The Minimum Wage: Putting Some Myths to Rest

First, some transparency — I worked with Kshama Sawant in Seattle when I was tasked with the ungodly job of organizing thousands of workers in Washington state, by myself, at 11 of the state’s non-profit private colleges.

Adjunct academic workers. Low pay, no-way benefits, nowhere respect. As an adjunct myself, I’ve seen my huge stack of essays teaching composition (used to be the bedrock of ALL academic majors, and, alas, still is, but is being cut and cut by many disciplines, like Economics and the IT crap) as part of my nightly and weekend duty. Getting paid $1500 a class in 1986 and then in various places, $2000 (at the rich campus, Gonzaga) and then $3000 at SFCC in 2001, ending up with $3700 by 2011, and lots of other weird schemes in between, such as Green River Community College in Auburn, WA, paying $3300 a class.

Again, one class, 40 students, you get a stipend, at $3300 for the entire class, broken up in four pay checks. Take out taxes and state crap, and you get the picture. Plus, we are forced to stay under a certain percentage that would be considered Full-time. AND, our so-called brothers and sisters in the tenured tracking full-faculty gang can and do TAKE away classes from us, in what is called moonlighting or overloading, to get some more cash for their various needs. Screw the adjunct!

You want to do the math? Less than minimum wage working as a COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY teacher, preparer, reader, coach, facilitator, adviser, grader, evaluator, inspiration, and in-class-office hours worker, who then has to take home 150 essays to read closely, mark up, give holistic responses to, provide professional tips on how to make each essay GOOD, and ways to redraft — well, welcome to the Brave New World of Work for someone with two graduate degrees and decades teaching, making less than minimum wage. Throw in life skills and job skills. Other skills. Friendship? Community direction? Shoot, role-modeling. I’ll take minimum wage with that order of crow to eat.

Oh, the irony that  SEIU — Service Employees International Union — those in the upper echelon, that is,  get a cool $100-K a year, easily, on average, and of course more $$ in regard to more time in the organization, i.e., perks, and they are organizing fast food workers to fight for $15 an hour. Not a living wage, to be sure. Bizarre relationship — big bucks working to bring no bucks up to little bucks. Wow!

When we live in this sub-human capitalism, that’s all we can ask for — $15 an hour? Now, that would be bare bones “okay” IF we had built public transportation, free for all, and had built a movement around health care for all, single-payer, for all, then, shoot, those One Percenters and their Little Eichmanns could possibly ram that down our  our throats.

In Oregon, it’s $8.80 an hour, and I am currently getting $9.25 an hour for a job taking care of important adults who require all sorts of in-house/in-program teaching, care, coaching, and observation.

Check out who those folk are, here — poem of the day: “When the Wards Emancipate the Insane.” DV Poetry Page!

Again, workers are the majority, doing the bizarre work of McDonalds’ fake meat zapping/ ammonia-drenching chicken thing and helping Subway-Pizza Hut-Applebee’s-et al’ s high fructose corn syrup and salt and hydrogenated fat delivery system. In the end, adjuncts are the majority, and we are the fast-food workers of academia. We too could use health care for all and a decent mass transportation system. Living wage? Shoot, what’s the stat? $1.3 trillion in student loan debt? How many adjuncts have loan debt? The cold sorry fact is that people 60 years or older collectively own $35 billion in student loan debt.

Maybe city council domain can’t work on that, but it’s extremely important that all these exploitative eggs are put in one basket. Move over SEIU and self-serving democrats. Say hello to Marx. Eco-Marxism:   ***

We’ll write about this soon in an upcoming DV:  “A tale of Two Conferences: The social and Ecological Crises of Capitalism.”

So, the SEIU mafia endorsed Obama, and in Seattle, when this adjunct worker, Kshama, who worked at Seattle University and Seattle Central Community College cobbling together sub-human wages with her Ph.D in economics, when she told me and my boss at SEIU that she wanted to lead a charge to organize adjuncts on that campus relevant to SEIU’s campaign, Seattle University (private, non-profit, religious, exploitive), well, the SEIU honcho just felt as if Kshama  was (is)  too (sic), err, socialist, too much in the media, too hot-potato to handle, not the thing of leadership.

