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Let's approximate (and let's go high) that the University of Virginia in Charlottesville has 2,000 direct and contracted (it won't say how many contracted, so we have to guess) employees working for under $13 per hour as demanded by the Living Wage campaign. And let's imagine they work on average 40 hours per week and 50 weeks a year, and let's imagine they earn the bare legal mimimum of $7.25 per hour. That would mean that it would take $23 million to make things right, to allow fulltime workers to pay their bills, quit their second jobs, see their families, and take care of their health.
Who has $23 million?
It turns out that UVA has got $4.76 BILLION.
I hate to have to point this out, but $23 million is less than a half a percent of $4.76 billion. (If my math is off that's UVA's fault too! :-)
If you earn $50,000 a year, do you ever give $200 or so to good causes? UVA isn't being asked to do that. It's being asked to pay people a decent humane wage for their hard work.
There's little less honorable than greed. Doesn't UVA have an honor code?
Yes, yes, poverty exists, just as war does, and the two feed off each other. When I titled a book "War Is A Lie" I meant that the justifications offered for wars were false and that the idea that we must always have wars is false. Our government doesn't market new poverty campaigns in the same way it does wars. It markets campaigns to dismantle healthcare and pension systems or to eliminate foreign aid or to restrict organizing rights. But our culture pushes the false notion that poverty must always be with us.
How do you get politicians living off legalized bribery to criminalize bribery? How do you persuade the corporate media to report on the interests of flesh-and-blood, non-corporate people? How do you take over a political party when the only other one allowed to compete is worse? These are not koans, but actual problems with a single solution.
It might seem like there are a million solutions: pass state-level clean election laws, build independent media, build a new party, etc. But the fundamental answer is that when the deck is stacked against you, you insist on a new deck. Power, as Frederick Douglas told us, concedes nothing without a demand. We cannot legislate our way out of plutocracy. Instead, we the people must seize power.
The University of Virginia is reviewing a proposal to import hundreds of Asian workers for various campus services, pay them less than a dollar per hour, and possibly deny them egress from their campus housing outside of work hours.
But not just kidding: the article linking to this page merely extends to their logical conclusion the arguments made against living wage standards.
2.21.11 Best-selling author David Swanson joins Coy to discuss the labor unrest in Wisconsin. Be sure to check out his most recent book War is a Lie.