Now that we have seen protests and prayer vigils and multi-city marches and other large demonstrations by people who feel unnerved by the recent activities of the new administration, I have an idea that may be worth considering. As a product of demonstrations of the 1960’s, I think I understand the basis for such outpourings. But today, unlike the anti-war movement or the Civil Rights movement, if any 10 demonstrators were asked what they hope to accomplish, you’d probably get no fewer than five different answers.
I believe it would be more productive to focus on one easily understood, common goal that, frankly, would be of the greatest help to women and minorities. That is, focus on wages. While it’s important to get ballot initiatives going in as many states as possible, it would be more effective for this and other issues to organize a national initiative to avoid any business that pays its employees less than $12 to $15* an hour. That means you don’t buy at a store if it pays less. You don’t buy a product from any company that pays its employees less. You don’t eat at their restaurant. You don’t patronize their theater. You refuse to share your wallet with them until they start paying a better wage.
It may sound drastic, perhaps even melodramatic. Yes, you may have to give up some products or services you love for a time. The reason I suggest this is that it is simple and direct. It makes a bold statement and impacts businesses where it hurts the most – the bottom line. Set the number at a point that recognizes differences in local economies, but make everyone meet the minimum. If the millions of people who demonstrated can coalesce around this simple idea and force businesses to change, their elected representatives at all levels will notice and take them seriously.
There are other issues of great importance and clearly of more urgency to many. What I believe, however, is there is virtually no disagreement on the need to increase the minimum wage. It is a popular notion and rather than deal with the political vagaries of who sits on which committee in which state legislature, sell the idea with an economic consequence. If this works, whatever is next will be a whole lot easier.
If the movement cannot have its members inconvenience themselves on an ongoing basis for something that matters, it is hard to believe that their opponents won’t just wait them out. If they want to change this country in a different way than what is being suggested by those in positions of authority or power, they better show a little tenacity and figure out a way to demonstrate their willingness to keep at a specific idea that requires no government enforcement.
I will write again soon on how we have come to rely on the often coercive power of government, both liberals and conservatives, rather than take our ideas to the marketplace. I suggest we start exercising our ability to organize for action and leverage the wisdom of the crowd. If the only way we can bring changes in our society is to win an election, we probably will ensure continued polarization and wild swings in policy depending on election results.
*Note – it bears mentioning that in some parts of the country there is already a movement related to a $15 per hour minimum wage that is gaining some traction. However, there are certain parts of the country where $15 per hour would be seen as another example of elites ignoring the economic reality of people’s lives.