Wimps running unions, indeed, covering their asses, their careers, and their insider group think — endorsing Obama before he even was asked by us, the rank and file, what the hell he had to really offer working class people. Wimps in union leadership roles, and part of  the 19 Percent as highly paid honchos rubbing elbows with monied lobbies and politicians, looking for a $15 and hour hand out/up? Hubris.

Kshama also fought to win a state legislative seat, held by one of the democrat old guard types, in Olympia who, again, couldn’t debate himself out of a wet bag — not able to or willing to even try to close WA state’s tax loopholes, not even a decent public showing of demands to fund schools fully, the rest of the state budget be damned, and this guy just rationalized why  pushing  for a progressive tax on the Bezos (Amazon), Gates (Microsoft), Paul Allen types was NOT in the cards, no siree. Bring on the Charter Schools and legalized pot. Now we are looking fine.

The SEIU/Demo – RATS are steeped in retreat strategy, and they themselves work workers to the bone. No 40-hour a week work contract. But that’s a whole other story.

SO, Kshama Sawant is running for city council, after losing to Frank Chopp, but she received  a large chunk of the vote, AS A SOCIALIST CANDIDATE, hitting a record or an historical percentage.

Here’s her short but important article on he current solidarity fighting for workers in Seattle. I am not sure if her opposition candidate is in the streets of that Emerald City in solidarity!


Chicago retail workers on the march during a day of walkouts and solidarity actions (Carole Ramsden | SW)



“” by economist, fast food strike activist, and city council candidate

Hello, I’d like to submit the following article by Kshama Sawant for publication: “The Minimum Wage: Putting Some Myths to Rest” (870 words). The article has been previously published in The Stranger, the most widely read weekly Seattle publication, on June 4 and picked up by on June 6.

This article stands out in the public debate that has developed around raising the minimum wage and the fast food workers’ strikes that have spread to seven major cities so far. It succinctly addresses the most common myths about raising the minimum wage from a unique angle. It is written by an economist, Kshama Sawant, Ph.D., who was also a prominent activist in the Occupy Wall Street movement in Seattle.  Then she ran for office last year against the Washington State House Speaker Frank Chopp and won the highest vote for an open Socialist in decades, as well as the strongest vote for a third party progressive candidate in the country in 2012.

And as this Seattle Weekly article pointed out, the author is also the only candidate for Seattle office in 2013 who voiced her support for the fast food strikers’ demand of $15/hour, while other Seattle politicians claiming to support the fast food strikers evaded questions about the specific dollar amount they would support.

Kshama Sawant would also be interested in writing a new guest editorial on the same or similar subject for your publication from her unique combined perspective as an economist, Occupy activist, and a Socialist Alternative city council candidate.  Please let us know if you’re interested.

Ramy Khalil
Campaign Manager, Kshama Sawant for City Council
(713) 458-0366

 Full text of the article, including the by-line:

 The Minimum Wage: Putting Some Myths to Rest

by KSHAMA SAWANT on TUE, JUN 4, 2013 at 4:28 PM


This a guest post by Kshama Sawant, who has a Ph. D  in economics from NC State University, teaches at Seattle Central Community College, and is a Socialist Alternative Candidate for Seattle City Council.

With seven strikes of fast food workers in eight weeks, demanding $15/hour and the right to a union, a discussion of raising the minimum wage has begun to stir up the predictable frenzy of pro-market mythology.

As in every previous discussion of raising the minimum wage, it has been asserted that such a move would increase unemployment, be harmful to the most underprivileged workers, bad for small businesses, and indeed, disastrous for the wider economy. In this same narrative, low-wage jobs are stepping stones, and hard work and higher education are reliable paths to middle-class employment.

Is any of this true?

Who Are Low-Wage Workers?

Let’s start with a useful benchmark of a low-wage job as one that keeps a full-time worker and their family of four at or below the federal poverty threshold – $23,005 per year, or $11.06/hour in 2011.

Contrary to the myths, the working poor are an ever-expanding contingent of America’s labor force, while the middle class has been steadily shrinking. Over 25 percent of all workers qualify as low-wage workers.

Lest we think this is an issue only in Tennessee and Alabama, nearly 20 percent of Washington workers qualify as low-wage workers, with an additional 40 percent living within what is known as the supplemental poverty measure.

