Fighting for $15 or Something

From the diaries…

The continuous cry for “equality!” has slithered its way into most every aspect of American life. Although too often the facts surrounding said “inequality” are disregarded, emotions are strong and demands for fairness are repeated. Although the phantom War On Women steals a majority of the limelight, the Fight for $15, another emotionally-driven, young crusade, continues to gain traction, and the movement’s most recent display was on tax day, April 15.

As their website states, the Fight for $15 campaign began in 2012 when fast food workers went on strike to protest income inequality. An hourly wage of $15 and union rights are what they’re demanding from the “greedy” corporations they shout at. How dare successful companies with cheap products and high turnover not pay their employees an arbitrary amount, most likely decided upon following a spur-of-the-moment stunt.

Central to this drumbeat is the fact that a handful of Americans (the 1%) have so much more than others (the 99%), and, despite a host of factors involved with that truth, people observe that reality and determine it’s wrong. A gap remains between the wealthiest and the rest of us, and the country as a whole is more disillusioned with it than ever. According to a February 2015 article from the Pew Research Center:

…there is every indication that the public not only sees the problem of inequality, but is finding it more difficult to get ahead. The number of Americans who believe there is plenty of opportunity to get ahead through hard work has declined by 16 percentage points since the turn of the century, according to Gallup. Pew Research Center surveys also find a significant decline over this period in the share of Americans thinking that hard work leads to success.

This is what fuels workers in fast food restaurants to demand a certain level of pay. They only see a paycheck lower than that person’s over there, and determine they are being treated unfairly. No matter that hard work and searching for opportunities to better yourself can propel you out the doors of establishments whose biggest moneymaker is the lunch hour rush. It’s all unfair.

Just this week, a young CEO of a company called Gravity Payments decided it was a “moral imperative” to give his employees raises by cutting his salary 90% to make sure each of his employees made at least $70,000, despite their position in the company. What led to this decision? The CEO, Dan Price, “…decided to hike his employees pay after he read a study about happiness. It said additional income can make a significant difference in a person’s emotional well being up to the point when they earn $75,000 a year.” The foundation of thought which led to Price’s decision seems to be what drives those in the Fight for $15 crowd. A number, whether $15/hr or $70,000 a year, is determined to be the thing which will make the employee(s) happy. But what about competing to get a promotion? What about choosing one interviewee over another because of skill set or education? These aren’t things meant to ruin a sense of worth or happiness, it’s simply good business, and companies should seek the best, and if possible, reward the best, in order to improve their company atmosphere and ultimately, their bottom line.

There is an epidemic in the form of connecting one’s worth as an individual to one’s hourly or yearly wage. This anger insinuates that employees aren’t being treated as human beings. They disregard that while your individual worth is priceless, on the job you are worth what an employer is willing and able to pay you for the services you provide, the education you bring to the table, and your past experience. When we again connect a person’s value to the amount of money they earn, the entire argument for higher pay gets muddled beyond recognition. Instead of encouraging others to set and achieve personal goals in order to better themselves, we are teaching the opposite. We are teaching that it is a company’s responsibility to increase and maintain your happiness.

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