When 200 New York City fast-food workers walked off their jobs in November 2012, their demand of $15 an hour seemed like a fantasy.
But over the weekend, as more than 1,000 fast-food workers from 50 cities gathered in Chicago for the first-ever nationwide fast-food workers convention, the workers' call for $15 looked prescient.
In a little less than two years, the call for $15 per hour has spread far beyond the fast-food industry -- indeed, in its power to inspire all low-wage workers, the "Fight for 15" is akin to the movement for the 8-hour day roughly two centuries ago.
While it's commonly taken for granted, today's standard 8-hour workday did not arrive by accident -- it began as a near-utopian demand from workers in industries like mining, construction, and manufacturing, where 15-hour days were the norm.
But under pressure from strikes that gradually spread across the country, a growing number of cities and companies began granting 8-hour workdays near the end of the 19th century -- and eventually, this standard 40-hour workweek was extended to workers nationwide. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, signed into law by President Roosevelt in 1938.
The call for a $15 per hour wage similarly began as an over-the-horizon demand from fast-food workers stuck in jobs that offer no benefits, limited hours, and a median hourly wage of only $8.69 per hour. Today, however, following nearly two years of strikes by fast-food workers, low-wage workers of all types have taken up the call for $15 per hour -- and this growing movement is already getting results.
For example, in Baltimore earlier this month, service workers at Johns Hopkins Hospital reached a tentative agreement, after the threat of continued strikes, for a groundbreaking pay raise to $15 per hour. If finalized, this pay raise would substantially boost the wages of hundreds of low-paid janitors, cooks, housekeepers, and technicians, many of whom earn just above $10 per hour today.
In Michigan, hamburger chain Moo Cluck Moo raised wages to $15. And out west, workers in the Los Angeles Unified School System--the nation's second largest--just won a near doubling of their wages, to $15. Also in Los Angeles, a proposal to establish a $15 per hour minimum wage for hotel workers throughout the city won unanimous approval from the City Council's Economic Development Committee earlier this year, setting the stage for a vote in the full City Council in the coming months. Local leaders in LA credited the "tremendous energy" created by striking low-wage workers across the country in spurring progress on this proposal.
In November, voters in SeaTac, Washington approved the nation's first $15 minimum wage. And in June, the city of Seattle officially answered the rallying cry of fast food workers, approving the nation's first $15 citywide minimum wage. This historic development was followed just weeks later by the announcement of an agreement in San Francisco -- backed by local businesses -- to refer a measure setting a $15 citywide minimum wage to the city's voters this November.
It's not hard to understand why the Fight for 15 would inspire workers across the economy to take action. Much like the 15-hour days that characterized America's 19th-century industrial economy, stagnant wages and low pay are the "new normal" for millions of workers in the U.S.
For four decades wages have flat-lined even as worker productivity has continued to grow, and low-wage jobs now form the core of America's economy, comprising 8 of the 10 occupations with the largest projected growth over the next decade.
Looking ahead, we can ask: Which state will be the first to set a $15 minimum wage? Which big fast-food company will be the first to guarantee a minimum hourly wage that is double the industry standard? When can we expect to see a living wage become a core labor standard guaranteed to all workers across the country?
As fast-food workers gathered in Chicago to plot their next steps, one thing was clear: Their $15 demand could soon be as ordinary as the 8-hour day.
Jack Temple is a policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project.
This is a long human life in years:
And here's a human life in months:
But today, we're going to look at a human life in weeks:
Each row of weeks makes up one year. That's how many weeks it takes to turn a newborn into a 90-year-old.
It kind of feels like our lives are made up of a countless number of weeks. But there they are -- fully countable -- staring you in the face.
Before we discuss things further, let's look at how a typical American spends their weeks:
There are some other interesting ways to use the weeks chart:
But how about your weeks?
Sometimes life seems really short, and other times it seems impossibly long. But this chart helps to emphasize that it's most certainly finite. Those are your weeks and they're all you've got.