The road of higher education also increasingly leads nowhere. Low-wage workers are better educated than ever before, with over 26 percent having had some college education. Low-wage workers now carry sizable sums of student debt.

Conditions have deteriorated even more rapidly since the Great Recession began. Low-wage jobs comprised about 35 percent of jobs lost in 2008 and 2009, yet they accounted for 76 percent of net job growth in 2010.

Minimum Wage Already Too High in Washington?

It is true that Washington is currently the only state with a minimum wage above $9.00/hour.

What this demonstrates, however, is not a lavishness of wages here, but rather the abysmal standard of living faced by tens of millions of hardworking people nationwide. A full-time job at Washington’s minimum wage fetches about $18,000, clearly far less than necessary to meet basic expenses.

A more useful benchmark is a living wage. The Alliance for a Just Society defines living-wage jobs for Washington state, assuming full-time hours, as $16.13/hour or $33,544 annually for a single adult. Those figures would rise to $28.71/hour or $59,715 a year for a household of one adult and one child, and $29.42/hour or $61,188 a year for a family of four with one adult working. Keep in mind, many low-wage workers are unable to get full-time employment.

What Would the Fallout of $15/Hour Be?

Much is made of the impact a higher minimum wage would have on small businesses. But what about Starbucks, McDonald’s, Subway, Pizza Hut, and the vast array of huge corporations whose mega profits rest on the poverty wages of their workforce?

The CEO of YUM! Brands (KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell) made $20.5 million last year. The average worker in one of the stores made only $7.50/hour. Meanwhile, restaurant chains spent nearly a million dollars in 2006 to fight minimum-wage increases in six states.

The past several decades have seen worker productivity skyrocket, while wages for most workers stagnate. Where did the balance go? It went to the top one percent. If the minimum wage had kept pace with productivity, it would be approximately $22/hour. If it had grown at the same pace as the income to the one percent, it would be around $33/hour.

Increasing the minimum wage to $15/hour is surely reasonable in the face of the massive siphoning of income to the very top. Should those who work hard every day have to struggle to pay for rent and groceries?

Research does show that a minimum wage increase can initially pose difficulty to some small businesses. However, this can be addressed by increasing taxes on big business (which are at historically low rates) and eliminating corporate welfare to subsidize small businesses, along with cutting the Business & Operation and property tax burden on small businesses.

But the main danger facing working people and small businesses is the continued proliferation of low wages. The economy is reeling with over 20 million people unemployed or underemployed, a low-wage workforce, a collapse of the housing bubble, and staggering consumer and student debt. Raising wages is a vital measure to break out of the depressionary spiral.

Statistical studies show a positive impact of wage increases on jobs. When working people have more income, their spending power goes up, which in turn boosts sales, which further increases jobs and overall spending power, and so on.

The idea that raising the wage would harm the most disadvantaged workers is a fig leaf to justify anti-worker policy-making. In fact, increasing the minimum wage raises the bargaining power of all workers, and has the effect of raising wages across the board.

The Great Recession has left in tatters the idea that capitalism works. It works well for the billionaires, but for the rest of us, it has meant fast eroding standards of living. The American middle class was created on the edifice of courage and sacrifice of a mobilized labor movement. Let us support the workers demanding $15/hour. They are a sign of the times.



Paul Haeder's been a teacher, social worker, newspaperman, environmental activist, and marginalized muckraker, union organizer. Paul's book, Reimagining Sanity: Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber (2016), looks at 10 years (now going on 17 years) of his writing at Dissident Voice. Read his musings at LA Progressive. Read (purchase) his short story collection, Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam now out, published by Cirque Journal. Here's his Amazon page with more published work Amazon. Read other articles by Paul, or visit Paul's website.

8 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Paul Haeder said on June 8th, 2013 at 8:56am #

    Alternate Unemployment Charts

    The seasonally-adjusted SGS Alternate Unemployment Rate reflects current unemployment reporting methodology adjusted for SGS-estimated long-term discouraged workers, who were defined out of official existence in 1994. That estimate is added to the BLS estimate of U-6 unemployment, which includes short-term discouraged workers.

