Pressure for More Pay
“WE WANT MORE PAY!” That is the demand heard with growing force in many nations these days.
Pressure for more pay reached a new high in the United States during March. Government workers walked off their jobs. Why? Because their pay demands were not met. So about 200,000 post-office employees went on strike against their employer—the federal government of the United States.
There were many other strikes and threats of strikes. Private companies and city governments were affected as well as the federal government. And in most cases, the main demand was for more pay.
Why the cry for more pay by so many people today? Where will it all end? What is the remedy?
One reason why workers in so many countries are pressuring for more pay is rising prices. Prices of goods and services are on the increase.
Last year the United States saw its cost of living rise more than 5 percent on the average. During the first half of 1970 there was no letup, but living costs continued to rise at about the same high rate. However, the price of many items rose far more rapidly. For example, note the following increases in some food prices in the past year:
Item Price Increase
Onions 30 %
Bacon 22 %
Pork chops 14 %
Hamburger 13 %
Price rises were also far above average for many nonfood items, such as these:
Item Price Increase
Bus fare 16.0 %
Woman’s wool skirt 15.9 %
Air fare, coach 13.6 %
Auto insurance premium 13.0 %
Hospital room, semiprivate 12.3 %
Woman’s casual shoes 10.8 %
The rise in the cost of living has squeezed the pocketbooks of wage earners. A Chicago taxi driver stated to U.S. News & World Report: “You can hardly eat.” He said that his family tries to stretch their food purchases by obtaining cheaper cuts of meat and eating more stews.
An accountant in Michigan declared: “We certainly aren’t living better. When my wife told me that eggs cost 80 cents a dozen, I told her to stop buying eggs. Now I have oatmeal for breakfast. To save money, we buy milk at the market instead of having it delivered at home. We’ve given up our custom of having steak for dinner at least once a month.”
A Houston housewife stated: “I come out of the grocery store in tears. I shop once a week, and every week I find items that have gone up 4 or 5 cents. You can’t cut down on the amount your family eats, but you can cut down on what they eat.”
How strange is the situation that has developed! In some lands people cannot get enough to eat. But in the United States, a ‘land of plenty,’ some people cannot eat what they want because of rising prices.
In addition to rising prices, taxes also have increased. In 1939 taxes of all kinds—federal, state and local—took 19 cents out of every dollar in the United States. But in 1969, taxes took 36 cents out of every dollar—more than one-third of a person’s income. Never in the country’s history had taxes taken so much.
Thus the workingman expects constantly rising prices and taxes. So when negotiating for wage increases workers press for enough to cover the rise in the cost of living for the next few years. And they also feel that when those few years are up, they will have to ask for more increases.
Want What Others Have
In this age of radio and television, people note the material things advertised. They want their share of them. They also hear of the increases in pay others are getting, and they want theirs.
Workers also notice the example of their leaders. They saw, for instance, what the Congress of the United States did in regard to its own pay increase. Early in 1969 Congress quickly voted itself, and other high officials, these salary increases:
Position Old Salary New Salary % Increase
President $100,000 $200,000 100.0
Member 35,000 60,000 71.4
Justice 39,500 60,000 51.9
Congress 30,000 42,500 41.7
In addition, these officials get many ‘fringe’ benefits. U.S. News & World Report noted: “Added up, annual ‘fringes’ can total more than $400,000 for a Senator and $150,000 for a Representative. Yet many of these allowances are inadequate, in the view of many members.”
Workers see that government officials, in a matter of days, legislate huge pay increases for themselves. But postal employees waited months for the government to act on their requests for a pay increase. It did not come. Frustrated, the postal workers went on strike. The New York Times declared: “The taxpayers have no right to expect Federal workers to make sacrifices to stem inflation when everyone else is practicing the ‘gimme’ philosophy.”
The Times also said: “Some think we are seeing the results of an atmosphere of selfishness in which every man is encouraged to get his. . . . In any case, in the absence of any nobler agreed social goal, people want and expect more money.”
However, not all practice the ‘gimme’ philosophy. There are hundreds of thousands of persons who are relatively free from the anxieties about money. These work hard for their living, but they have learned and benefited from the truth that Jesus uttered when he said: “Never be anxious and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or, ‘What are we to drink?’ or, ‘What are we to put on?’ For all these are the things the nations are eagerly pursuing. For your heavenly Father knows you need all these things. Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.”—Matt. 6:31-33.
Persons who concentrate on making money, but take little or no time to study God’s Word and to associate with those who truly love and serve God, are not finding contentment. But those who put God first in their lives, who are ‘content with food and covering’ and are ‘free from the love of money,’ find great satisfaction in life. (1 Tim. 6:8; Heb. 13:5) As they do their part, God does his and their daily needs are met without undue anxiety.
