Election Day 2013 passed like most off-year election days, barely noticed by American voters. There were, however, some interesting ballot measures, including one that would raise minimum wage to 15 dollars an hour in the Washington town of SeaTac. In many respects, the numerous airport support jobs of SeaTac represent many of the overall job problems of the US economy. Where in the ‘70s and ‘80s, SeaTac workers could expect to earn 16 or more dollars an hour, unadjusted for inflation, they are now barely paid minimum wage, even after years of service, while sick days and other fringe benefits are essentially nonexistent, according to SEIU 775NW Healthcare President David Rolf (PBSNEWS HOUR, 11/5/2013).
Frankly, our economy is designed to suppress prices. Because this objective is accomplished through outsourcing, increased efficiency, and other methods of cost displacement, this means our economy is designed to suppress wages and eliminate jobs, which has been happing since long before the Great Recession accelerated the trend. Coupled with efforts to undermine the strength of unions and other representative groups, which do struggle with their own issues, the airport support workers of SeaTac are experiencing the effects of an economy build for consumers and not workers.
Furthermore, these individuals work in essential jobs that support a key service, i.e. transportation; therefore, a properly functioning capitalist system should yield a living wage, if not more, for the airport support workers of SeaTac. Instead, lower-wage workers must utilize social services like Medicaid, food stamps, and food pantries to simply survive. This comes at an annual cost to taxpayers of about $20,000 per worker according to Rolf. Without these socialist programs subsidizing these and other near minimum wage jobs around the country, it is clear they would be nonviable for workers, thus our capitalist system is not working properly.
Thanks to decades old efforts to undermine worker representation, i.e. give workers leverage to ensure their interests are met, and policies designed to favor the wealthy, these key market institutions have grown too weak to function as they must; henceforth, our capitalist system does not efficiently disperse wealth and the American People cannot expect capitalism to work for them. In essence, this is the reason voters of SeaTac have turned to government intervention while others, including Washington DC fast food restaurant workers have done so as well, which is an industry designed to suppress food preparer wages through efficiency.
Unfortunately, these types of socialist interventions at the local level, as well as at the national level when they are done without tariff/trade reforms, are likely to push jobs away, which is what makes the situation so difficult to address. That said, it is more and more likely voters will turn to socialist interventions, unless our capitalist system is recalibrated to serve the American People’s economic interests, yet doing so will address the long growing failings of other economy at a far greater cost than is necessary. What the American People need is greater economic leverage, so we can drive money into our pockets.
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