Town Square

The Dignity of Work, and Those Who Deny It

Original post made by Mike Cherry on Sep 2, 2013

On this day when we can reflect upon labor's heroic contributions to our country, Rush Limbaugh has spoken out. Asserting that the market always rules, he states, "If a worker doesn't like $7.25 an hour, then go work somewhere else. If you're not qualified to earn more than that, then get qualified. That's how things work."

Yes, how simple. Rush doesn't tell us how firing workers who attempt to organize themselves is related to the rules of the market. Nor does he tell us how corporations -- now having gone abroad in order to escape America's 'market forces' -- typically have machine gunners posted outside of their factories and subsidiaries. Just how does the concerted effort to keep workers intimidated and docile figure into current market conditions? Rush?

In fact, the idea of prevailing market conditions is a myth. Most American workers earn the wages they do, and work in the workplace conditions they do, and have the rights they do, not because of market forces. Rather, it is because America's workers have always gallantly fought against forms of exploitation in the form of workplace discrimination (e.g. race, gender), child labor, arbitrary firings, forced overtime, and so many others. When workers have struggled and succeeded, markets have adjusted. This process, spearheaded by workers' concerted voice for justice, is what has made America great.

Yet another Rush-like myth is that of the individual worker. While we are all individuals, we also belong to a social class system which gives inordinate advantage to some and extreme disadvantage to others. If one is born in the bottom 1/5 tier, one is likely to remain there; if one is born to the top 1/5 tier, one is likely to remain there. America's workers have always known that the conditions of their existence depend not so much on individual exertion as much as social solidarity, expressed in a unified voice. The power of individual workers is nothing until workers stand shoulder to shoulder in organized solidarity to effectively preserve what those before them have bravely achieved, as well as to bring about so many long overdue changes.

Today's fast food workers are a case in point. A couple days ago many courageously walked off the job in order to draw attention to their plight as workers, struggling well below the poverty line, making in real wages far less than did their much younger counterparts 40 years ago. The $15 per hour being demanded is the rough equivalent of what the typical fast food worker earned in 1974.

Markets exist. But markets are never free except in the minds of a few economists who willfully turn a blind eye to considerations that make the idea of a free marketplace laughable. The fast food industry has become immensely profitable. Situated on virtually every major intersection and mall in the United States, the industry has contributed greatly and literally to the shape and size of American citizens. It asks for a relatively small dollar amount, and in return it serves up chewable matter consisting primarily of fat, sugar, and salt. It pays workers wages well below poverty lines and it hopes that our bloated and lethargic citizens don't complain.

The fast food industry has been so successful not because of market forces, but rather because it has up until now kept its workers' wages depressed. It isn't market forces that determine that fast food workers must work hard for a wage well below the poverty line. Rather, it is corporate power ensuring that fast food workers remain nonunionized, voiceless, powerless, and poor. This is an insult to a cherished American virtue: the dignity of work.

The dignity of work. The dignity of ALL work. Sanitation clean-up, yard work, janitorial work, fast food work. The dignity of work: the idea that if one works hard one will be paid a living wage that acknowledges the work done and the dignity of the individual who performs it.

Fast food workers are demanding a fair day's wage for a fair day's work. This is not about market forces. This is about profits and power. This is about America's corporations protecting their profit margins by not paying workers enough and thereby keeping them in poverty.

By any measure, America's fast food workers have the corporations running scared as reflected in Rush's buffoonish remarks. Will Americans demonize fast food workers as some have demonized public workers? Rush and his dittoheads hope so. And so do those who make millions in corporate profits while their workers and their workers' children are kept below the poverty line.


Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore
on Sep 2, 2013 at 11:12 am

I have absolutely no problem with working Americans exploring all of their options. If forming a union improves the quality of their lives and the lives of their loved ones, then go for it!

There will be no compassion for the struggles of union workers in Plutonia. The opposition from corporations and their cheerleaders are toxic, they have no mercy. The bottom line is always profit at anybody's expense. Most corporations don't care if workers live or die as long as they maintain their bottom line...$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$.

