Note to Paul Ryan: There’s No Dignity in Low-Wage Work

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Demonstrators protesting for $15/hour wages and proper treatment for fast-food workers march in downtown Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

Demonstrators protesting what they say are low wages and improper treatment for fast-food workers march in downtown Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

The fast-food workers’ “Fight for 15” campaign — a series of one-day strikes — was never only about low wages. It was also about dignity at the workplace — not being forced to work in harsh conditions, or being given unpredictable and constantly changing schedules or facing disciplinary actions for minor mistakes or retaliation for organizing.

At The Huffington Post, Emily Swanson and Arthur Delaney compare the realities people at the lower end of the labor market face with Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) rhetoric about the joys of making $7.25 per hour as a fry chef or a

They write:

Paul Ryan says the government safety net may protect Americans from the vicissitudes of life, but that handouts leave people unfulfilled in a more profound way.

“The left is making a big mistake here. What they’re offering people is a full stomach and an empty soul,” the Wisconsin Republican said in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week. “People don’t just want a life of comfort. They want a life of dignity — of self-determination.”

But most Americans don’t think handouts steal dignity from the poor, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll. And few think there’s anything dignified about working for bad pay.

Ryan cited free school lunches as an example of something less-than-dignified, but by a 63 percent to 19 percent margin, most Americans said that giving free food to poor people does not undermine their dignity.

And although Ryan’s speech highlighted his belief in “the dignity of work,” the poll suggests not all work automatically pays in dignity. Only 30 percent of Americans said they think people working in low-wage jobs that don’t pay enough for basic expenses gain dignity from those jobs simply by virtue of working. Fifty-eight percent said they think a job needs to at least cover basic living expenses to give a person dignity.

Read the rest at The Huffington Post.


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