Monday, September 2, 2013

Happy Labor Day!




According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Labor Day was officially created in 1894 and is “dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.”  Working conditions a dozen decades ago were intolerable by today’s standards, and there wasn’t a lot that workers themselves could do in the vastly unequal equation between businesses and labor.  But huge strides for America’s workers in the succeeding years make me wonder how relevant Labor Day is in these times.  Mostly, its value just seems to lie in marking the unofficial end of summer and giving us yet one more three-day weekend.
I’m not sad to see summer go.  San Diego has joined the rest of the country in a series of hot, humid days that remind me of why I’m happy to live in a place where such an occurrence is a rarity rather than the norm.  And the investments world has lived up to the old saw of “sell in May, buy back on Labor Day”, with the Dow down some 500 points since Memorial Day – the unofficial start of summer.  Meanwhile, silver’s a bit higher since May, but gold and the mining shares – despite lots of interim movement – are right back where they started.  Yeah, why didn’t I just sell everything 3 months ago and forget about them over the summer?
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In honor of the holiday, fast food workers are demanding $15/hour, about double what most make now.  Classic economic analysis tells us that doubling their wages should result in some combination of higher fast-food prices and fewer burger flippers – not such a good outcome.  Numerous studies question that conventional analysis, however, implying that raising the minimum wage would benefit low-income workers without really hurting the rest of us.  Whether that’s true or not, I still don’t have a lot of sympathy for those working entry-level jobs that don’t pay enough to live on.
Look – most of us started out working at those kinds of crappy jobs.  The point wasn’t to support a family.  It was to make a few bucks while learning some workplace skills; a first, necessary step up the ladder, rather than an end in itself.  And to give you a wake-up call; figure out a better way to make a living!   If you’re well into your 20s or older, and you’re stuck at Mickey D’s or KFC, chances are you didn’t have much of a game plan when you were in school.  I see it all the time: kids with tons of potential, but not putting in the effort.  Or going on to college, but majoring in something that “speaks to them”, rather than something that society values – as evidenced by decent-paying jobs.  So they’re stuck with only a U.S. high-school diploma which, if you didn’t know this, is seen by the rest of the world as not worth the paper it’s printed on, or a college degree that’s worth not a helluva lot more.   
Surely there are many people stuck in minimum-wage jobs for reasons beyond their control, but I think they are more the exception rather than the rule. For the rest – for the majority – I don’t know why we should guarantee them a “living wage”, basically rewarding them for making poor choices.  This is part of the cult of entitlement that so many Americans, especially younger ones, have embraced.  It basically says: “Enjoy life!  Do whatever you want, and don’t worry.  You’re an American, so somebody will take care of you no matter what.  
What if, on the other hand, the message to young people was: “If you want a good life, you need to – YOU MUST – really apply yourself.  Otherwise, your life is going to be really tough.  It kind of reminds me of the claim that most of us only use something like 10% of our brains (very high achievers, people with ESP, etc. apparently use more of theirs).  In the classroom, most students don’t work to their full potential.  They put in, on average, perhaps half the effort they’re capable of because – well, because of the “you’re an American, your life will be good regardless” idea.   As an experienced classroom teacher, even in a very high-performing school, I see this all the time; kids turning in crap, kids not studying when they know they should, not doing assignments that they could easily do, and so on.    
Now I don’t think that was the case 40 or 50 years ago, and I don’t think that’s the case in most of the rest of the world.  I think that earlier, and elsewhere, kids worked and work harder because they knew they’d be screwed otherwise.  It’s cause and effect.  We’ve had 20, 30, 40 years of good times in the U.S. – even during the Great Recession of 2008-2011, how many people didn’t have a place to sleep, food to eat, and unlimited texting on their iPhones?  As a result, trying to tell kids about the necessity of actually doing their best, rather than just whatever they feel like doing, simply doesn’t register with them.  Meanwhile, in most of the world – it does.  Not surprisingly, that’s where many of the high-paying jobs have gone, leaving fast-food and WalMart jobs as the only option for so many Americans.  
So good luck on the $15/hour thing.  I rarely buy that horrid, unhealthy food anyway, so it’s no skin off my nose.  But I won’t feel sorry for them if they don’t get it either.
JSS
9/2/2013

25 comments:

Sandey said...

