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The Real Side | Commentary by Joe Messina
| Monday, Aug 5, 2013

joemessinamugThe English language has become fluid. We no longer add or remove words; we simply change them on the fly, depending on what group we’re speaking to.

Unless you were in a coma this past week, you should have heard about the strike at McDonald’s in seven different major cities across the country. Cities whose people need work. Cities that have high unemployment rates. Chicago, Detroit, Flint (Mich.), Kansas City, Milwaukee and St. Louis are among the cities targeted. Why?

Does anyone else find it interesting that an industry with 75 percent turnover in workers would want to unionize and lose jobs? No one goes to McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC and so on to pursue a career in burger flipping and take care of their families. The majority of employees at these establishments are young people – people who haven’t worked much in the “real world.”

These jobs are one of the learning cycles in life. They are a normal and natural progression on the path to one’s life career. Young people take these jobs, in most cases, to make some spending money or save for a car, school or Christmas.

They are great experiences that teach them how to take responsibility for their actions, both good and bad. They also learn how to work in a team environment to accomplish the desired results. They learn what “8 to 5” means, and why a company needs to make a profit. It teaches them how to get along with people they may not like, even a boss they don’t like, simply because they need a paycheck. These are good skills to have and lessons that need to be learned.

It is not a life-sustaining job. If you have an IQ above single digits, you know that.

I was watching some of the news channels interviewing people on strike in different cities. At several of the locations were people wearing SEIU T-shirts, which I found to be interesting. As I went back over the interviews, I noticed they all had the same catch phrases: “We need a living wage,” “They make all their profits off our hard work and we get paid nothing,” “The executives make millions we make nothing.”

I guess that proves my point about the IQ. If you aren’t getting paid to work, then you’re an idiot for working for nothing.

But how did they come up with the same catch phrases across all of those cities? The SEIU spoon-fed them. Did the SEIU also pay them for the day of work they missed? Were they bused in? Were they real employees? When the SEIU gets involved, it opens up all kinds of questions.

The first is: What’s in it for them? The answer is simple: Dues. And lots of them.

Think about it. There are about 3.5 million people in fast-food positions across the country. Each of those employees will pay an average of $45 per month to the union. That’s a total of nearly $1.9 billion a year. The SEIU is a large corporation, and it pays its managers millions of your union money. Where is the outrage from the left?

If these union mercenaries were being honest, they would work for “fair” wages as well, and then they would be able to fight for the “rank and file” honestly.

“Living wages” equate to union dues in most cases. That’s union-ese. In this case, its 100 percent on. Unionizing means more than $15 per hour. It means accumulated sick days, accumulated vacation days, grievance filings, health care, representation and more. Union driven benefits will equate to about $23 per employee, and remember that the employer matches some taxes and portions of the benefits. This will bring the employer cost per employee up to about $32 per hour. With those wages, you can look for a McDonald’s hamburger to cost $16.50, not including fries and a Coke, and if you supersize it, you might need a loan.

Now those poor and middle-class people just barely scraping by, who rely on the fast-food dollar menus to feed their families, will be screwed. Is anyone concerned about these families? It seems not, as long as whatever employees are left in the fast-food industry are making their “living wage.”

The bottom line is this: A living wage is what you make when you get your first professional job as a carpenter, electrical or plumber’s apprentice, janitor, handyman, mechanic, computer technician, administrative assistant, and so forth.

It is not what you make for breathing and having a heartbeat.

Not every job pays a living wage. Stop complaining, grow up, and go find a job that will support your family.


Joe Messina is host of The Real Side (TheRealSide.com), a nationally syndicated talk show that runs on AM-1220 KHTS radio and SCVTV [here]. He is also an elected member of the Hart School Board. His commentary normally publishes Mondays.


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  1. Mike Hollinger says:

    Joe have you seen how many local teens work at Mcdonalds, and Taco bell, and Carls, Jack in the Box, and Burger king? Young people are no longer working at these establishments, it is the imported non English speaking, that is out competing those who maybe in college or high school and need a job like this. I encourage you to crack down on this issue, In-in-out is a local example of putting youth first.

  2. Mike Hollinger says:

    Im talking here in the SCV

  3. Real American says:

    I guess it doesnt matter if your ancestors were also once immigrants to this country….. check the logs at ellis island and then find out what THEIR first jobs were in America. At least they are working and not commiting crimes!

  4. Greyling says:

    The usual rightwing fringe myths. And as usual, the facts are against them.

    1. Half of all minimum-wage workers are over 25:

    2. Minimum-workers today are older and better educated than before:

    3. Nearly 70 percent of U.S. jobs don’t require more than a high school education:

    4. The recession has done more damage to teenage workers than any wage increase could:

    5. Costco, Trader Joe’s, and many other retail businesses in the U.S. pay a living wage and are doing quite well.

    6. And no, a hamburger won’t cost $16.50. Doubling wages does not double food cost. You could expect perhaps a 10 to 25 percent increase in food costs, or a .10 to .25 cents increase for each dollar of food. Big Mac would be about $1.20 more, for about $5.30 total.

    7. In Australia and Japan, McDonald’s pays $14.50 an hour, and it’s doing just fine:

    Of course, Messina is not one to pass up an opportunity to union-bash, condescendingly conflating living wage with union dues and “low I.Q.” Certainly in Messina’s fevered fringie imagination, all union members wear hoodies and jackboots. Union thugs!

    And while Messina and the rightwing scream, “free market!” low wages and low prices are heavily subsidized by the American taxpayer.

    Corporate subsidies, tax breaks, incentives, Section 8, Medicaid, food stamps and more. Remember that 80 percent of Wal-Mart workers are on food stamps. Each Wal-Mart costs taxpayers about a $1 million each year in subsidies, public services for workers, etc.

    Which is actually socialism for the wealthy and corporations, and capitalism for the workers.

    Looks more like the real thugs are corporations, not workers.

    It’s getting increasingly difficult for the rightwing fringe to prove its mythical case. There are just too many facts that contradict regressive positions and policies.

  5. masterintech says:

    very helpful post. i learn a lot from it, thamks.

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