When the federal minimum wage was first introduced, it was meant to give workers just enough money to survive. As time passed and the price of living inflated, the federal minimum wage, now at $7.25 per hour, hardly does what it was designed to do. From a conflict theorist’s perspective, if the minimum wage does not increase, it is only inevitable before something goes wrong.
Conflict theory is about how society is made up of groups that clash over scarce resources. In the case of the minimum wage, said resource is money. However, where the issue lies, is that money is not necessarily a “scarce resource”. The main problem in the debate of whether to raise the minimum wage is that, if they were to do so, they would need to lay off many employees to pay the remaining ones and keep the businesses afloat. Hoffower (2019) took a look at the CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, who makes something like $78.5 billion annually; when broken down further, that is about $2,498 a second. Doing the math, a worker earning minimum wage would need to work approximately eight weeks to see that amount of money. If billionaires such as Bezos were not so concerned with maintaining their billionaire status, this disparity in wealth would not be so high. According to Abdallah (2015), the United Nations estimates that it would take $30 billion to end world hunger for a year, and Bezos makes twice that, and he’s not the only person making and keeping that sort of money. The reason that so many people are well below the poverty line is that people like Bezos exploit the labor of the working class to keep themselves wealthy.
The exploitation of the working class–the proletariat–by the wealthy capitalists–the bourgeoisie–leads to another main point of conflict theory: the eventual revolt. When Karl Marx established the conflict theory, he believed that when the proletariat realized that they were not being given enough by the bourgeoisie, and were in fact being used/manipulated to keep the upper class happy, the working class would band together to fight against the oppression they face (Henslin, 2012/2019, p. 246). Continuing with the previous example, just last year in November 2018, employees of the company Amazon went on strike–they rebelled, as Marx predicted. Hamilton (2018) reported that thousands of Amazon workers all across Europe were protesting the “inhuman conditions” they were forced to work with, announcing that “[they] are not robots,” in five different languages. This is just a small example of what Marx had in mind, what with there only being one capitalist a small section of workers is rebelling against, but it really shows how seriously the bourgeoisie should take the treatment of their workers. While this example ended with the workers getting a small raise and being mostly content (enough to stop the strike, in any case), there will come a day when the proletariat does not get complacent with getting the bare minimum. The way the rich act as if the poor should be grateful for their scraps, it is only a matter of time before people revolt in a bigger way.
The federal minimum wage needs to be increased if only to keep the world satisfied before another strike occurs. If the minimum wage does not increase, the next time the people revolt, it will not be like the Amazon strike, which lasted a day and barely had an effect on the rest of the world. Instead, it may be more similar to what happened during the American government shutdown in 2018-2019, but with a more widespread impact for all involved.
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