Not grumpy a'tall. We hire 14-15 year-olds for the Fair's "Team Clean!" One of the kids came up with this tag line that's imprinted on their shirts: "FAIR work for a FAIR wage." Since 14-15 year-olds only earn 75% of minimum wage, we promise them $1 more each year they come back if they work well. Kelly's a slavedriver, so not too many get rehired at the increased rate, but you can sure see the difference between the entitled and the driven to succeed.

Anonymous said...

McDonald's made up a budget plan for their workers to survive on their wages and it included getting a second job. You say you don't feel bad because a fast food job is meant as a launching point. Ok, but it isn't. For an increasing number of people, many of whom are people of color, there just aren't better jobs available to them. Just because you we're able to "pull up your bootstraps" doesn't mean that everyone who can't is lazy. Um, white male privilege?

Many people working in fast food come from circumstances that have kept them from getting ahead. Ironically, your outlook is very simplistic. The article presumes we are living in a meritocracy, but that's just too simple.

The article completely circumnavigates issues of class and race. Who is working in fast food? It isn't mostly teenagers trying to buy their first car. People working in fast food are the working poor. In California, it seems that the majority of people working in fast food are Latino. In fact, in California, people of color occupy low-skill low-wage jobs at a higher rate than whites. Is that because of laziness? It seems racist to say so... And not because the world is so damned politically correct these days. No, it seems racist because it is.

When you say that fast food workers are fast food workers because they're lazy, you are totally ignoring the very real social and economic barriers that keep people working in low paying jobs. If most people working fast food jobs in California are Hispanic, is it because Hispanics take too many siestas?

An essay that claims to be open minded should take into account the system that places people in the jobs they have. (How is the girl at the cash register at Burger King connected to NAFTA?) Yes, people make their individual decisions, but that is just part of the picture. It's just not that simple.

SDHS Student said...

"Or going on to college, but majoring in something that “speaks to them”, rather than something that society values – as evidenced by decent-paying jobs."

I’d like to see you tell this to all art, writing, film, and acting students out there. In any case, I take your above statement to mean that you believe that all the young people out there should just pursue the career that pays the best, not pursue there true calling. You believe that the right choice for them is to simply pick a life of conformity instead of following their dreams. Artists do not do what they do simply because it “speaks to them;” they do it out of a creative necessity and personal fulfillment. In addition, they are not naïve to the challenges they’re life choice presents.
P.S. That 10% of the brain thing is a myth.

Adizzle said...

Increasing the minimum wage is good for the economy because it allows the middle class more spending power and keeps working families above the poverty line. As for as the whole "Do whatever you want, and don’t worry. You’re an American, so somebody will take care of you no matter what.” That's totally wrong, Americans and people in general are far too skeptical to just assume they are going to be taken care of.

Anonymous said...

You claim that the majority of people who work minimum wage jobs "didn't have much of a game plan when [they] were in school." This may well be true and to an extent I agree. But with the recession and unemployment having been high recently, the minority of "people stuck in minimum-wage jobs for reasons beyond their control" has grown drastically. There are people who went to school and college, completing a well-picked career, only to be laid off during the recession. This group of citizens had to take lower paying jobs, not because they were not qualified for others, simply because there were no others available.
-Natalia Semeraro Econ 3B

Anonymous said...

People who are working at McDonalds have or should accepted their minimum wages. They shouldn't be asking for more because their going to be taking away from the people that actually work. The only way this will work is if you raise the prices for everything, otherwise known as inflammation. But this still wouldn't be fair for other people who would still make the same amount of money because people are barely making a living and suddenly the prices go higher because people want more money from doing the least work.

