you can join. If not, you can form one.
Today's protests may mark the rejuvenation of American labor. The protests could also be a grand, carefully orchestrated display of rage which pressures nobody and starts nothing, fading instead into irrelevance. To prevent the latter, we must find ways to challenge the forces which are eviscerating unions and empower the workers who toil for poverty wages in big box stores and fast food franchises across the world.
Jake Schenberg is the editor of The Activist and co-chair of the University of Georgia Young Democratic Socialists.