Black Friday is a good time to reflect on the need for better minimum wages.
Both Walmart and McDonalds have recently come under fire for practices that acknowledge their employees are struggling financially yet make no move to pay them a livable wage. This November, a Walmart in Ohio had bins that let employees donate food to other employees so they could eat on Thanksgiving. A McDonalds website that gives tips to its employees recommended that they sell holiday gifts to make quick cash, cut their food into smaller portions so they feel like they’ve eaten more, apply for food stamps, get a second job, and to "Stop complaining. Stress hormones rise by 15 percent after 10 minutes of complaining."
On television and in real life, home health aides are an underpaid, overworked, and invisible workforce. Like Elisa (Salma Hayek) on season three of 30 Rock, they feed, bathe, cook, and clean for the nation's elderly folks and people with disabilities in their homes. Yet these workers struggle to make ends meet; on average, they make less than $10 an hour. They receive no overtime pay, and their work can often be physically demanding. Moreover, home health aides work in private residences where their labor receives little oversight and where they lack a support network to help them advocate for better compensation. And these injustices to home health aides matter now more than ever because—guess what?—with a growing elderly population, it's the fastest growing occupation in the U.S.
So while Elisa's plight is played for laughs against Jack's one-percenter lifestyle, the sitcom offers a surprisingly frank glimpse of an undervalued workforce, one that's comprised overwhelmingly of women and women of color—and one that hides in plain sight in homes all across America.
"The average farmworker lived 49 years—compared to 70 years for the white majority in the United States. A migrant worker's baby was twice as likely to die as babies of other people. Farmworkers were three times as likely as other people to get tuberculosis, three times as likely to get hurt on the job, and were the lowest-paid workers in the country."
Jessie de la Cruz grew up in these conditions, and as one of the first female organizers of the United Farmworkers of America, devoted her life to make sure that others wouldn't have to.
The success of Senator Al Franken's anti-rape amendment is one step towards greater culpability for sexual assault and sexual harassment on the job. This week's Feministory is another case involving labor, sexual harassment, and Minnesota: the first sexual harassment class action lawsuit.
Tyrone Freeman, master of the secret arts of douchebaggery and former president of the United Long-Term Care Workers, a labor union in Los Angeles, has been banned for life from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) for "misappropriating" over $1 million dollars of the union members' dues money.