This Labor Day, you can mull some good news about American jobs for a change.

Take the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour — please! That poverty pay is a shameful stain on our extremely rich nation.

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley at Boloco


But don’t count on Washington, D.C. to lift our wage floor. Indeed, pigheaded Republican Congress critters refuse to consider it. Senator Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, has even called for abolishing the minimum wage.

So where’s the good news? Maybe right where you live.

Millions of low-wage workers themselves — from fast food workers to adjunct college professors — are organizing and mobilizing. They’re pushing local leaders to take action against the immoral inequality that’s ripping our society apart and sinking our economy.

Sure enough, state and local officials are responding. Seattle, Chicago, New York City, Austin, Providence, San Francisco, and San Diego, as well as other locales, either have raised their wage floors or are battling the corporate lobbyists to get the job done. D.C. itself and 23 states have mandated minimum wages that stand above the federal floor.

And here’s a pleasant surprise: Breaking away from the McDonald’s-Domino-Taco Bell herd of low-wage exploiters, several smaller fast food chains are acting on their own, raising their starting pay levels as high as $15 an hour, plus benefits.

The Boloco burrito chain in New England is one example. It pays its workers at least $9 an hour, subsidizes its employees’ commuting costs, and contributes to their 401(k) funds. As Boloco co-founder John Pepper says, “If we’re talking about building a business that’s successful, but our employees can’t go home and pay their bills, to me that success is a farce.”


If you can’t pay your workers a decent wage, then you don’t have a legitimate business. The multimillion-dollar executives at poverty-pay outfits like McDonald’s aren’t running a business, they’re running a labor extortion racket.

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Jim Hightower

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.

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