There are so many forces that chip away at the dignity of working Americans that it matters enormously that we all be allowed to maintain a shred of dignity. Talking about workers as if they are sub-human, objects to be kicked about is not acceptable.

I know that it will continue but that doesn't mean many of us will not resist and fight back. Corporations can only treat working individuals so poorly for so long before somebody says enuf already.
That's what's happening with BART employees who are planning to strike. They have a legal right to make demands and to negotiate an acceptable settlement. MY HOPE IS THAT THERE WILL BE A STRIKE AFTER THE COOLING OFF PERIOD.

I loved being with family and friends in Donostia. It was a peaceful and happy experience visiting with such warm loving individuals.

I will always luv the UK and especially London! I spent all of my time catching up with old friends that I knew when I was a teen.


Posted by Mike Cherry, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2013 at 11:44 am

Good hearing from you, Cholo, and nice to again hear your voice of reason.

Have you heard Elizabeth Warren's Labor Day message? Check it out. Unfortunately, more will hear Rush's blather than Warren's speech. Role of mass media? Hmmmm....

Web Link

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore
on Sep 2, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Mass mediIn my opinion, Plutonian media is strongly against working class success.

If the national media is ever invited to explore the thinking of local resistance to the present BART conflicts, it will be an eye opener for America!

Maintaining class boundaries/concerns is a primary concern of many Plutonians. It comforts many residents and allows them to live in an insulated and temporary safer and tidy world.

Even if some Americans earn advanced degrees, it's still problematical. So, earning college degrees and a formal education doesn't always translate into a high salary and increased opportunity.

It's worth being trashed, shamed, mistreated, demonized if it leads to union organizing so that a shred of decency can be reclaimed.


Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore
on Sep 2, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Correction: In my opinion, Plutonian media is strongly against working class success.

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore
on Sep 2, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Correction: ...temporarily safer and tidy world. Unless of course, one is Mr. Tidy Bowl!

Posted by Gene Wagner, a resident of Country Fair
on Sep 2, 2013 at 1:18 pm

I enjoy your comments Mike. We need to hear more from Elizabeth Warren.

Posted by Patricia S., a resident of Livermore
on Sep 2, 2013 at 2:24 pm

This strikes a chord. My daughter has been in the food service industry for two years and she's working a double shift today. Tip generously and tip often eveybody!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore
on Sep 2, 2013 at 3:23 pm

Many Union workers are also college graduates and veterans who have lost limbs, sight, and are partially disabled due to military service.

What is fair compensation for American Veterans who can only find emplyment in the fast food service industry?

Should US Veterans have increasingly limited medical benefits?

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore
on Sep 2, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Should US veterans be eligible for low-income housing in Plutonia?

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore
on Sep 2, 2013 at 4:27 pm

No...not if they don't have a college degree...anonymous.

Posted by Mike Cherry, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Cholo, your point about disabled veterans and folks with college degrees working in the fast-food industry is a good one. You've put a face on what some would prefer to designate as mere statistics.
Fast food workers are real people, with families, and with all kinds of legitimate reasons why they are working fast food.

Rush and so many other class bigots, as you say, just want to kick these folks aside as if they are not worth anything.

We need to keep in mind that an unskilled or semi-skilled worker is no less valuable than a highly skilled worker. All are human beings, all contribute as best they can to the greater good, and none deserve to work themselves to the bone for less than a livable wage.


Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore
on Sep 2, 2013 at 6:52 pm

APA and Unemployment/Underemployment:

Web Link

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore
on Sep 2, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Unemployed college graduates as vulnerable as high school dropouts:

Web Link

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore
on Sep 2, 2013 at 7:33 pm

Homeless man helps police! HOORAY!

Web Link

but wait, can a homeless unemployed man be a hero?

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore
on Sep 2, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Disbled vets: Web Link

Disabled vets deserve your respect.

Disabled vets often need to and are capable of working.

Any job in Plutonia for them?

but wait...some are even college educated!

Posted by john, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2013 at 9:51 pm

And those of us, for whatever reason, don't work. They are no less valuable as people either! They are all human beings, whether unemployed by choice or necessity! They deserve a dignified existence, free from hunger or lack of shelter!