G.L.Piggy [at] gmail.com
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At EconLog, Dave Henderson writes on the McDonald’s workers in New York City vying for a living wage of $15 per hour:
…The woman felt or thought that she deserved $15 an hour. But Kennedy’s point is: Why single out McDonald’s? Indeed, there’s a presumption that McDonald’s is paying her more than anyone else would. Why? Because if someone else would pay more, she would likely be working for someone else. Or, it’s possible that someone else would pay more, but she likes McDonald’s because the job is better, on a non-wage dimension, than that other higher-paying job. In short, she’s in the best place she can find.
McDonald’s is giving her a better deal than anyone else is offering. So her beef, so to speak, is with the very company that’s giving her the best deal!
Roosh makes a similar argument in a post that seems a departure from his regular content. He asks two questions:
1. Is there a scarcity of labor in the market that would make it hard to replace your job at $8.75 an hour?
2. Is there not another employer who would hire you at the wage you believe you deserve? If so, why don’t you work for them?
You see this response a lot from people across all social or political arrangements who choose a situation – a relationship of different types i.e. job or marriage, etc – and once they get their foot in the door they engage in a dialectical push for more stuff. Before being hired, unemployment was the individual’s new norm. They get hired and the new norm becomes the job which means that the all-important progress is higher pay or more bennies.
Since I’m the local prole blogger who works in the restaurant industry, a lot of people have asked me to weigh in on this particular labor dispute. From a Yahoo! article:
The protests also inspired another group of low-wage workers to stage their own. Last week, about 200 fast-food workers in New York City walked out of their workplaces—chains affected included Burger King, Wendy’s and McDonald’s—to demand a “living wage” of $15 an hour and an end to the practice of keeping workers on part-time hours to avoid giving them benefits or overtime. The employees also want to form a union for the city’s estimated 50,000 fast-food workers to negotiate pay and benefits.
The mention of overtime tells me a lot. Laws forcing employers to pay time-and-a-half for anything above the 40-hour threshold were put into place in order to prevent workers from being exploited by their employers. They were created to help workers maintain a better work-life balance. Disincentivizing employers was a good way to do that, and it probably also helps increase the overall level of employment. But workers today want to take advantage of that legal wrinkle and get their 50% raise. The law was created to prevent something from the capitalist side, but it seems to have created an incentive on the labor side. It isn’t the biggest fault line between labor and capital, but it is a good example of how twisted the argument has become and how the underdogs can play both sides of these debates depending on whatever coups from capital they hope to obtain.