Thanks and giving: Why Wal-Mart “Black Friday” strikes are important

November 22, 2012 | | The Washington Post |

“Black Friday” sales are debt traps for people to rush out and buy on credit.

But we can fix this on both the wage and profit ends of the continuum. It’s not that complex a fix, but it requires seeing our country as a whole, as one people who rise and fall together.

We can fix this whole mess and have something for which we could really give thanks, if we just paid workers a little more.

Demos, a policy research group, has just released a study, Retail’s Hidden Potential: How Raising Wages Would Benefit Workers, the Industry and the Overall Economy, that shows the “broad benefits that would be gained if the nation’s largest retailers established a voluntary wage floor of $25,000 for full-time, year-round employees.”

What? Yes. As Bob Herbert writes, just paying workers comparatively a little more would lift the whole economy and benefit American companies overall. It’s not a “pie-in-the-sky” approach, but a real, private sector solution. In fact, writes Herbert, this is one way the U.S. got to be the powerful economy it is.

“There is a tendency as we look back through the comforting mists of memory to forget that the manufacturing jobs that lifted so many millions of Americans into the middle class in the 20th century started out as lousy jobs. They paid little and the working conditions were often atrocious, even life-threatening. The transformation of those jobs into well-paying, secure employment -- with benefits -- helped drive the American economy to heights that made it the envy of the world,” he wrote.