Thursday, September 12, 2013

Living wage, fast food walkouts, and Henry Ford's $5

Something I have not posted about, but that deserves attention is the organization of fast food workers this summer, and the series of walk outs to demand a living wage of $15 per hour (see here, for example). Note that the current minimum wage is less than half at $7.25 per hour, last raised in 2009. Figure below shows the real value now is well below the average of the 1960s and 1970s (data for nominal minimum wage here).
Since the 1980s the real minimum wage has fluctuated at a lower level. One can only hope that fast food workers, with the support of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), manage to obtain some concessions from junk food corporations.

For a discussion of the Living Wage see this paper by Bob Pollin, and his book (here).

PS: Only recently I've learned that Henry Ford's famous $5 a day wage (which would be more or less $14 per hour today), which went together with  reduction of work time to 8 hours per day, was controlled by the Sociological Department, which required workers not to drink, that they saved money, that they attended church, that they proved a record of saving part of the wages, and of course it was for married men, not for singles or women, since that would not lead to family values. It was also part of a broader program to make good American citizens of the immigrants in his factory. While some progressives actually liked Ford's program, like the institutionalist economist Commons, others like the radical John Reed were not convinced. For more go here.

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