Something needs to be said about the UNICCO strike and its relation to the law of supply and demand. The workers that are striking, and the professors that have signed a letter of support, obviously do not understand this law. Supply and demand not only apply to economics, but they also apply to the value of labor and often determine wages.
As human beings, especially in an open-minded nation like the U.S.A., we often let sympathy alter our vision of what is fact and what is fiction. The fact of the matter with the current UNICCO problem is that there is no specific reason supporters of the workers can point to and say, “This is why they have earned more money.” The desire for a “living wage” by workers and supporters is irrelevant. Show me what you or they have done to constitute higher wages.
Oftentimes, when workers request larger wages they have normally: 1) gained a new skill which makes their labor more valuable and enables them to perform new tasks or 2) there is a lack in supply of workers in that worker’s respective field. To my knowledge, there has not been a great advancement of human skill on the part of the UNICCO workers when it comes to sanitizing facilities and landscaping. And anyone who believes there is a lack of humans that can perform the tasks UNICCO workers perform is an absolute fool. Please remember that ability to perform a task and desiring to perform one are different.
The most important issue of the UNICCO problem is this: There is an enormous supply of humans that can clean and landscape. Because of this fact, UNICCO workers do not receive much compensation. Furthermore, they should not receive much. They are easily replaceable. This is why the managers at UNICCO make more than the your average Joe that refills the paper towels. This is why a mechanical engineering major will make more than a psychology major his/her first years of work. This is why a coach is more valuable than a water boy. The less of a desired commodity there is and the more difficult it is to become or achieve that commodity, the more valuable the commodity is.
And a word or two for the supporting professors: Define hypocrisy. You, the most specialized of the specialized, the ones posting your doctorate degrees in pretty wooden frames, the most devout academics in our country, you are supporting an increase in wages of humans that haven’t earned it?! Heard of [a v -a]? The Ph.D.s at UM have spent multiple, grueling years of mental work in order to be where they are today. Would you not be irate to learn that people who never earned Ph.D.s were simply being given the degrees? Sure, some of you think UNICCO workers have earned this “living wage.” E-mail me please and inform me how they have earned it. One has to earn something before one deserves it. Would you give me a grade because I have hungry children at home if it would help them?
So when you are making your decision to support this strike or refuse to do so, please remember one of the main reasons you are getting (or already received) your degree: to separate yourself from the other six billion people on this pale blue dot, to be able to rely on something other than skills that any able bodied human possesses, to be something other than ordinary.
Joe Baxter is a senior majoring in philosophy. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.