This Labor Day morning I arrived at the McDonald’s on 7th St. to join a large group of workers and supporters on strike in support of raising the minimum wage to $15 over the next 4-7 years in St. Paul.
My dad was a high school graduate trained to fix old style tube radios and televisions. He ended up as a technician/engineer on old mainframe computers (but basically he could fix anything…)
He had chances to be a manager but found whenever there was a downturn in the economy that managers were often the first to be let go. So encouraged by my mother, he abandoned management and returned to technical work. Eventually he became a union member with the AFL-CIO. When Western Electric management unfairly targeted him, the union came to his defense. “Thank God for the union,” was something I often heard come out of my mother’s mouth.
In my first career as a professional actor, I decided early on that I wanted to join the acting unions-AFTRA SAG (TV, radio, film) and Equity (stage). In an uncertain profession, where unemployment tops 90% at any time, I wanted to be sure that when I worked, that I was paid and treated fairly. Even though I’ve gone onto other work and rarely act anymore, the early acting work I did ensures I will be one of the few actors to receive a small pension when I reach retirement age.
Isn’t that something we all want? When we work, we all want to be paid and treated fairly, and to be able to plan for the future.
But something’s out of whack in our society. McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook's total compensation nearly doubled to $15.4 million last year, his second full year in the top job. Keith Ellison said this McDonald’s CEO makes the equivalent of $6000 per hour. Meanwhile according to PayScale, the median hourly wage among McDonald's employees with five to eight years of experience is $9.15. (Minnesota’s minimum is $9.50.)
Today I heard stories of parents who have to work another job besides the one at McDonald’s and have no time to spend with their kids. I also heard from employees who feel like they are treated like children or second-class citizens at their low wage jobs.
If we believe work has dignity, then we should treat employees fairly and compensate it so people can live with dignity. Everyone who works should be able to afford the basics in life-housing, food, clothes.
Raising the minimum wage over a period of time means we get closer to that just goal (it’s approximately the equivalent of a 75 cents/hour raise each year for the next 7 years). It should be looked at as investing in the people who invest in our society and keep it running.
Let’s do this.
Take care, be well, and enjoy your Labor Day, taking a moment to remember and celebrate everyone who contributes to society with their work,
P.S. Some people have concerns about how this might affect small business. In a future newsletter, I’ll unpack those concerns. Having both talked to St. Paul businesses and read the research, I have a few ideas…