The majority of people in the world, however, do not apply Bible principles and so do not benefit from them. Hence, they feel they must take any course, even defiance of the law, to get more pay.
Defiance of Law
In the United States there are laws that forbid government and city employees to strike. Violators can be discharged, and in some cases fined up to $1,000 and imprisoned for a year.
But the pressure for more pay is so strong now that these laws are being defied. When mailmen walked off their jobs it marked a defiance of federal law. Court orders to get them back to work were also ignored. So were the pleas of union leaders. The mailmen felt that the only language the government understood was their use of power, the power to cripple the mail service and affect the entire economy of the country.
So serious was the strike that President Nixon told a nationwide audience: “What is at issue is the survival of a Government based on law.” He then declared a national emergency and called up National Guard troops to help with the mail. Incidentally, these troops were civilians who had to leave their jobs and families, resulting in loss to their employers and loved ones.
About a week after the postal workers struck, air traffic controllers, who are employees of the Federal Aviation Administration, began to call in ‘sick’ and not report for work. They were using this tactic to protest working conditions. These controllers perform a vital function at airports, directing air traffic. By staying home they caused a massive slowdown of air traffic.
In many cities, municipal employees have gone out on strike. Teachers, sanitation workers, city workers and other civil servants have defied laws forbidding such strikes. Even policemen have gone out on strike. And New York city’s police force threatened to walk off their jobs if their demands were not met. Of course, the public suffers when city employees strike, because important services are curtailed. So it can be said that the public is held ‘hostage’ as part of the pressure for more pay.
Thus there is a growing trend toward defying the law in the demands for more pay. There is less willingness to come to an agreement ahead of time on the part of both officials and workers. It is just as the Bible foretold of our time: People are “not open to any agreement.”—2 Tim. 3:3.
Who Pays for It?
It is estimated that pay increases in the United States now average about 8 to 10 percent a year. In West Germany wages rose an average of 14 percent last year. In England, the rise is about 12 percent a year. Who pays for all these increases?
An example of who eventually pays was seen in the case of the post-office workers who were promised a raise—the mail rates are to be increased. So everybody who uses the mail pays more. Another example was seen when New York city tugboat crews struck for more pay. They got a huge raise, more than 50 percent. But tugboat operators said they would raise the rates they charge for their tug services by about 40 percent. The New York Times of April 3, 1970, commented:
“It is true that the tug crews and their families do not hire tugs so they can shrug off the increased bill for harbor movement. But that, too, is a delusive measuring rod. Every increase in transportation costs filters into the general economy; every oversized wage agreement causes every other union to raise its sights.
“Unions run faster and faster to keep up with the soaring cost of living, but the money runs out of their pay envelopes as fast as they get it. That has been the record through all of the last four years, and the end is nowhere in sight.”
That is the sad reality of all the pressures for more pay. Eventually the wage earner himself pays for it in higher prices for goods and services, and more taxes. Companies and governments simply charge more to pay for the increases.
So while workers get pay raises, their overall economic situation hardly improves. In many cases it has worsened. In four years the weekly wage of the average factory worker in the United States went up from $107 to $129. On paper, that seems to be an improvement. But he actually ended up poorer! How so? The wage increase did not equal the increase in prices and taxes during that same period. His greater pay was worth about a dollar less in purchasing power!
What Is the Remedy?
The situation in regard to prices and taxes and pressure for more pay is causing great frustration and unhappiness. How obvious it is that man’s economic systems are not working for the benefit of all. And imagine the plight of the old, poor or sick who are on low or fixed incomes, who get little or no pay increases to combat inflation!
Should you expect the economic situation to be corrected? Well, is that likely when so many groups are pulling in different directions? No, because there is too much selfishness and too little concern for the welfare of others.
What is really needed is a system of government that will work for the good of all. But where is there such a government today? If we honestly face facts, we must see that however sincere officials may be, no human government today is able to satisfy the proper desires of all its people.
What is needed is a central government that will be above selfish interests, a government that has the wisdom, power and right to control all economic affairs and to make needed changes that benefit all. No human government fits those requirements. The only government that can and will do all this is the kingdom of God, the heavenly government for which Jesus taught his followers to pray.—Matt. 6:9, 10.
No, the hope for such a government is not ‘pie in the sky,’ a promise for some indefinite future. Bible prophecy shows that the time for God’s world government to take complete control of all earth’s affairs is very near. When it does, no one will ever have to pressure for more pay, for the Bible says to God: “You are opening your hand and satisfying the desire of every living thing.”—Ps. 145:16.