The term wage slavery is often used to criticize economic exploitation defined as workers lacking bargaining power with employers that amounts to quasi-voluntary slavery where survival is totally and immediately dependent on poverty wages, such as in sweatshops. Republicans completely support wage slavery and returning to pre-New Deal workers’ rights they have spent the past four years promoting by opposing every initiative aimed at relieving the suffering of low-wage Americans whether it is opposing unemployment benefits, workplace protections, blocking a minimum wage increase, destroying unions, or any one of the myriad other barbaric attacks on poverty-wage working families. However, they have advanced the interests of the rich whom have increased their wealth incredibly and it has come at the expense of low-wage employees and the middle class Republicans regard as chattel for their plutocratic paymasters.
President Obama’s executive memorandum to expand opportunities for overtime pay certainly seemed like a winning situation that few Americans would criticize. Currently, a “salaried” worker earning more than $23,000 annually cannot receive overtime pay regardless the number of hours they work. The President’s order simply raised the cap and made it more difficult for predatory employers to classify workers with no supervisory duties as “supervisors” and exempt from receiving overtime pay. Under the new proposal, workers currently being forced to work overtime without pay will now get higher wages, or if their employer opposes paying the traditional overtime rate would have to expand their workforce and create more jobs. Republicans, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, conservative belief tanks, and corporations railed at the President’s action and, speaking for the slave wage cabal, John Boehner said, “The president’s policies are making it difficult for employers to expand employment. And until the president’s policies get out of the way, employers are going to continue to sit on their hands.”
The former chief economic adviser to Vice President Biden and the former executive director of the White House Task Force on the Middle Class, embraced the President’s move and said, “I think the intent of the rule change is to make sure that people working overtime are fairly treated. I think a potential side effect is that you may see more hiring in order to avoid overtime costs, which would be an awfully good thing right about now.” Another “awfully good thing right about now” is putting more money in the pockets of the working class that is the most effective method of stimulating the economy, and it will combat a major cause of rising income inequality; rising productivity and declining wages. For decades since labor reforms of the New Deal era, wages grew with high productivity that began going in opposite directions during the Reagan era at the same time income inequality began rising. Republicans want desperately to return to pre-labor reforms when businesses engaged in wage slavery.
The automatic outrage by Republicans in response to the President’s directive dismisses the benefits to the workforce and economic growth while fabricating problems that are without basis or facts. It is a typically Republican response that reveals their sole purpose for serving in Congress is advocating on behalf of the wealthy elite and their corporations who oppose any measures that benefit 98% of the population. A telling response to the President’s action was courtesy of Stuart Varney on Fox News where he asserted the President’s executive order will make workers greedy and is unfair to companies who cannot force their employees to work for free. He said, “In the earlier days of Google, they had all kinds of youngsters who would work day and night. Now if you bring this in, those workers will be on the clock,” and instead of working all night for free “they’ll be saying, Oh, I just exceeded my 40 hours, I’m due overtime.” Republicans support employers forcing their employees to work for free and it is a policy they have yearned for over the past 70-plus years that destroying workers’ rights gains of the Progressive movement of the 30’s and New Deal era became their dream.
Republicans deny that government-imposed worker rights created the greatest economic boom and the biggest middle class in history, and are determined to abolish the 40-hour work week, weekends, vacations, child labor laws, minimum wage, Social Security, as well as health and safety protections. All of those worker rights protected the labor force from wage slavery and predatory employers Republicans are now fighting for to bring back wage-free ceaseless labor. The economic studies director at the Cato Institute, Jeffrey Miron, is an avid supporter of the Koch brothers, ALEC, and Chamber of Commerce business model that believe “The federal government, in particular, shouldn’t be involved in labor markets in any way, shape or form.”
Americans should be well aware that Cato’s once-radical point of view is now the mainstream Republican agenda that newly anointed “friend-of-the-poor” Paul Ryan represents by opposing any form of minimum wage increase as an affront to “job creators” that destroys the “dignity of working” for slave wages. In fact, there is a concerted effort by Republicans who contend the path to prosperity is dependent on abolishing the minimum wage whether it is Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander or Texas Governor Rick Perry and his Texas ally Representative Joe Barton. The Republican Senate candidates in North Carolina and Iowa have made abolishing the minimum wage a pillar of their campaigns and with Koch money buying their Senate seats, it is a just a matter of time before all Americans will be earning slave wages if they are paid at all.
Americans have witnessed blatant Republican hypocrisy over the past month they put on display again by making deceitful arguments against the President’s proposed changes even though they supported George W. Bush when he did the precisely the same thing. In 2004 Bush updated overtime rules by raising the minimum threshold from $250.00 per week to $455.00, and the President’s actions were long overdue given the current economy, income inequality, inflation, and cost of living increases. However, what was beneficial for workers and economic growth ten years ago under a white guy in the White House with a Republican Congress is suddenly an attack on business and economic destruction by an overreaching Black man in the Oval Office. Republicans portray President Obama’s executive order to help workers and the economy as destroying America, but when the white president unilaterally expanded rules for overtime pay it was beneficial and right. When the Black President does it he is a radical tyrant and unconstitutionally overreaching imperial President bordering on treason for protecting workers from predatory employers that have been forcing employees to work for free.
Under the current system, employers have enjoyed forcing salaried employees earning poverty wages to work for free which is the Republican idea of the perfect minimum wage. Slave owners in the Confederacy also believed working for free was an ideal minimum wage and they fought as hard as Republicans pushing wage slavery to perpetuate their workforce’s labor for sheer survival. Any American who thinks Republicans will never go so far as to abolish the minimum wage should remember it has only been a few months since House Republicans voted to abolish overtime pay, and if they think for one second the GOP will stop there they have either not been paying attention or are part of the 1% fighting against labor. However, they will likely figure it out when they earn $1 an hour at an 80-hour work-week job with no lunch break, workplace safety protections, weekends, and a toilet facility comprising a bucket they will be forced to empty after their 18-hour shift ends and not be paid.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.