The Uses of Poverty: The Poor Pay All

Herbert Gans describes in this writing how society benefits from the poor and how our society would be without them. He states “Associating poverty with positive functions seems at first glance to be unimaginable (Henslin, 2017, p. 377).” The individuals who we may consider poor are the ones who do tasks others won’t ever consider doing. If we didn’t have these individuals, it would require the rich to do more work.

My father raised his children to treat the janitor the same way we would a CEO of a company, with courtesy and respect. I did not understand that saying until I entered the workforce myself. Basically, my father was pointing out each role is required for that company to be successful. A message I passed on to my own children. The CEO is busy making decisions to increase business and does not have time to take the trash out nor mop the floors. In turn, the company required a janitor to keep the facility’s multi-million dollar appearance.

Gans describes how society needs the poor to function as a whole. Jobs are created for the rich to look good such as maids, drivers, and nannies, to name a few. It amuses me to hear my friends tell me I should have hired a housekeeper and landscaper for more free time. Honestly, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself with the extra time. I always maintain my own home and yard, even when I made a six-figure income. My income was drastically reduced when I found myself injured on the job and in an extremely slow-paced workman’s comp system. I reflect how I would have I appeared to others if I had hired these people and had to let them go because financially I could not maintain their positions. Even though I was raised tending to my own tasks, many of my associates would never see themselves doing so.

The poor, unfortunately, is needed in a society to help in medical research (Henslin, 2017: 378). Many clinical trials lure the poor to their research as guinea pigs with money (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2598135/). This helps with the advances of medical research. Also, the poor because of their inadequate pay, and lack of benefits are not in the best of health, another factor that lures them to participate in clinical research. However, these advancements also help the rich become richer when there is a new medical discovery.

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Req’d Entry: Made In…

Image by Cruz Labe

I am looking through my closet and select random items from casual wear to formal wear. I come to realize when I purchase the clothing I prefer they are not only reasonably priced but comfortable. What I never noticed is where my clothes are made. I own very few items made in the U.S.A. The majority are from other countries, such as Mexico, China, Vietnam, and even from Peru.

I do not think we truly realize how many American iconic items are made anywhere but here in the United States! Money & Career Cheat Sheet provides a list of them we would believe are made in America but are not (https://www.cheatsheet.com/money-career/made-america-iconic-american-products-arent-actually-made-us.html/). For instance, Rawlings baseball made in Costa Rica. Barbie dolls made in Hong Kong and Mexico, the Ford F-150 trucks made in Mexico as well as in Canada. Our American flag made in China! Levi jeans in Asia, Latin America, and Haiti!

Here are a few reasons why we should buy American made goods. It creates jobs. The Economic Policy Institute 2015 report states the U.S. lost millions of manufacturing jobs between 1998 and 2013, some part due to the Great Recession but due to trade imbalances with countries like Canada and Mexico. Manufacturing provides good jobs with excellent benefits, especially for workers without a college degree (https://www.epi.org/publication/why-negotiating-great-trade-deals-is-not-the-answer/). Another reason is to reduce our carbon footprint. Items shipped from other countries, especially in the masses generates more pollution with distance. Buying American made will build a stronger economy. We have stricter environmental regulations as well as labor regulations for workers here. It will reduce the exploitation of foreign workers in other countries (https://www.moneycrashers.com/products-made-usa-american-made/).

I need to make a commitment and buy as many American made products. Not only will I be supporting American manufacturers, but I will also not be so quick in purchasing items on a whim. It will help with any impulse buying I have because I’ll have to read labels and not go by appearance. I will have to take my time research items in my community for these items.

(H) Wishard, Caught Between the Ages

image by SmarterWare

This article talks about how the world has transitioned through the ages and its self-destruction. Wishard begins talking about how globalization enriches lives of the highest number of people (Henslin, p.535). With globalization, there is rapidly advancing technology. He believes globalization takes individuality and culture from countries.

With Science Fiction movies regularly made by Hollywood like iRobot, Terminator, Big Hero 6, to name a few people are concerned Artificial Intelligence will take over mankind. It is truly amazing to live in a time where our children can be across the country or even around the world, and we can video chat with them. There was a time we would have to wait for a written correspondence for weeks and pray photos were included in the envelope.

