America’s stringent system of corporate capitalism keeps carving out new depths of worker exploitation. Take Chick-fil-A — a right-wing, Atlanta-based fast-food operation that likes to boast about following “biblically-based” principles.

Like slavery?

Well, Chick-fil-A hasn’t gone quite that Biblical yet, but one of its North Carolina franchises recently pioneered a novel labor compensation innovation that comes close: literally paying some workers “chicken feed.”

This outlet of the $11-billion-a-year chain recently called on area residents to “volunteer” for its new Drive Thru Express — but in lieu of wages, they were offering chicken sandwiches! Join the Express team and you’d be “paid” five chicken items per shift.

That worked out to less than minimum wage… plus indigestion.

What we have here is one more absurd illustration of the empty promise that you’ll get ahead if you just work hard enough, keep your nose to the grindstone, and stay loyal to the corporate order for life — no matter how vacuous.

But the game is up, for workers across the economy are now seeking more from life than 50 years of serving the company. They’re even organizing anti-workaholism groups like “I don’t want a career,” “Rest is Resistance,” and the “Nap Ministry.”

But don’t mistake this rebellion as mere satire by a few puckish slackers. Today’s nationwide shortage of workers from truck drivers to teachers is not a momentary economic blip, but a defiant declaration of independence from a form of work that is life-sucking.

People are not afraid of hard work, nor averse to long hours — if the task and the cause are worth both time and effort. And “worth it” is increasingly being measured in higher values than dollars alone.

Fair compensation means work that includes a sense of purpose, community, respect, fairness, and fun. In short, true worthiness… not a chicken sandwich.

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Jim Hightower

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. This op-ed was distributed by

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