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Vox Media, Where You Can Make $15 an Hour to Insinuate Fight for $15 Is Just about Alliteration

A lot of people are bitching about the sheer snottiness of this passage in a Vox piece arguing that fighting for $15 minimum wage will lead, instead, to the automation of those minimum wage jobs.

The McDonald’s experiment with touchscreen ordering systems illustrates the potential problem with making high minimum wages effective across big states like California and New York — both of which passed minimum wage increases this year. If McDonald’s automates its locations in Manhattan, San Francisco, and Silicon Valley, displaced workers shouldn’t have too much trouble finding alternative work in the booming economies of these cities as barbers, servers at full-service restaurants, nannies, and so forth. With lots of wealthy customers around, there’s a robust demand for unskilled service workers there.

But the outlook might not be so rosy in cities like Fresno, California, or Rochester, New York, where the economy is not booming and average wages are much lower. If a $15 minimum wage causes fast-food jobs to be automated in these cities, workers may not be able to find alternate work. A law designed to put more money in workers’ pockets could wind up putting a lot less money in their pockets instead.

It’s easy to get people fired up about an alliterative slogan like “Fight for $15.” But alliteration isn’t necessarily a good way to choose a policy goal. The implicit idea here — that people everywhere should get the same minimum wage whether they live in a booming, expensive metropolis or a struggling town with a low cost of living — doesn’t make a lot of sense. [my emphasis]

The Fight for 15 has more to do with what is a living wage than poetic devices. Indeed, even $15 actually doesn’t pay enough to rent an apartment, even in the hinterlands.

But I’m just as disgusted by the suggestion that if people live in booming economies, they can get jobs making $15 an hour as a barber or a restaurant server.

They also could, with some prior experience, apply to be Vox’s “race and identities” writing fellow for … $15 an hour.

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And that’s to live in NYC or DC, cities where $15 an hour is well below a living wage.

Maybe Vox just plans on automating their race coverage if no one will take this job?

Update: Vox’s Managing Editor just announced on Twitter they will be increasing the rate for this and other fellowships. Good!

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

9 replies
  1. Phil Perspective says:

    How much does Timothy B. Lee(aka BinaryBits on Twitter) get paid, I wonder?  Did he mention Seattle re: the $15/hr stuff?  If not, he’s being dishonest and leaving out an important point against his argument.

    Reply
  2. Dave S says:

    I agree with the tone of your piece, and the author is smug. I do think he has a point though. It’s much cheaper to automate than to pay some no mind $15 for a job that is supposed to just be for experience not to live off of. When did people get it in their heads that McDonald’s was a career choice and not just a resume builder? It’s delusional thinking to pay someone that kind of money to flip burgers or tend bar or myriad other mindless no skill tasks. The people who are in the “fight for $15” are either ambitionless or want a free lunch, either way its typically one of the two, or are career lefties that think money grows on trees and socialism works. There’s a good reason NY and Cali are so expensive, so many people. Move, start a business or look for employment across the globe. $15 min is just poppycock and “progressive” propaganda aimed and people who feel they’re entitled to a bread winner job wage for pumping gas. Hogwash.

    Reply
    • emptywheel says:

      You seem unaware of either who is actually working at McDonalds, and why, and Germany.

      But aside from those giant blind spots, sure, go ahead and call people delusional.

      Reply
      • emptywheel says:

        Adding, you’re also missing the implications of this piece.

        Which is that very talented people — the kind of people who work at Vox and do internships — are also being asked to work for what is not a living wage.

        Reply
    • martin says:

      I agree with the tone of your piece, and the author is smug.

      Speaking of smug….

      $15 min is just poppycock and “progressive” propaganda aimed and people who feel they’re entitled to a bread winner job wage for pumping gas. Hogwash.

      Smug redefined. But I’m sure you’ve never lost a good job only to find yourself behind a McDonalds counter as there are 1000 people with the same skillsets applying for the only job available, and you still must be the… ahem.. breadwinner.  Spare me fuckface. Your time is coming, sooner, or later. Let’s hope it’s by virtue of terminal cancer.

      As for corporations “automating” every job they have, perhaps, AI will take over management, eh? Then let’s see who’ll be screaming for.. a living wage.  And btw, one day, when everything is automated..  exactly who is going to buy their products THEN? oh..wait… I forgot.  AI don nee no stinkin profits.. after they’ve killed off the human race.

      Reply
    • RUKidding says:

      ” Move, start a business or look for employment across the globe.”

      Yes, because that’s just SO EASY to do.  Face to palm:  why didn’t I think of that?

      Geez talk about smug, as well as being clueless.  Must be nice to be enscounced in your Ivory Tower of entitlement.  Spit on peons and tell them to move along and start a business.

      Really disgusting attitude, but there you have it in plain language.  Thanks for revealing exactly who and what you are.

      Reply
  3. k says:

    The VOX position advertised almost certainly pays less than $15/hr. I see a salaried $30,000/year and since that’s high enough to be overtime exempt, expect VOX to ladle on well more than 40 hours/week.

    Reply
  4. Desider says:

    Was it so tough to put a sample apt cost in their article? Here are average rates: http://www.myapartmentmap.com/rental_data/ which means some are under.
    I’m so glad they bullied Hillary over $12/hr (57% increase) so we can debate a theoretical 114% increase in the heartland in dire Trump times.
    And I dont know what writers make these days, but Vox’ll be more careful. What *is* the going rate for blogging – >$30k + bennies entry level/1-year stipend???

    Reply

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