Fast food worker struggles a symptom of national economic disease

In light of fast-food workers taking to the streets today over low wages, Robert C. Hockett, financial and economic law expert and professor of law at Cornell University, argues that the wage-cutting arms race harms everyone, and suggests making a living wage the minimum wage.

Hockett says:

“It is fitting that fast-food workers have begun strikes today in close proximity to Wal-Mart worker strikes last week and the President’s return to a focus on income inequality this week.

“Income inequality in America, which has reached levels last seen just before the Great Depression in 1929, is at least as much cause of our recent economic and financial woes as it is effect. Until we take bold steps to address the problem, we can expect much more financial volatility and macroeconomic malaise ahead.

“We want there to be jobs so that people who are willing to work are able to earn real purchasing power and live decent lives – both because this is what justice requires and because it is what sustainable economic growth and financial stability require. It’s not merely to keep people busy while the public pays for all real living expenses via the social safety net, as we’re now having to do for big box stores and fast food employees – that’s what prisons, not private sector jobs, are for.

“In order to end the wage-cut arms race and enable large service employers to provide better pay and benefits without being outcompeted by other employers who undercut them on wages, we have to impose a living wage as the minimum wage. All civilized nations now do this – including in particular the prosperous nations of northern Europe that consistently outperform us economically, and in health and material living standards.”

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