I still remember in the 1970s, when mothers were still skeptical in using a microwave oven in their homes for fear they may expose their family to something harmful. Today, it is in nearly every American household like any other appliance. The need to expedite meals has in some part taken away from many parents preparing a homemade meal from scratch. However, it does help when someone needs to reheat leftovers.

Technology has taken away jobs that most people use to do manually. This should be the most significant concern. If technology takes over additional jobs from humans, it will mean the inequality between the rich and the poor will only increase. Many fast-food chain restaurants already have implemented kiosks as well as smartphone apps for consumers to order their food. In turn, this means fewer employees are needed.

Req’d. Entry: Fight for $15

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The minimum wage was first introduced in 1938 (https://www.thedailybeast.com/five-things-you-didnt-know-about-the-minimum-wage). Minimum wage is the lowest rate an employer can pay an employee. In 2012, two hundred fast-food workers walked off the job in New York City demanding $15 per hour and union rights. The movement grew not only national attention but worldwide as well. Currently, California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and New York are the only states that have approved the $15 an hour minimum wage. What are the Pros and Cons for raising the minimum wage?

In raising the minimum wage, it would help the struggling worker. By no means will it make them rich but would assist them. In the past, these jobs were held by teenagers. However, that is no longer the case. According to Think Progress, the Center for Economic and Policy Research report finds that people aged 25–54 hold the largest share of fast-food worker jobs in the U.S. Eleven percent of workers earning $7.25 an hour or less are older than 20, as are 68 percent of workers earning between $7.26 and $10.09 (https://thinkprogress.org/the-majority-of-fast-food-workers are-not-teenagers-report-finds-e6cfef4f13ba/). That means the majority of these workers are trying to make a living to provide for themselves and their families. The increase would cause their income to be above the poverty line. It will encourage those to work in turn the employment rate will drop. With more Americans working it would provide revenue through taxes for communities.

The cons are some employers, especially small business may end up letting employees go because they can not afford to keep all of their employees at this rate. Another con could be larger franchises, such as McDonald’s began in 2015, to use kiosks for customers to order their food, which requires fewer employees. Many of McDonald’s sites already have these computerized systems in their restaurants (https://www.businessinsider.com/mcdonalds-kiosk-vs-cashiers-photos-2018-3). As their costs rises the increase would be offset to the consumer.

Will fast-food workers benefit from unionization? Unions would ensure appropriate wages, access to benefits, a sense of job security and there are strengths in numbers. The downfall is it does require members to pay union dues and fees which could cost hundreds of dollars annually. Many do not always agree with unions decisions during labor disputes or negotiations.

(H) Leidner, Over the Counter

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In this chapter, Robin Leidner, Over the Counter at McDonald’s provided insight into a well-known American food chain. As I started to write my blog on this chapter, my husband noticed the “Golden Arches” and broke into McDonald’s Big Mac song that came out in 1974 and he knew every word ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yEBCV0ic6Tc). It is amazing how this company has had such a huge impact not only in our country but worldwide!

I remember the mass media hype surrounding the first McDonald’s opening in Moscow (https://www.boredpanda.com/first-mcdonald-restaurant-opens-soviet-union-moscow-russia-1990/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=organic). Over 30,000 customers were served the first day. Founder Ray Kroc created this franchise by standardizing it, ensuring replication of the items on the menu so customers would receive the same tasting burger regardless of the restaurant’s location. Every restaurant’s settings are similar, especially with the easily recognizable Golden Arches. Thought Co. states, according to the McDonald’s Corporation website (as of January 2018), McDonald’s has locations in 101 countries. More than 36,000 restaurants around the world serve 69 million people every day (https://www.thoughtco.com/number-of-mcdonalds-restaurants-worldwide-1435174). 

Initially, McDonald’s hired teenagers even though this establishment was created as a family restaurant. At the Russian opening, patrons described their surprise not only to see young employees, but they all smiled. This was another standardization from founder Kroc. To provide Quality Service and cleanliness.

According to Google dictionary Rationalization is defined as
the action of attempting to explain or justify behavior or an attitude with logical reasons, even if these are not appropriate. The not so pleasant side of McDonald’s is the treatment of their employees. Employees schedules fluctuate and are required to be flexible to stay late or leave early -depending on the customer flow. Also, employees are predominantly part-time to prevent the franchise from providing benefits such as health insurance and sick leave. Ironically, one of their famous mantra’s is ‘You deserve a break today’ and the emphasis his establishments is family oriented” However, they do not seem to treat their employees with the same sentiment. The low wages and no opportunity for full-time positions says otherwise.