Which brings up another point. People making little money insist on buying the latest technology and the most expensive clothing. I've known families who struggle paying their rents yet they have the biggest flat-screen I've seen with the newest phone on the market and with their expensive clothing moving from apartment to apartment. People need to set their priorities straight or else their going to keep following in the same traps their setting themselves up to.

Briana Foster said...

I don't believe they should be asking for more because they knew what they were doing and getting themselves into. It's not like its an important job where they should be getting paid that much. It was their choice to get into that business and its pretty self explanatory that they wouldn't be getting paid much and they should just accept their pay instead of complaining about it and maybe plan their futures better.

Anonymous said...

SDHS Student WHP
I agree with this essay. Labor day was a day for those who worked hard. Now, it seems that people just don't value hard work anymore. Younger people seem to have a more easy going attitude on life and usually don't look at the future. I believe that this mentality relieves some stress on a very pressured group in society however they must be willing to face these challenges and power past them. I believe that all students should be told to do their best in life and in school. I've been told this pretty much my entire life but some people might never of been told this. People back then worked hard to get the cool things in life. In today's society cool things are very cheap to get like a phone (considering the price of one 20 years ago). The essay is a little biased toward your opinion but it's a blog and that happens a lot. I think it was a good essay though.

Anonymous said...

This essay was quite close-minded in comparison to others previously written. The low-end workers demanding a higher minimum wage may seem unfair to other workers who have worked hard to attain "more decent" jobs, but regardless of this, these workers still benefit the country's GDP and are part of its labor force. They may not be working for the best of companies in regards to quality of goods, but these services still have demand and are in need of people to fill these jobs. Now, they also deserve keep themselves alive off of their meager salaries and this is why these companies are creating budget plans. If everyone had high-end jobs, how would the world function properly?
-Anna Cridlig Econ 1A

Gabriela Peralta said...

Most of the points that you make in the essay I can agree on. I see your main point that people should be working harder to earn a good life living for, and I can see why you say that and I agree as well. I see many people that get stuck on that lifestyle and never want to move on from it and exceed in life. And although a a lot of them were victims of uncontrollable situations, others should still work for what they want in life and not get everything handed to them.

Daniel Van Orden Period 4B said...

People who work at minimum wage jobs such as McDonald's are not putting in the same amount of work as someone who is teaching a class, or designing the latest phone. People should be payed for the effort that they put into their work rather than the amount of money you need to have a nice phone, a nice car, a nice house, and food. If you are working at a minimum wage job and you are over 20 years of age and have a family, you do not deserve to have a nice phone and car. Everyone deserves to have food to eat and a nice house, not everyone needs/earns a nice phone and car. You should be putting the effort into high school and college so you can afford to have a nice car, a nice phone, and a nice house when you are older and have kids to feed.

Daniel Van Orden 4B

Joshua Lopez said...

If those workers get raises, their co-workers will get fired as a result which means the workers that still have their jobs have to work harder now that there are less people working to flip patties. If the workers thought about this, maybe they would change their minds about wanting raises, after all, like this essay says, people are lazy. That brings me to my next point. People aren’t lazy. Most people that work at fast food chains don’t want to work there, but they have no choice. Maybe, they graduated college, but because the economy sucks, they're forced to work at these minimum wage burger-flipping joints.
These workers are counting on the government to fix the mistakes they did that made the economy like this. I don’t agree with the essay about how people in America are lazy. Thanks to the sucky economy, people who had dreams of working somewhere where they wanted to are now forced to work at fast food chains. I kind of feel bad for the people like this. They had dreams of living a good life, but when the economy started to fall, their dreams just disappeared.

Anonymous said...

