It's been a long time since I've posted anything of worth, which has probably slowed "Monk-mentum" quite a bit. But for the various one or two people who still check out this blog every so often, let me guide you to sevendaysatminimumwage.org. It's a campaign being run by ACORN and AFL-CIO (!!!) to get the issue of low-wage labor back into the political discussion. Whether the blog-o-sphere can affect massive change is an open question (at least for this blogger) but the stories (a number of the best ones collected by Chicago Carless's Mike Doyle) are riveting and gut-wrenching.
I'm often skeptical of "There are no Children Here" esque social criticism, that attempts to put a "human face" on poverty and other social issues. These accounts can often have the odor of individual pathology that allows readers to avoid asking the real and hard questions of systemic injustice and bad policy as opposed to bad behaviors and bad circumstances. Seven days, and especially the Mike Doyle interviews, strenously avoid that trap. The articulate women interviewed by Doyle frimly grasp that they are trapped in what is more and more the reality of the post-industrial economy in the United States (if you don't believe this to be the case, ask me and I'll send you some of the research on this).
We are rapidly moving towards a two-tiered labor force: the highly paid workers jet-setting through the global economy and the low wage workers who serve them. Moving up from low wage to medium wage to medium high wages is becoming less and less of a possibility because of the disintegration of what are called internal labor markets or job ladders in firms. While we've been distracted by intern oral sex, wars in the Middle East, and a booming stock market, the strong middle class job generating economy that sustained the United States in the 20th century is disappearing.
This is not an inevitable economic pattern nor is it necessarily make good macro-economic sense. Which is why campaigns such as Seven Days are so important. I'm becoming more and more convinced that the heart of social justice is economic justice. While a higher minimum wage won't solve these issues, it's a great first step on the high road to economic development. We've seen the low road, and boy is it wanting.