    The U-3 unemployment rate is the monthly headline number. The U-6 unemployment rate is the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) broadest unemployment measure, including short-term discouraged and other marginally-attached workers as well as those forced to work part-time because they cannot find full-time employment.

  2. Paul Haeder said on June 8th, 2013 at 11:23am #

    URGENT — And, I will be writing on this issue in School Yard Fights. These people, Republicans, Democrats and Union Bosses, are scum. So-called Obama Care is about having Administrators, those careerists at those institutions of higher learning, just whacking Contingent Faculty’s hours so they don’t have to throw in for Obama Care.

    Now this in so-called blue city, blue state WASHINGTON. These captains of high tech, low ethics are hollowing out the middle class, fighting social justice in economics, and are the rot that is helping USA slide. In the meantime, we, the adjuncts, feel the sting, deeply.

    Cutting health care benefits for adjuncts in WA state when we fought hard to win them? Where are the Union Bosses?




    You can write two letters, one to the House and one to the Senate leadership (address to one and copy all the others). Or else send letters to a selected few. Time is important. You can call and leave messages for the legislators. But email may be best.

    Cordially, Keith

    Sent: Saturday, June 8, 2013 11:03:46 AM
    Subject: URGENT: Legislators May Eliminate State-Paid Health Insurance for ALL Part-Time State Employees (including US)


    I am sending this list of Senate and House leaders (see bottom) for a reason. It appears that state-paid health insurance for part-time faculty is in danger of being dumped. Instead, we would be forced into the new Obamacare health exchanges for the poor. They will offer less coverage (no dental and vision) and they will most certainly cost much more to us.

    Even the WEA is alarmed. I have never received any information from them about higher ed issues. This week they sent out a letter about this issue, urging us to write.

    The bill is ESSB 5905, passed by the Senate, not passed by the House, but still on the table for budget negotiations. The Republicans want it; the Democrats may go along with it as part of a package. Legislators have until Monday to finish this special session (or they will have another one).

    I will follow with the Senate leadership. Both parties are important. You can do a string (that is, copy other people), or select a few key people.

    Please write a BRIEF letter to legislators from your off campus email provider immediately. Your subject line is important; it may be all anyone reads.


    Email addresses usually run first A few legislators use their formal first name, like and You can find all information at

    Tell them you want them to vote no on any budget that includes SB 5905 and takes part-timers out of the current state-paid health insurance system. You can add a line or two about much this will cost us and how low paid we already are.


    Keith Hoeller
    Washington Part-Time Faculty Association

  3. Paul Haeder said on June 8th, 2013 at 11:42am #


  4. Paul Haeder said on June 9th, 2013 at 9:34am #

    LOYAL READERS count. Read the Commondreams responses. It’s Capitalism that has made the world go round and lifted billions out of poverty. Just look at China, these Global Transcapital creeps say — when the communists stopped holding back profit and consumerism and capitalism, well, dang, the entire country is doing so-so well. Hence, the global “others” are doing well-well.

    Thanks, Apple, Kohls, Walmart, Nike, Target. All those fires and building collapses. Not on your watch. Thanks OSHA. Thanks CAPITAL. The world is clean, fair, ready for another 2 billion consumers to put the .01 percent into god-like status.

    Are there any takers out there to look at the failure of capitalism from the “other” perspective, and from a long-term global eco-justice perspective?

    Sure —

    Ecosocialism at —

    Thanks, Charles for the note below! You are so spot on.



    I enjoyed and learned from your article on the Minimum Wage which scientifically dissed “myths.” However, I am concerned about the fact that the origins and “Founding Fathers” of Globalism have yet to be fully studied, evaluated, and brought to public attention, except for our Ruler’s proclamation that Globalism was inevitable.

    Well over a decade ago, I read an article, I believe it was published by The NY Times, including a report about a man who was crossing the border form Canada into the USA. Please be mindful that the incident preceded the Patriot Act, T.I.P.S program, and T.S.A. pat-downs. The traveler seemed to be selected at random at the border crossing, and as I recall, was subjected to weird questioning, for example, “Do you support the Wars… Do you support globalization, Free-Trade Treaties?” The innocent man who underwent such interrogation was reported as intimidated, bewildered. I realize this seems like basic-bully tactics, but one can detect how cryptic-messages to the Public are sent by trial-balloon, and from there, people are supposed to learn and ACCEPT the new-wave that is hitting them.