McDonald's workers are filled up with teens wanting to get pocket money, the workers who are out of school and working for McDonald's usually have a second part time or full time job. Some people who have low paying jobs weren't given much of a chance, they might not have enough money to go to college, or maybe their working this type of job to go to college, or to pay it off.
"You’re an American, so somebody will take care of you no matter what.” This is not true, people should try their best and work hard in school to get a good paying jobs, but their are always going to be people with personal issues that prevent them. With out low paying jobs the world wouldn't work right, if every one went to college got a good job, nobody would make or serve food at most restaurants, therefore prices on food will go up. High schools, malls, and other buildings wouldn't get cleaned up because there would be no janitor, Unless they get all the students and teachers to mop the floors, cut the trees, etc.
With out these jobs the world wouldn't function as easily as it does now.

~ Emily Sholk 2A

Julian Murdzek said...

I really enjoyed this post, it was extremely thought provoking, especially because right now is a pretty chaotic time when it comes to preparing for college. I think you need to get to the actual root of laziness. Some of it definitely comes from the American ideology, but there are many others causes that could be explored.
Additionally, I don't advocate major in something "valued" just to make money. Even if reality eventually checks in, following your dreams can be an important step to learning about oneself.

immaADORKABLE said...

I think that the wages for fast-food employees shouldn't be raised for the simple fact that those jobs are meant for teenagers. The older generation is taking these jobs and trying to make them into a career, which isn't exactly a good idea. I fell that if they are are gonna work a minimum wage job, then they should get paid for working a minimum wage job. Also the idea of doubling their wages is ridiculous, at least ask for a dollar or to and then work your way up.
Doing their little protest on Labor Day wasn't exactly a good idea in my book because Labor Day (in my opinion) was created to show respect for those who worked in less than stellar conditions. Which, by the way, these people are not. So yeah, this idea of doubling their pay raise makes no since to me. If you want more money, don't make a summer job your career.

Melinda said...

Like you said, 40 or 50 years ago anyone, regardless of whether he or she went to college or not, could make a successful life for themselves in practically any job, which has given us a false hope that in America regardless of how hard you try in high school and beyond there will be an opportunity given to you to live a comfortable life. This reality has obviously changed, and, decades later, these employees are finally starting to realize that things ware no longer the way they were for their parents.

The situation is difficult – despite being advised to try harder to find a better way to make a living, the reality is that many of these people will ignore this advice and continue to fight for a higher minimum wage. This is a frustrating reality, but until it is communicated to students that hard work is now indeed required to obtain success, I believe this issue will remain for a long, long time.

Eunice Reed said...

I think that the wages for fast-food employees shouldn't be raised for the simple fact that those jobs are meant for teenagers. The older generation is taking these jobs and trying to make them into a career, which isn't exactly a good idea. I fell that if they are are gonna work a minimum wage job, then they should get paid for working a minimum wage job. Also the idea of doubling their wages is ridiculous, at least ask for a dollar or to and then work your way up.
Doing their little protest on Labor Day wasn't exactly a good idea in my book because Labor Day (in my opinion) was created to show respect for those who worked in less than stellar conditions. Which, by the way, these people are not. So yeah, this idea of doubling their pay raise makes no since to me. If you want more money, don't make a summer job your career.

Isabella Katzman said...

Why should the people who did not try nor thrive at school and in life end up as well off as the rest of us are? This sends a message to our generation and others to come that you can slack off in school and not try and do anything with your life and you will end up just fine. Personally I believe that people made their decisions and they have to live with their choices. So if you don't have a care in the world about your future, just know you will most likely end up stuck at a fast food place making barely enough money to get by.

David Granda 4B said...

After reading this article, I can honestly say that I am stupefied at the idea that rmplayes of low income jobs want to get paid 15$ an hour in honor if labour day. In regards to the fact that those jobs are meant to be the first stepping stone into becoming a responsible adult. This comes from experience working at a small family business on Friars Road since I was thirteen years old. However, I do agree with the fact that “there are many people stuck in minimum wage jobs for reasons beyond their control”. Yet I also understand your point that a majority if those people are there mostly because they haven't been productive and consistent throughout their lives.

