Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Pay increases...Unrealistic or just unwilling?

I had been toying with the idea of writing a blog about the Janitor's strike in Houston, but Larry James beat me to it.

As usual, his post makes some great points and challenges us to connect our actions with our faith. What I also think is interesting are the passionate comments that go along with his post. It always amazes me how upset people get when someone mentions equality for the poor or talks about raising the minimum wage. If that defensiveness wasn't so troubling, it would be almost humorous.

After I read the article on the janitor's strike I began doing a little research in hopes of understanding how much money the executives of the companies utilizing the janitorial services make. The vice president of the Hines company said he “was supportive of health insurance and higher pay for janitorial workers.” I didn't see where it said he was willing to shell out more money to the janitorial services so that they can, in turn, offer increases in pay and health insurance. The cleaning companies say, "the proposal for a 62 percent increase [from $5.25 to $8.50/hour], along with health insurance, is unrealistic."

Considering they only work 4 1/2 hours a day, this amounts to an extra $74.75/week or $3887/year. That's really not much considering Texaco's CEO is making $3.4 million along with $2.8 million of stock options (that information is before the merger with Chevron...I'm sure the salary is higher now). The company itself is bringing in a total revenue of $36.6 billion and a net revenue of $2.1 billion. Is it really "unrealistic" for that corporation to pay more for a cleaning service that I'm sure they couldn't do without? I seriously doubt those executives would want to clean their own offices every evening.

Isn't capitalism based on supply and demand? And don't we pay more for items where demand is high? It seems to me that cleaning offices (or homes or streets or whatever) would justify a higher pay scale because there is a demand...especially these days when people are making so much money and don't choose to clean things themselves. Why do we feel the need to relegate someone to poverty because of a job that we see as "less than" when the services they offer are something we have no desire to live without? Mind you, these workers are not asking for $3.4 million annually. Just a simple $3000-$4000 a year.

So, to all of those corporate executives out there, go ahead and say you don't want to give janitors or cleaning people any more money, but don't tell us there isn't enough money to do it. That argument doesn't hold any water, is somewhat irritating, and, frankly, I feel like it insults our intelligence considering how much money is going in to those companies and how little is trickling down to the "bottom."

I'm glad they are organizing and I hope they can hold their ground until someone takes notice and realizes they are deserving people, too.
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