    I believe you are dead-on target in declaring that” captains of high-tech, low ethics are hollowing out the middle class and are the ROT helping U.S. slide.” However, however, “how the days stretched out,” that which is hidden remains so, and the political & Corporate creeps who were responsible for introducing calamitous “Globalism, those enjoying present Bilderberg meetings, are pleased how the American public have unconditionally surrendered to their economic terms.” Doubtless, Paul Craig Roberts and others intelligent & brave have shined Light on the slick-hoodwinking, but our Occupiers managed to cover the rays with a basket.

    Regarding Minimum wage: Here in the Scranton area, I know a young man, “Iggy,” who just graduated Lackawanna College, the bottom realm “choice” of higher education around these parts. Iggy is delighted to have found employment as a waiter at the local Wafflehouse. Said tips are “pretty good so far,” Iggy did not share his starting pay-rate. Closer to home, my son Dan, Senior at Keystone College, & in-between matriculating, has worked for three (3) years at CVS. The other night, Dan returned from work, quite pleased, cynical, he received a $0.22 / hour raise, putting him at $7.63 per hour. I suppose Big-Pharma enjoyed another good quarter, evoking “trickle-down,” but opps, I’m not supposed to mention that.

    Finally, I like the spirit of D.V. writers who espouse a true-blue Union cause, for example Dave Macaray. They have a great Enemy to battle and as our society is so successfully fragmented, self-interested, & demoralized, I do not foresee a salty-rebellion such as the one depicted in the old Spartacus film, where prisoners of the Roman system all stood and claimed to be Spartacus. FYI, in the late-1970s, as a Teamster dockworker at Roadway Express, Tannersville, Pa,, there occurred a ferocious battle involving Teamsters & R.E.X. management. Strikes, work slow-downs, barroom fights, my fellow Teamsters recall these days as “The War of 1979.” We were United then, for a while, Roadway and Union bosses got hip, successfully got key Union-Stewards to “see things realistically,” and a couple turn-coat Teamsters became Business Agents, entered life on Easy Street, Teamster Union diminished, retirees they “serve” worry about pensions Today I wonder if such ilk support Globalization, Obamacare, and the Wars?

    Knowing the source of an evil is critical, and I hope someday the “perps” of Globalism are exposed. Even dumbed-down & struggling people are known to respond to hard truths. Pardon my bitterness and thanks a lot for the discussion venue.

    Charles Orloski
    Taylor, Pa


    Check articles at DV on CVS Pharmacy here —

  5. Jinxthinks said on June 10th, 2013 at 11:19am #

    If you believe that raising the minimum wage will have no effect on prices, then click your heels three time while saying “There is no place like home”. People invest their hard earned money in companies to make a profit from their investment and it is the companies LEGAL obligation to earn the most profit possible. If one wishes to earn a “living wage” spend time learning a valuable skill, wrapping hamburgers or making pizzas is NOT a career. Along with education the world demands hustle hustle hustle. In order to be successful a person must bust their butt, work for less until you have experience and skills to offer your employer value for their money. The company you work for is not there to give you a living, they exist to make a PROFIT. Stop whining and get to work.

  6. Paul Haeder said on June 10th, 2013 at 11:33am #

    So, the same old carted out load of BS from Jinxthinks. People rarely invest their hard-earned money, as this commentator says. That money for the most part is brought to them thanks to the EXTERNAL costs of their business dumped on the public’s health, safety and welfare — negatively. The LEGAL obligation for corporations to rake in sick profits at the expense of communities, our country’s safety, and at the expense of massive terror inflicted on workers and people around the world is of course IMMORAL and fought against in the stacked legal courts of appeal ALL the time.

    These people who think wrapping hamburgers and making pizza are not careers is as insipid as those raking in profits, welfare payments in the form of abatements, farm subsidies and the health care and other care WE the people have to provide, so those shareholder can reap big bucks.

    That’s not a career worth shaking dung at. A bad burger put out for a bad investor is a better career than a big profit punched out in computing hi-jinx given to your local church.

    Get real. Employers are mostly EMPLOYERS because of graft, entitlement, political pigs, lobbyists who deserve hard labor, and governments that are not functioning for the people.

