It's not always easy to connect disparate dots, and end up with a mosaic, but here goes.
Lately, we've seen several stories, here in NYC and around the country and the world, dealing with what are generally called "low wage workers". On the one hand, the bosses at several fast food chains are screaming bloody murder about whatever money they may have to spend in providing their workers with healthcare under the Affordable Care Act. Never mind their obligation doesn't start for over a year, and they have no idea what the cost will be.
The head of Papa John's Pizza bleats about raising the price of a slice or pie, and maybe even laying off workers (he later backed off that one). A Florida owner of a group of Denny's and Hurricane Hot Wings franchises got in hot water for proposing a 5% "Obamacare" surcharge. The folks who own Red Lobster and the Olive Garden say they'll cut hours below the 30 per week requirement of the Act.
Don't these people have any respect for those who work for them? I mean, they say they do in press releases after their foolishness goes viral. Yet in the not too distant future, they may have to worry about a lot more than cutting hours and imposing surcharges. Workers in such diverse areas as fast food and car washes are looking to unionize, at least here in New York. Fast food workers, nobody knows how many yet, walked off the job Thursday and picketed a couple of fast food joints in Midtown Manhattan. Car wash workers have voted to unionize at four facilities around the five boros.
Add to this the Black Friday job action by some Walmart workers, and you may be seeing the first stirrings of a low wage worker revolt against conditions we all think they suffer in silence. Here's the thing. Their success or failure will largely depend on whether their employers feel any backlash from consumers, whether they be food patrons, car wash customers, or Christmas shoppers. In other words, us.
And while we talk about workers and our own consumption, we can't forget the 112 workers in Bangladesh who lost their lives making clothes for us. Their average annual wage is $750.00, and a number of US companies did business with the factory they worked in. They'll say in a press release the work was unauthorized, but one wonders how they didn't know their goods were being made in a modern day sweatshop.
Workers are waking up. Are we?
Listen to The Mark Riley Morning Show Monday through Friday 6 AM to 9 AM on WWRL 1600. Follow me on Twitter @MarkRileyMedia.