Friday, July 24, 2015

Fast-food wage debate is misguided at best

We’re being played.

Whether we want to believe it or not, this nation is divided into the haves and the have-nots. There are other divisions, of course — by race, religion, sexuality, political preference, etc — but it’s the haves and the have nots I’m talking about today.

Never before has so much of this nation’s wealth been consolidated by so few people. And the rest of us, the so-called 99 percent, are fighting over the rest, arguing over who among us deserves the bigger crumb.

Earlier this week, a wage control board voted to endorse a plan that would allow fast-food workers in New York a minimum wage of $15 per hour by 2021. This resulted in nearly everyone who doesn’t work in fast food to complain, often with the argument that “my job doesn’t pay $15 an hour, why should their's?”

Many arguments I’ve seen over the past few months have actually been related to military pay and suggesting that since being in the military is more difficult and life threatening, fast food workers should basically pay McDonald's for the privilege of working. (Undoubtedly unpopular side note: Military service is volunteer. Every single person serving currently chose to do so. If you don't want to risk your life for 72 cents an hour, Taco Bell is hiring.)

Some have legitimate economic concerns. They’re afraid of what that $15 an hour will do to inflation. Or they’re afraid that the more capable people will flee their non-fast-food jobs to go sling burgers, opting to make more money than they can in the industry they currently work in, decimating other businesses and leaving them with an unskilled workforce.

Then, of course, there is sheer classism. Not financial-based classism, mind you. Rather a perception of class based upon what people do for a career. Obviously, you’re better than so-and-so because they work at Burger King and you work for … whoever.

I’ve long spoke of a belief that everyone should work in fast food — or at least customer service — at some point in their lives. I’ve seen too many jerks yell at people in hats because they assumed that their job was easy … and that they were better than them. I’m not talking about the 1 percenters, either. I’m talking about the people with the larger crumbs.

Now these people with the larger crumbs are worried that the low-life slob fast-food workers might inch closer to them financially.

Meanwhile, while we’re fighting over the crumbs and arguing over whose job is harder and more deserving of paying a living wage, the real captains of privilege unload wheelbarrows of cash and gold onto their private yachts and float them off to island nations with no taxes, thumbing their noses at the rest of us along the way.

If this whole ordeal were a movie script, they’d be the ones who incite the riot then empty the bank of its contents while police are busy stopping looters from stealing color TVs. By the time we find out what really happened, it’s too late.

Of course, this isn't a movie. And it’s not yet too late. But it’s getting there. And we’re squabbling over crumbs.

In case no one ever told you this, your neighbor being poor doesn’t make you rich. A burger flipper struggling to pay his bills doesn’t pay your mortgage. And just because someone has a cookie doesn’t mean you can’t have a cookie too.

This is America, for Christ's sake. We can make more cookies. More burgers. More money. You don’t need to be envious of someone else’s.

That envy or anger or whatever it is you have against your fellow crumb eater has been manufactured by the people with the whole pie. They’re playing us. And we’re falling for it.

+Scott Leffler congratulates fast-food workers on their raise. He just asks that they spend that extra money they're going to have wisely. And more important, locally. Follow Scott's fast-food eating habit on Twitter @scottleffler.

This column was originally published on East Niagara Post

Friday, July 03, 2015

239 years of freedom and other stuff

Someone on Facebook made a joke last week that it looked like a war broke out between the Confederates and a Skittles factory. It was funny because it was true.

Half of Facebook, it seemed, were upset about the continued existence of the Confederate flag ― but happy that the Supreme Court acknowledged gay marriage. The other half were upset about the continued existence of homosexuals but happy that the state of South Carolina acknowledged their white rights. I'm not sure why it seemed to break down in that manner, but it did.

I don't support an outright ban on the Confederate flag, but I don't think it should be flown on state capitol buildings. And I don't think it should be part of any state flags — I'm looking at you, Mississippi. I also don't want to spend any time with people that fly it off their pick'em'up trucks or in front of their homes. And I sure wouldn't do business with anyone flying one at their business. People have a right to be jerks. But it doesn't require me to deal with them.

In my opinion, the argument that the Confederate flag is part of our history and should be respected is hogwash. There are many parts of our history that we should be smart enough to be ashamed of and not celebrate. And there's a great deal of debate how significant a part of our history that flag was. I wasn't there so I don't know. But what I do know is that for millions of people, that flag stands for racism. It means the bearer thereof is racist. I doubt that's the case 100 percent of the time, but I'd rather not wear or display something that's widely interpreted as racist.

To catch up: The Confederate flag should not be on any state property. But if private citizens want to wave it, they should feel free as long as they know they message their conveying and then also understand that a large percentage of America will want nothing to do with them.

But let's not play a game of revisionist history, OK? Sometimes too far is just too damn far. And some people went too far.

The Dukes of Hazzard? Really, TV Land? You pulled the Dukes of Hazzard because there's a Confederate flag on the General Lee? That's just too far. The Dukes of Hazzard was one of a handful of shows I grew up being forced to watch that I didn't hate.

Sure, it took place in Georgia, the epicenter of racism. But the show itself wasn't racist. In fact, it held some pretty good morals. We need more shows like it today. And yes, the Confederate flag's prominence in the show is unfortunate 30 years later. But it's not reason enough to pull the show. You went too far, TV Land.

Speaking of going too far, the other side of this so-called debate goes too far, too. I've seen some insane examples of the lunatic fringe on the gay-rights side of things, too. Images depicting Jesus as a homosexual, for example. A proposal to replace the American flag with a cross-breed of the gay pride flag. And those examples have turned a lot of would-be supporters off from the gay rights movement.

Again, those who spread such images have a right to do so. The First Amendment allows them that. But as is often the case when people claim First Amendment rights, I'd suggest they look four amendments down and find their "right to be silent."

But on the eve of our 239th birthday, I would suggest that's one of the great things about our nation: We have a right to be absolute jerks. And we also have a right not to deal those we find to be jerks. It would seem that people are fully exercising those rights today.

Now enough with the lecture. Let's get out there and enjoy the weekend.

+Scott Leffler proudly displayed the rainbow flag on his Facebook profile picture for about 24 hours before getting bored with it. Then he watched Dukes of Hazzard and sang along to Creedence Clearwater Revival. Follow him on Twitter @scottleffler

This column was originally published on East Niagara Post