Given that fact, the only appropriate word to describe your weeks is precious. There are trillions upon trillions of weeks in eternity, and those are your tiny handful. Going with the "precious" theme, let's imagine that each of your weeks is a small gem, like a 2mm, .05 carat diamond. Here's one:
Looking at this spoon of diamonds, there's one very clear question to ask: "Are you making the most of your weeks?"
In thinking about my own weeks and how I tend to use them, I decided that there are two good ways to use a diamond:
1) Enjoying the diamond
2) Building something to make your future diamonds or the diamonds of others more enjoyable
In other words, you have this small spoonful of diamonds and you really want to create a life in which they're making you happy. And if a diamond is not making you happy, it should only be because you're using it to make other diamonds go down better -- either your own in the future or those of others. In the ideal situation, you're well balanced between #1 and #2 and you're often able to accomplish both simultaneously (like those times when you love your job).
Of course, if a diamond is enjoyable but by enjoying it you're screwing your future diamonds (an Instant Gratification Monkey specialty), that's not so good. Likewise, if you're using diamond after diamond to build something for your future, but it's not making you happy and seems like a long-term thing with no end in sight, that's not great either.
But the worst possible way to use a diamond is by accomplishing neither #1 nor #2 above. Sometimes "neither" happens when you're in either the wrong career or the wrong relationship, and it's often a symptom of either a shortage of courage, self-discipline, or creativity. Sometimes "neither" happens because of a debilitating problem.
We've all had Neither Weeks and they don't feel good. And when a long string of Neither Weeks happens, you become depressed, frustrated, hopeless, and a bunch of other upsetting adjectives. It's inevitable to have Neither Weeks, and sometimes they're important -- it's often a really bad Neither Week that leads you to a life-changing epiphany -- but trying to minimize your Neither Weeks is a worthy goal.
It can all be summed up like this:
The Life Calendar
One of the ways we end up in NeitherLand is by not thinking about things hard enough -- so one of the most critical skills is continual reflection and self-awareness. Otherwise, you can fall into an unconscious rut and waste a bunch of precious diamonds.
To help both you and ourselves stay conscious and avoid NeitherLand, we've created a Life Calendar that lays out every week of your life on one sheet of paper. We don't typically bring products into posts, but in this case, they go hand-in-hand.
The calendar is a 24″ by 36″ poster on high-quality blueprint-style paper, made to be written on and last for decades. It costs $15 and you can buy it here.
Besides the purpose of encouraging regular reflection, we hope the calendar can help you feel more oriented in your life, help you set goals and hold yourself to them, and remind you to be proud of yourself for what you've accomplished and grateful for the diamonds in your spoon.
How you use the calendar is totally open for creativity. Some possibilities:
Both the week chart above and the life calendar are a reminder to me that this grid of empty boxes staring me in the face is mine. We tend to feel locked into whatever life we're living, but this pallet of empty boxes can be absolutely whatever we want it to be. Everyone you know, everyone you admire, every hero in history -- they did it all with that same grid of empty boxes.
The boxes can also be a reminder that life is forgiving. No matter what happens each week, you get a new fresh box to work with the next week. It makes me want to skip the New Year's Resolutions -- they never work anyway -- and focus on making New Week's Resolutions every Sunday night. Each blank box is an opportunity to crush the week -- a good thing to remember.
More ways to put life in perspective from Wait But Why:
More from Wait But Why:
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. (AP) — Frank Thomas choked back tears, Joe Torre apologized for leaving people out of his speech and Tony La Russa said he felt uneasy.
Being enshrined in the Hall of Fame can have those effects, even on the greats.
Thomas, pitchers Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, and managers Bobby Cox, Torre and La Russa were inducted into the baseball shrine Sunday, and all paid special tribute to their families before an adoring crowd of nearly 50,000.
"I'm speechless. Thanks for having me in your club," Thomas said, getting emotional as he remembered his late father. "Frank Sr., I know you're watching. Without you, I know 100 percent I wouldn't be here in Cooperstown today. You always preached to me, 'You can be someone special if you really work at it.' I took that to heart, Pop."