    I know of very few employers who have THEIR money to “‘give” — that money is a scam from transnational continuing financial criminal enterprise systems. Not hustle, but hustling and bilking.

    It’s called usury. Just tax the bastards at 80 percent over a million a year profits. Then we can keep that wage at $7 an hour. Why not — the people’s education, FREE. The people’s transportation, FREE. The people’s housing, Rent Controlled. More of those Inside Job pigs, in Jail, their assets scarfed up like we scarf up the money from drug kingpins, who, unfortunately, do more work in a day than the INVESTOR class and their $26 million a year retail bosses do in a lifetime.

    How those messed up narratives of the exceptional liar class like Jinxthinks demonstrates shows just how screwed up many people’s value system are, largely because of poor education, redneck media and lack of community thinking.


  7. Paul Haeder said on June 10th, 2013 at 12:39pm #

    Add to the idiocy of Jinxthinks —

    I disagree with the first sentence in this quote, in the lead, though:

    “Yes, these companies provide quality products and much-desired entertainment. They deserve a sizable profit. But while they’re making unprecedented profits, they’re creating little more than low-wage positions, investing minimally in the country that funded their growth, and making a mockery of the tax laws that are supposed to pay for the next generation’s education.”

    No, these companies do not make quality products and the entertainment is much infected with consumer disease. They deserve a sizable profit? Nope. Here are the main points, which are obviously correct!

    1. Tech companies built their businesses with our money and effort.

    2. They don’t pay their required taxes.

    3. They show contempt for the U.S. education system, which is underfunded because of unpaid taxes.

    4. They provide low-wage jobs, if any.

    5. They turn Internet freedom into money.

  8. Paul Haeder said on June 10th, 2013 at 12:49pm #

    Oh yeah, Manfred Max-Neef, try his economic philosophy:

    MANFRED MAX-NEEF: The principles, you know, of an economics which should be are based in five postulates and one fundamental value

    One, the economy is to serve the people and not the people to serve the economy.

    Two, development is about people and not about objects.

    Three, growth is not the same as development, and development does not necessarily require growth.

    Four, no economy is possible in the absence of ecosystem services.

    Five, the economy is a subsystem of a larger finite system, the biosphere, hence permanent growth is impossible.

    And the fundamental value to sustain a new economy should be that no economic interest, under no circumstance, can be above the reverence of life.

    AMY GOODMAN: Explain that further.

    MANFRED MAX-NEEF: Nothing can be more important than life. And I say life, not human beings, because, for me, the center is the miracle of life in all its manifestations. But if there is an economic interest, I mean, you forget about life, not only of other living beings, but even of human beings. If you go through that list, one after the other, what we have today is exactly the opposite.

    AMY GOODMAN: Go back to three: growth and development. Explain that further.

    MANFRED MAX-NEEF: Growth is a quantitative accumulation. Development is the liberation of creative possibilities. Every living system in nature grows up to a certain point and stops growing. You are not growing anymore, nor he nor me. But we continue developing ourselves. Otherwise we wouldn’t be dialoguing here now. So development has no limits. Growth has limits. And that is a very big thing, you know, that economists and politicians don’t understand. They are obsessed with the fetish of economic growth.

    And I am working, several decades. Many studies have been done. I’m the author of a famous hypothesis, the threshold hypothesis, which says that in every society there is a period in which economic growth, conventionally understood or no, brings about an improvement of the quality of life. But only up to a point, the threshold point, beyond which, if there is more growth, quality of life begins to decline. And that is the situation in which we are now.

    I mean, your country is the most dramatic example that you can find. I have gone as far as saying — and this is a chapter of a book of mine that is published next month in England, the title of which is Economics Unmasked. There is a chapter called “The United States, an Underdeveloping Nation,” which is a new category. We have developed, underdeveloped and developing. Now you have underdeveloping. And your country is an example, in which the one percent of the Americans, you know, are doing better and better and better, and the 99 percent is going down, in all sorts of manifestations. People living in their cars now and sleeping in their cars, you know, parked in front of the house that used to be their house — thousands of people. Millions of people, you know, have lost everything. But the speculators that brought about the whole mess, oh, they are fantastically well off. No problem. No problem.