From 'We're Fired Up!' to 'We're Fired?'

Activists (and notably well-dressed ones) who are rousing the crowds of fast food workers to protest and chant "We're fired up!" in the streets are using them as pawns and patsies by promising them what those specific workers will never see.  That is -- any significant increase in their hourly wage.  And that statement holds true even if the minimum wage ("MW") actually does get raised in any significant amount.

If an employer must hire someone for an $8.00-per-hour job but be forced to pay $15.00 per hour, then that employer is going to hire someone who has the education, work skills, work ethic, and productivity that makes the employee worth $15.00 per hour, even if the job in its current state does not require more expensive labor.  Yes, in the short term, until the market can correct and employees move to fill the need, the current $8.00-per-hour worker will keep his job.  But only briefly.

Within a reasonably short time, the $8.00-per-hour workers will lose their jobs and be replaced by workers of higher labor value.  This in turn will create competition for employees worth $15.00 per hour in parallel industries, but it will not offer employment opportunities for workers who are worth only $8.00 per hour. 

So the whole hidden agenda is a move by union organizers and activists to get union employees hired.  As a byproduct, they also want to unionize these workforces in order to gain the political power and dues collections that affords.  Once that happens and the union negotiates a higher wage, the poor $8.00-per-hour saps who were used to get this put in place will be replaced by higher-skilled union workers brought in by the union.

I saw this happen many years ago, and it led to an interesting ethical discussion.  I worked in the international cargo shipping industry, living in Liberia in about 1980.  We hired Liberian seamen to staff the functional non-officer positions on our ships, such as deck hands and oilers.  We paid them $800 per month when the going wage in Liberia for a police officer was $80 per month and a government department head was $150 per month.  Since the sailors also got room and board, the vast majority of their pay was sent home to support their families.  And in Liberia, their families lived vastly better than the average because of this large income discrepancy.

When our ships sailed into European, union-held ports, the union would board the ship and demand we pay the Liberian sailors the current European union-member wage of about $1,700 per month.  In some cases, they got the Liberians to go along.

The ethical dilemma was this: by paying Liberian sailors about ten times what they could earn at home -- and they were happy to get it -- but only about half of the union wage, were we being unfair?  Should we be paying the Liberians the same as a European sailor would get?

On the surface, we appeared to be the worst of capitalist pigs.  But in reality, the Liberians were delivering an $800 service, not a $1,700 service (actually, the Europeans weren't delivering a $1,700 service, either; it is just that their unions got them that rate).  The unions had figured out that if we were forced to pay the higher wage, we may as well go ahead and hire the European labor. 

So in reality, the union wasn't trying to help the Liberians at all, but trying to get their jobs replaced with their own union membership. 

This same scam is going on with the MW argument today.  The left and the unions should be ashamed (I know, I know, that is not possible) of themselves for using the trusting workers as pawns to further union member jobs and incomes while ultimately tossing the unskilled workers in these jobs on the "dustbin" of job history.

The recent chant of "We're fired up!" is soon to be replaced by "We're fired?"  They just don't see what is coming for them if they actually get what they are demanding.