Should Garbage Collectors Be Allowed to Live?

Is this thing on?: Last week, Buzz revealed our brilliant plan for a compromise on the fight over Love Field concessions contracts. Our scheme involved the city council bargaining with the companies selling food, drink and retail goods at the airport to get the companies to pay their workers better. We "floated" our idea past a couple of council people...well, "sank" might a better word, since the living wage movement is pretty much dead here.

That's why we're a little reluctant to bring this up, but did you know that last weekend about 100 members of United Labor Unions Local 100 marched in South Dallas to protest city sanitation workers' pay? Many of the guys who load the garbage onto trucks are $7.25-an-hour minimum-wage day laborers employed by a private contractor. The city council last month discussed requiring the contractor to pay the workers a so-called "living wage" of $8.88 an hour, which would have boosted residential garbage fees by about 30 cents a month. We're not sure what the council's definition of "living" is—maybe in a box under a bridge—but in any event it was too rich for the council's blood, and they stuck with the minimum wage. Obviously, Buzz's bright idea is going nowhere with these cheap-asses, since Star Concessions Ltd., which operates the food concessions at Love Field, pays its hourly workers an average of $9.07 per hour.

What's interesting about these numbers is that whenever an Observer reporter writes that laborers would like more money, the general response among our readers is, "If they don't like their low pay, let 'em get an MBA and a better job or fuck off and starve. Someone else will do their shit jobs, probably for less. Whiners."

Buzz finds that response perplexing. Does anyone who's been alive for more than 10 minutes really think the labor market is rational, fair or ethical? We assume most of our readers aren't former investment bankers, so why are they so happy to see the least skilled get screwed to the wall? We ran that question by the Reverend Peter Johnson, one of the leaders of this weekend's march, who said, pretty much, that's capitalism for you.

"Capitalism is itself based on slavery, on cheating people out of their labor," Johnson says. "Something's fundamentally sinful about it." That's why Johnson is challenging local church leaders to speak up for garbage collectors. "Why aren't the leaders of the church standing up with the least of these?" he asks.

Probably because there's no money in it.

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Patrick Williams is editor-in-chief of the Dallas Observer.
Contact: Patrick Williams