Job loss. How many of us have ever been employed, then suddenly unemployed?

How many of us know someone to whom this has happened? If so, then you are

part of the worldwide majority of people who have been indirectly or

directly affected by the replacement of workers with machines. This is not

an issue that can be "swept under the rug" with the hope that one day

things will get better.

In "A Job Ain't The Answer" by the National Organization for an American

Revolution, it was stated: "We know capitalism operates by displacing human

beings with machines, so plants which today employ 6,000 will soon employ

3,000." If this is true, then why do we allow the media to only tell us how

much money the corporation has saved by firing thousands of workers at a


Why don't we demand that the media and we, as citizens of this country,

look at the damage that job loss has on the stability of the families,

communities, schools and the country as a whole? There is a correlation

between higher levels of unemployment and higher rates of crime in

communities all over the world. In this country alone, there are

initiatives to build more and more prison complexes. Yet, we are told that

the crime rate is actually decreasing. Why is this? The government realizes

that with the continuing massive firings of "human" workers at companies of

all sizes that the crime rate will rise drastically in a few years. We

don't recognize this because we have allowed ourselves to be pacified with

the ever-new "technological gadgets" produced daily to hide us from the

reality around us.

Why do we allow our family members, friends and neighbors to be fired

because they could not compete with a machine?

When a job loss occurs, an increasing crime rate is not the only effect.

Families are forced to find enough money to support themselves, with

possibly one income or no income at all. How can they be expected to do

this without the assistance of government programs? We as "the hard-working

Americans" are angry when we see people getting a "free handout" from the

government, but we do not stop to think why they are in that position in

the first place, or look at the bigger "picture" of that person supporting

their family as well.

Along with the issue of job loss through technology is the issue of paying

all workers a "living wage" so that people can support themselves and their

family, if need be, and live above the poverty line. The federal minimum

wage is a sub-poverty wage. If it is not enough to support a single person,

then how can we expect it to support a family? How can that happen? It

can't happen and won't happen until we demand that the minimum wage becomes

a living wage, based on the cost of living (which includes transportation,

food, medical expenses, shelter and utilities, child care and other

expenses) relative to each city.

At the same time, we must demand respect, humanity and dignity for all

people regardless of their occupation. To do this, we must change our

mindset and acknowledge that all working people deserve living wage, and to

be treated as a person, not as an object of labor to increase your profits.

There have been successful living wage ordinances enacted in cities such as

Boston, Chicago, San Jose, Calif., Los Angeles, Oakland, Calif. and New

York City. There are also living wage campaigns under way in Knoxville and

Nashville, Greensboro and Chapel Hill, N.C., Louisville and Lexington,

Ken., and Miami, Fla., just to name a few. City governments are not the

only ones that have been pressured to pay their workers a living wage. At

universities across the country, concerned university/community members

have demanded that they pay all employees a living wage. There are living

wage campaigns underway at many universities and colleges across the

country, including Harvard University, Stanford University and THIS


The UT Living Wage Campaign, composed of students, faculty,


workers, community members and labor organizations, demand that all workers

employed by this university and those contracted out (to temporary agencies

by this university) make a living wage of $9.50 an hour with benefits, or

$11 an hour without benefits. According to Wade Gilley, there are 1,000 to

2,000 workers on UT's payroll making less than $6 an hour. Do you believe

that this university, where we as students are expected to show morality

and express solid values, should be paying its workers less than a living


There are people working for this university with master's degrees, and

their children are eligible for free lunch. Is this the type of university

that we want to leave in four years? Or do we want to change the way it is,

here and abroad? WE can demand that workers worldwide are paid a living

wage, are not displaced by technology and are treated with humanity. !Hasta

la victoria por todos! (Until victory for all, in Spanish).

- Irucka Ajani Embry is a member of the UT Living Wage Campaign and can be

reached at

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