Raising Idaho’s minimum wage is only the beginning. Next, bail out the workers!

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Many people I’ve spoken with lately have been understandably peeved (“pissed” may be a more apt description) at the government’s “theft” of their wages. However, for all the anger with which I deeply empathize, I have yet to meet a conservative (or liberal) who can explain why the government takes our money beyond a “we need it” or “they say we need it” dogma.

I for one, want to know why we need welfare at all. Why do we have people, many of whom working, who cannot afford to survive on their own. The conservative argument tends to go something like “we could afford charity if we weren’t taxed by the government” which is maybe 1 percent true. I, for one, am not entirely convinced. I think we would be able to afford charity and take care of our poor (working or not) if the working class had rights to the product of our labor.

As a worker your labor is priceless to your employer, the capitalist. Despite being paid a meager $12/hr as a starting wage at Walmart, without you to do the work of selling, stocking, preparing, etc. the products, the ownership class would not make any profit. To the bosses, we are worth far more than we are paid. As a worker, we can choose to be concerned with the 7 percent or so that the government takes from our checks (which really seems to be more the worry of the capitalist, owning class) or we can recognize that, despite the government taking 7 percent of what we are paid, we are only paid, in many cases, less than 10 percent of the product of our labor.

This is the logic behind FairWageID.org’s campaign to #RaisetheWageID to $12/hr, which will lift many workers out of poverty. A higher minimum wage lets the bosses take less of the wealth we produce, thereby allowing for a more just distribution of profits.

This logic is also behind the Democratic Socialist call for The Right of First Refusal, which would allow the workers of a failed capitalist enterprise (or an unpatriotic company moving their jobs to Mexico or China) the first opportunity to buy the assets from the company that is shuttering their workplace. The workers, if they vote with a simple majority to buy, will receive a loan from the government to run the enterprise as a worker-owned cooperative where workers democratically elect, hire, and fire the bosses. Imagine if such a policy had existed since 1980!

Labor would qualitatively change, and automation would mean more vacations, not more layoffs! Had this been practiced since 1980 (and not terrible Trickle Down), the Rust Belt may have survived NAFTA and the fall in unionization (and still be called the Industrial Belt).

Such a policy is feasible for Idaho on a state level. We may wish to look to the Preston Model in the UK, which under the leadership of the Labour Party has implemented similar policies locally.

If you want to learn more about these ideas, go to DemocracyatWork.info, and join North Idaho Democratic Socialists online @NorthIdahoDSA on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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