Carina Brito said...

How hard is it for society to do what they are supposed to do? There shouldn't be a "high five" as so to speak for those who didn't do well like everyone else. I agree with Mr. Strebler in his thought that they shouldn't be getting more money if they knew that that certain job wasn't efficient enough,especially when they did not whatsoever work hard to conquer that main goal. Obviously, it's not fair nor good,but when it comes to making poor choices in your life time,consequences will occur without a doubt. Everyone should challenge themselves and do what they are supposed to do to succeed.

Anonymous said...

This essay clears how the Labors' Day from, and it is good because it uses the example of the workers in fast food restaurant and they don't have a really good salary for living. It is a really serious problem now in the global society because there are some really poor people in this world are busy and do some very tiring work and they just get such a low salary and that is not even enough to eat. This essay also mentions about how the young people's reaction in the reality.I like this kind of ironic description.
In my opinion, as a society, there must be some people that are poor and have some unfair treatment. If everybody study hard and have a positive attitude, the high-salary job would have a very intense competition, and the people how have the high education background but aren't chosen might work the basic job like to work in the restaurant.

by Jing Wang March 22nd, 2014

Anonymous said...

Jing Wang [Michelle], 4B Per.
This article made me realize how tough life for the workers, no matter is the past or the present the workers seem to be the people who work the hardest and earn the least money. In this article the example of the people who work in the fast food restaurant shows that, because of the low salaries, most workers there what they really want is the social experience. If people actually learn something that good for their development in the future, they may ‘escape’ this kind of low-salary life. The article also shows some teens [or adults] that only care about enjoying and never learn or working hard. Those people just use the stuff that government offers to them, which is not fair, because those things can just make them lazier and too depend on the help from government.
In my opinion, people who live only depend on the offering from their country’s government are controversial social part. If the government give them help they might just depend on them, but if the government doesn’t care about them they would just die because of the hunger, for example the basic workers and even the homeless people. What they need is to work hard because most of them have the ability to work. For teens we should try our best to learn and get on a good college so that we can find a better job than have a dirty job with low salary. But the more people have high education background, the more pressure of finding job is. So I think there must be some people do the low-salary job like the basic worker, and it is necessary for the entire society.

Lizzie Hall said...

I had no idea that fast-food workers were fighting for $15/hour wages, and I agree with you on some levels that they don’t deserve it. I don’t really think it can be so generalized. You said that those people didn’t have a plan in school, and maybe that describes a lot of those workers, but I think it has to be looked at more individually. Each of those workers has a different life story. Sure, a lot of them probably slacked off in high school and didn’t go to college, but I’m sure a lot of those people didn’t have a choice.

Jasmine West said...

Applying to those dream jobs sound exciting but, in reality, who actually gets to work those jobs? In the end, those people become desperate for work and the only option is to apply for that job that nobody wants. Those who are turned down end up joining the infamous fast food/supermarket minimum wage job market. However, after some time working as a bagger or burger flipper, people start to become encouraged to break out of that low income cycle. I believe that people who work in minimum wage jobs are building up their strength to create what they want in life. A minimum wage job is good at encouraging savings and budgeting. Like you mentioned “It was to make a few bucks while learning some workplace skills; a first, necessary step up the ladder, rather than an end in itself. And to give you a wake-up call; figure out a better way to make a living!”

Anonymous said...

Basically any day that doesn't allow me to skip school isn't much of a holiday for me. I find it amazing that a group of people from Walmart expect a double in their pay just because they don't think they get payed enough for their effort. The amount of effort to flip a hamburger or to hang some clothes is lower than sleeping. They don't deserve to be payed so much for doing hardly any work.
-Josh Hallmark
-Josh Hallmark