Re "Getting worked up over low wage," Column One, Sept. 10
Thank you for reminding readers that fast-food workers are pitifully underpaid. KFC employee and union activist Naquasia LeGrand's story is inspirational. Her struggle for fairness is the struggle of many hardworking people who are not getting a fair deal.
I am sure there are millions like me who think nothing of popping into a fast-food restaurant for a quick, cheap meal. It's good to be reminded of one of the reasons the meal is so cheap: The workers are paid so little.
Re "Unions need broader focus," Column, Sept. 10
Sandy Banks asks: "With wages dropping and jobs disappearing for college-educated workers, how do we square $15 an hour at McDonald's with our country's message that education is the best and surest way into the middle class?"
We can't. Nowadays, a well-educated American has scarcely more job security than an unskilled one. Does that devalue education, or is it really devaluing work itself?
More and more, the jobs that remain are service jobs that cannot be outsourced and have traditionally been considered low wage. But why? Don't we all know, deep down, that farm workers, preschool teachers and healthcare aides (for example) perform some of the hardest and most important work, and at the lowest wages?
If we were to acknowledge the value of all work and support it with decent compensation, we would see both our society and our economy thrive.
Banks' question misses the fact that the middle class was never defined as only educated people. The middle class also included factory workers whose jobs were sent overseas. The lower margin of the middle class is best defined as "making a living wage."
Additionally, jobs for educated people are also disappearing. My wake-up call came when I realized how many university-educated people work in local retail. Recently, a young Goodwill employee answered my question about her high school by saying she had already graduated — from Cal State Los Angeles.
The problem is that the minimum wage has not kept up with inflation. Manufacturing jobs can be exported; workers whose jobs can't should have the opportunity to move up to the middle class.
Rebecca Ann Aguirre