"Mom, I thank you for all the motherly love and support. I know it wasn't easy."
The 46-year old Thomas, the first player elected to the Hall who spent more than half of his time as a designated hitter, batted .301 with 521 home runs and 1,704 RBIs in a 19-year career mostly with the Chicago White Sox. He's the only player in major league history to log seven straight seasons with a .300 average, 20 homers, 100 RBIs and 100 walks.
Ever the diplomat as a manager, Torre somehow managed to assuage the most demanding of owners in George Steinbrenner, maintaining his coolness amid all the Bronx craziness while keeping all those egos in check after taking over in 1996. The result: 10 division titles, six AL pennants and four World Series triumphs in 12 years as he helped restore the luster to baseball's most successful franchise and resurrected his own career after three firings.
Torre, the only man to amass more than 2,000 hits (2,342) and win more than 2,000 games as a manager, was last to speak, and in closing delivered a familiar message.
"Baseball is a game of life. It's not perfect, but it feels like it is," said the 74-year-old Torre, who apologized afterward for forgetting to include the Steinbrenner family in his speech. "That's the magic of it. We are responsible for giving it the respect it deserves. Our sport is part of the American soul, and it's ours to borrow — just for a while."
"If all of us who love baseball and are doing our jobs, then those who get the game from us will be as proud to be a part of it as we were. And we are. This game is a gift, and I am humbled, very humbled, to accept its greatest honor."
The day was a reunion of sorts for the city of Atlanta. Glavine, Maddux and Cox were part of a remarkable run of success by the Braves. They won an unprecedented 14 straight division titles and made 15 playoff appearances, winning the city's lone major professional sports title.
"I'm truly humbled to stand here before you," Cox said. "To Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, and I have to mention the third member of the big three — John Smoltz — I can honestly say I would not be standing here if it weren't for you guys."
Smoltz, part of the MLB Network telecast of the event and eligible for induction next year, flashed a smile in return for the compliment.
Glavine was on the mound when the Braves won Game 6 to clinch the 1995 World Series, pitching one-hit ball over eight innings in a 1-0 victory over Cleveland. And the slender lefty was one of those rare athletes, drafted by the Braves and the Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League.
"I had a difficult choice to make, and as a left-handed pitcher I thought that was the thing that would set me apart and make baseball the smartest decision," Glavine said. "Of course, I always wondered what would have happened had I taken up hockey."
"In my mind, since I was drafted ahead of two Hall of Famers in Luc Robitaille and Brett Hull, that obviously means I would have been a Hall of Famer in hockey, too," Glavine chuckled as the crowd cheered. "But I'm positive I made the right choice."
The 48-year-old Maddux went 355-227 with a career ERA of 3.16 in 23 seasons with the Braves, Cubs, Padres and Dodgers and ranks eighth on the career wins list. He won four straight Cy Young Awards in the 1990s and won 15 or more games for 17 straight seasons with his pinpoint control.
"I spent 12 years in Chicago, 11 in Atlanta, and both places are very special," Maddux said. "Without the experiences in both cities, I would not be standing here today."
La Russa, who ranks third in career victories as a manager with 2,728, behind only Connie Mack and John McGraw, was chosen manager of the year four times and won 12 division titles, six pennants and three World Series titles in stints with the White Sox, Oakland A's and St. Louis Cardinals.
La Russa spoke from the heart. There was no written speech.
"It's uncomfortable because I didn't make it as a player. Not even close," said La Russa, who made his big league debut as a teenage infielder with the 1963 Kansas City Athletics and appeared in just 132 games over six seasons, hitting .199 with no home runs. "Since December, I have not been comfortable with it. There's no way to mention everybody, and that bothers me."
"From managing parts of two years in the minor leagues, after thinking about all the other young managers who paid a lot of dues in the minor leagues and I get a chance and then I go into the big leagues with three organizations," he said. "All that equates to me is I'm very, very fortunate. I've never put my arms around the fact that being really lucky is a Hall of Fame credential."
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