A living wage for hard work

Posted: August 29, 2013 in Uncategorized
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I’m not much of a march and protest kind of guy. I never have been. It’s not in my nature. I have done plenty in terms of advocacy for social justice and other issues of the day but mostly through speaking and writing. Not usually by assembling for public action.

Columbia Faith Voices (connected to Missouri Faith Voices), a coalition of congregations dedicated to addressing the root causes of poverty and suffering, chose to join in the action to advocate for a living wage for fast food workers. It’s a national movement and the action took place across thirty cities today. The long and short of it is that fast food workers (whose average age is 28, not teenie boppers) cannot earn a living wage. Try to live on $7.35 an hour. Go ahead. With no benefits.

Learnings from my experience of advocacy today included: Workers feel disempowered; it matters that people stand with them. They are not the only ones with substandard wages – many from many occupations share their predicament. Local owners struggle too, often while corporations are getting quite fat. The managers of these restaurants are also on poverty wages. The faith community has a moral/ethical role to play in terms of advocating for the least of these. It’s a religious matter, not just political or financial one. But I learned one more important thing.

Most people honked in solidarity with the sentiment, namely, that people who work hard should have the ability to make a living wage. But there are exceptions. I’d like to mention one.

I would like to say thank you to the guy driving the new shiny Grand Cherokee Jeep. I really dig your wheels. In fact, I’m a little envious. I’d like to thank you for driving by, shouting obscenities and flipping us off. You’re a class act, you and your new car.

The four or five ordained ministers who were standing there with these people thank you for your humanity, tact, and reasoned response. You’re an asset to your community and one of the bright lights of hope among us. We were inspired.

Seriously, you brought some important matters into sharp relief. Here were the workers who earn $7.35 an hour and will most likely not be cruising in a Grand Cherokee in the near future. And they are flipped off by the guy in the new jeep who is incensed that they would dare suggest that their salaries are sub-standard. How dare them want to support their families. They are such dead wood, ungrateful leaches who don’t know their place.

If I nursed any doubts about our action today you and your jeep placed a salve on my anxiety. Now I know just how important it is for people to organize and find their voices.

More than anyone else today you solidified my conviction that we have done exactly the right thing. The truth is often validated by the equal and opposite attempt to discredit and dismiss it. And you, my friend, have succeeded beyond your wildest dreams. Congratulations.

  1. Audie says:

    You know you’ve hit a nerve and are on the right track when someone reacts like that! Proud of you!

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