Contact Mazarine: (503) 673-FUND (3863)

What do the fast-food strikes have to do with us nonprofit workers?

Maybe you don’t know about this, but fast food workers are striking all across the USA now, organized, in part, by the SEIU.

Billions and Billions of mcdollars are at stake for millions of workers’ lives.

This new article at by Matt Brunig that is ostensibly about fast food workers reminds me very much of the people that work in our nonprofits today.

How so?

We have the lowest wages of any sector, in management occupations.


Brunig writes:

“Partnering or marrying is too risky and otherwise unattractive given the realities and stresses of dual precarity. Child-bearing is hard to undertake in a way that won’t be totally ruinous.”

“Without these markers then, it is a life of arrested development and unimaginable stress and misery.

The workers live in small duplexes, apartments, or trailer homes, occasionally doubled up with family.

They often lose their jobs and, lacking a strong safety net, run up credit card debts to get by, which they then can never pay off.

When they are in a job, they cling on tightly even when they might want to take a risk for advancement elsewhere because they cannot afford that risk.

Those from poor, working class backgrounds who do manage to pull through college can find themselves right back where they started if they do not acquire the necessary social and cultural capital that actually allows an individual to convert credentials into better living.

Existing in this part of the labor market is really just that: existing.

It is not just that the pay is low and that causes objective material hardship.

It is also that living in this part of the labor market is hardly living at all.

What is a life that does not progress?

What is an adult life, in this society, where it is impossible to save money, impossible to partner, impossible to have and adequately support children, impossible to have a stable, anchoring job, and impossible to even secure a stable residency whether through buying a home or otherwise?

What we do when we put people in this position is eliminate their access to the capabilities that form the very core of what we (and they) generally consider the good life to be.

As these strikes unfold and all sorts of cynical and snarky commentary flies out of the mouths of those who can or will be able to access the very kind of life that these folks are denied, really consider what we are doing here as a society.

A whole underclass of people is being produced that is systematically denied the kind of basic life course that most people value and that forms the content of almost all popular representations of adult living.

Through precarity and material poverty, these individuals are being essentially closed off from living in our society.”

They are being cast off into a lonely life where there are no personal projects, no stable families, no strong relationships, no persistent household, and no real community; instead, there is just work and bare survival.

Nearly everyone I know who works at an entry-level nonprofit job lives like this. They get roommates and they survive.

They have to apply for jobs that pay only $15 an hour, or less. They can’t save. They don’t get overtime.

They are working themselves to the bone, holding onto these jobs in hope of a better life, but meanwhile, delaying all of these traditional markers of adulthood which some of us would really like to have.

And they don’t get raises.

They’re lucky to hold on long enough to get a yearly performance review.

What do we do?

Pay our nonprofit staff more. Put it in the budget. Pay them an hourly wage that is at least $20 per hour, and let them work less if your nonprofit can’t afford that.

I’ll bet they will be grateful to work less and get paid more per hour, and they will work harder and better for you too.

Don’t doom your nonprofit workers to a life like the ones the fast food workers also have.

Are you an underpaid nonprofit worker?

Leave a comment.

Are you a staffer who agrees that nonprofit workers should be paid more?

Let us know how YOU would solve this issue.

Comments are closed.