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 email@example.com.