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The underclass

(article, Culinate staff)

Factory workers. Farm workers. Fast-food workers. None of them earn much, and few of them have the time, energy, or skills to advocate for themselves. Which is why, for example, recent worker-rights news has included the following:

# An effort by the United Farm Workers to improve working conditions for dairy employees.
# An exposé by the journalist David Bacon on the lives of migrant strawberry workers in Tule Lake, California, where the workers live in conditions not dissimilar to those of the town's World War II internment camp.
# An economics-based argument by the journalist Twilight Greenaway in favor of paying fast-food workers a living wage.

Greenaway's piece pointed out that the annual cost to taxpayers of helping out underpaid fast-food workers equals the annual profits of America's fast-food corporations: $7 billion in taxes, $7 billion in profits. In other words, all U.S. taxpayers subsidize fast food, whether they eat it or not.

Meanwhile, the federal food-stamp program has been in the news for benefit reductions that began this month. As the New York Times noted, the dollar losses to each recipient are small — $9 here, $15 there — but the net result is that more and more Americans will be turning to food pantries and soup kitchens to stay fed. 

Those recipients include many Walmart workers, who have also been in the news lately for challenging a Walmart Thanksgiving-donation program. The program asks for donations so that Walmart employees won't go hungry on Thanksgiving. Many Walmart workers say they would prefer instead to earn a living wage.