The Minimum Wage: From Barely Tolerable to Basically Criminal

In a capitalist system working people will always fall short of justice when it comes to wages, since the basic logic of the system dictates that a small group of owners appropriates the wealth generated by a company, which then reluctantly forks over a small portion of that wealth to the workers who created it. 

Despite this inherent limitation, however, there was a brief period in U.S. history after World War II when the average wages of U.S. worker rose at the same rate as their productivity, meaning, essentially, that workers were receiving wage increases that matched the wealth they were creating. Even the minimum wage, though too low to begin with, rose at the same rate as productivity until around 1970. This trend quickly reversed, however, and by 2012 the average real value of the minimum wage was less than it was in 1970, meaning that a minimum wage worker today can buy less with her income than a worker could over 40 years ago, despite the fact that the worker in 2012 is producing, on average, over 100% more wealth than the worker in 1970. Something's not right here, even by capitalist standards…

Why did this happen?

Despite this inherent limitation, however, there was a brief period in U.S. history after World War II when the average wages of U.S. worker rose at the same rate as their productivity, meaning, essentially, that workers were receiving wage increases that matched the wealth they were creating. Even the minimum wage, though too low to begin with, rose at the same rate as productivity until around 1970. This trend quickly reversed, however, and by 2012 the average real value of the minimum wage was less than it was in 1970, meaning that a minimum wage worker today can buy less with her income than a worker could over 40 years ago, despite the fact that the worker in 2012 is producing, on average, over 100% more wealth than the worker in 1970. Something's not right here, even by capitalist standards…

This disturbing increase in the gap between the wages and productivity of labor had many causes, such as the changing nature of the global economy, the increased mechanization of industrial work and the declining threat of the Soviet Union. Perhaps chief among them, however, was the precipitous fall of the power of the labor movement, which enjoyed the membership of around 30% of U.S. workers in the 1960s. By 2013 this figure had dropped to around 11%, and less than 7% in the private sector. Not surprisingly, given the vital importance of organized labor to push capitalist firms and the federal government in the direction of justice for working people, this dramatic decline in union density coincided exactly with a decline over 40 years in the real value of the minimum wage.

Where do we go from here?

Ultimately the minimum wage only works for those lucky enough to find a job - even a low paying one - and it doesn't really "work" for them, because it doesn't come with health benefits, adequate schools, or enough money to set aside for retirement. This is why a basic income for all Americans that is competitive with the labor market is a better long-term solution. Providing all Americans, regardless of current employment, with a living wage and adequate healthcare and education would not only ensure that Americans don't fall through the cracks of the capitalist system, but would also decrease the cost of losing a job (thereby increasing the flexibility of labor and in turn increasing economic efficiency), put upward pressure on the wages of American workers (who would no longer have to settle for poverty wages just to make ends meet), and ensure a high level of demand for the goods and services produced by U.S. workers (thereby helping to decrease the likelihood of economic recessions). Unfortunately, however, this strategy will remain a dream of those interested in a more just and humane society until we have rebuilt the power of the U.S. working class to such an extent that we can put real political and economic pressure on the 1% of Americans who currently dominate our political and economic lives.

In the meantime, we can Raise the Minimum Wage.  If the minimum wage had kept up with the increase in worker productivity since the 1960s, it would currently be at $21.72/hr, according to work done by the Center for Economic and Policy Research. This is clearly an unrealistic goal in our current political climate, given the power of the right at the federal level and in many state houses, and the fact that many highly-skilled folks in competitive industries such as education don’t even make that much an hour. However, even if we raised the minimum wage to one quarter of what it would be if it had kept up with productivity, the minimum wage would currently be at $12.25/hr. We think this is a realistic short-term goal and with your help and the help of thousands of working people around the country we can achieve it. At the very least, we need to raise the minimum wage to the level it would have been at if it had kept up which inflation, which would put the minimum wage at $10.52/hr. But we can only succeed if we are organized, and if we are militant. Get involved today!

 

Grassroots Fundraising: Paying for the Revolution (9pm Eastern)

June 23, 2017
· 46 rsvps

Are you new to socialist organizing? Or after many years do you still struggle, raising money from members when you need it but without a steady flow of income or budget to plan ahead? Are you afraid to tackle fundraising because it seems so daunting or you are uncomfortable asking people for money?

In this webinar, you will learn why fundraising is organizing, and how to do it – face to face, through fundraising events, and other ideas.

Join us for our latest organizing training for democratic socialist activists: DSA’s (Virtual) Little Red Schoolhouse.

Instructor:

  • Steve Max, DSA Vice Chair and one of the founders of the legendary community organizing school, The Midwest Academy

Training Details:

  1. Workshops are free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have preferably headphones or else speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Theresa Alt talt@igc.org.
  5. If you have very technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt schmittaj@gmail.com 608-355-6568.
  6. Participation requires that you register at least 21 hours in advance -- by midnight Thursday for Friday's webinar.

NOTE: This training is scheduled for 9:00pm Eastern Time (8pm Central, 7pm Mountain, 6pm Pacific, 5 pm Alaska, 3 pm Hawaii).

Introduction to Socialist Feminism Call

June 27, 2017
· 68 rsvps

Join DSA activist Judith Gardiner to explore “socialist feminism.” How does it differ from other forms of feminism? How and when did it develop? What does it mean for our activism? 9 pm ET, 8 pm CT, 7 pm MT, 6 pm PT.

Data Security for DSA Members

June 27, 2017

Ack! I googled myself and didn't like what I found!

WHAT: A DSA Webinar about "Doxing"
WHEN: 9PM EST, 6PM PST

We're proud of our organizing, and chapter work is transparent for both political and practical reasons. However, there are basic precautions you can take in this time of rapid DSA growth to protect your privacy.

Key Wiki is a website that meticulously documents DSA activity and posts it for the world to see. If you're an active DSA member, likely your name is on their website. This is an example of "doxing".

As DSA becomes larger, more visible, and more powerful, we might expect that more websites like this will pop up, and more of our members' information might be posted publicly on the web.

Join a live webinar on Tuesday, June 27 with data security expert Alison Macrina, to learn:

  1. what is doxing? with examples and ways to prevent it
  2. how to keep your passwords strong and your data secure
  3. where to find your personal info on the internet and how to get it removed
  4. social media best practices for DSA organizers
  5. what to do if you've already been doxed

Zoom Link: https://zoom.us/j/9173276528

Call-in Info: +1 408 638 0968
Meeting ID: 917 327 6528

Film Discussion: Pride

September 10, 2017
· 11 rsvps

Join DSA members Eric Brasure and Brendan Hamill to discuss the British film Pride (2014). It’s 1984, British coal miners are on strike, and a group of gays and lesbians in London bring the queer community together to support the miners in their fight. Based on the true story of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. The film is available for rent on YouTube, Amazon, and iTunes. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

Film Discussion: Union Maids

September 24, 2017
· 8 rsvps

 

Join DSA member and labor historian Susan Hirsch in discussing Union Maids (1976). Nominated for an Academy Award, this documentary follows three Chicago labor organizers (Kate Hyndman, Stella Nowicki, and Sylvia Woods) active beginning in the 1930s. The filmmakers were members of the New American Movement (a precursor of DSA), and the late Vicki Starr (aka Stella Nowicki) was a longtime member of Chicago DSA and the Chicago Women's Liberation Union. It’s available free on YouTube, though sound quality is poor. 8ET/7CT/6MT/5PT.