(H) Nickeled and Dimed

Barbara Ehrenreich is a journalist who decided to enter what is considered low-wage but also considered “unskilled” workforce during the Clinton Administrations welfare reform of 1998: Building on policies that had been passed by Reagan, and a foundational principle of “personal responsibility,” TANF added work requirements for aid, shrinking the number of adults who could qualify for benefits. This legislation also created caps for how long and how much aid a person could receive, and well as instituting harsher punishments for recipients who did not comply with the requirements (https://www.history.com/news/clinton-1990s-welfare-reform-facts).

However, she found it to be anything than that. She discovered this line of work took intelligence, experience, and skills to perform the daily tasks. She also found the high demand that is placed on this working class of individuals could barely make enough money to for appropriate housing. She traveled to four different locations lasting one month or less in each area. She decided she would remain in each place if she could sustain herself on her wages and if not, she would move on to the next destination.

The majority of employees who are in these jobs, such as waitress, housekeeper, dietary aide, etc., are women who are paid minimum wages. This working class cannot maintain an appropriate standard of living, even as a full-time employee. She also realized these employers have high turn over rates due to the stressful conditions employees have to work under and at many times without benefits, such as vacation, health insurance, etc.

These are the individuals who should receive assistance for their efforts. Unfortunately, many would not qualify for their state’s welfare assistance because they are in the workforce. According to Food Research & Action Center, Although the nation’s unemployment rate continued to fall in 2017, wages were largely stagnant, and Congress and most states failed to provide needed initiatives to boost both wages and public programs for struggling individuals and families (http://frac.org/news/new-report-finds-americans-particularly-children-risk-hunger).

The working class is the backbone of the United States. In order for others to live comfortably these individuals sacrifice more than we can ever imagine. “In matters of truth and justice, there is no difference between large and small problems, for issues concerning the treatment of people are all the same”-Albert Einstein

Req’d Entry: Corporate Ideologies

As corporations have grown, it appears the working class is forgotten. There was a time when employees felt a sense of loyalty to their employer because the employer was loyal to their employees. Today the drive for money has exploited workers with little to no regard. The fast food industry is just one of many companies that make their multi-millions using the labor force, but there are so many others.

There are a vast amount of products we purchase that exploit the labor force, and we have never taken into consideration. I read an article in the Washington Post on something I didn’t think about; however, I use daily, lithium. The article not only shares where lithium is mined it discusses how the miners are exploited (https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/business/batteries/tossed-aside-in-the-lithium-rush/). Lithium is something we are using on a daily basis. We use lithium–ion batteries in cell phones, laptops, and even for those conscientious environmental individuals in our electric cars. However, I can assure you none of us ever asked where this metal came from and how are the miners compensated? Here is an idea of how much lithium is used for our modern day amenities-cell phones use 3 grams of lithium but were you aware that a typical hybrid car uses 44 pounds and a Tesla model requires 112 pounds? We may believe we are protecting the environment by choosing an electric vehicle, yet we fail to realize it is causing harm to an entire community.

While the companies from Silicon Valley are making over a quarter of 250 dollars in lithium-ion batteries, the indigenous miners from these regions are receiving between $9,000 and $60,000 annually. Many may defend the pay they are receiving supersedes their typical wages but who is regulating the safety and employee’s rights? The demand for lithium is only growing. According to Mining.com “Current annual production of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE), for all purposes, stands at about 230,000 metric tonnes.SQM recently predicted that demand will increase from between 600,000 and 800,000 tonnes of LCE over the next 10 years. To meet the need, SQM plans to double capacity from current annual production of 48,000 tonnes to 100,000 by 2019″ (http://www.mining.com/lithium-bears-wrong/).

Not only are the miners being taken advantage of financially their natural resources are being used. Water is a significant source for mining lithium. One plant uses an average of 24 gallons per second which equates to approximately, two million gallons per day. It has affected a village so much so, it has to have water delivered back into their town for the villagers use. This is a region where water is already scarce. This is another area which these corporations are using a region of the world that does not have strict environmental regulations on top of cheap labor.

Unfortunately, we believe since these companies are providing jobs and helping communities build, there are only benefits to be reaped. The sad truth is the people are being used as modern day slaves and communities are being destroyed. There will come a time where the water resources will be exhausted and the villagers forced to leave.