Monday, November 27, 2006

Keeping Americans Living Below The Poverty Line Goes High Tech

The business of keeping many Americans living below the poverty line is big business in America. New businesses have even sprung up, solely to keep many Americans saddled with very low wages below the Federal poverty level.

Some fast food businesses in Beaverton, Oregon where the minimum wage stands at $7.35 an hour such as McDonalds are now using remote drive-through operators to save $4,888 a year in normal full time wages by using a Fargo, North Dakota computer and business "solutions" company, SGI. SGI actually sets up other businesses such as Verity, in a neighboring town of just about 800 persons in North Dakota, which employs 150 young women to operate computers and headsets part-time, for the lower wage of just $5.15 an hour. Hiring these women for part-time computer and drive through work avoids offering health insurance and other benefits as well, and keeps any single mothers below the Federal poverty level, relying on food stamps, public housing or public health programs if they cannot make ends meet.

North Dakota is already a low wage "right to work" state, and like other "right to work" states, the per capita income of persons in North Dakota suffers compared to free states where workers are freely able to unionize for better wages, job benefits and working conditions. North Dakota ranks as #32 in per capita income in the U.S.

Even though some McDonalds in Oregon raised prices about 10cents an item in order to help pay for the minimum wage increase in Oregon, using remote drive-through operators is now being used by some McDonalds to now lower wages. Using computer technology, the workers at the local McDonalds receive the order from the North Dakota operator and make up the order. Many McDonalds and other fast food operators use a work crew highly comprised of high school students, Hispanic or Russian immigrants, or slightly older workers who cannot find work, to work for low wage part-time food service jobs. For workers older than high school age, this usually means a lifestyle living below the Federal povery level, especially if children are present in the family.

There is no guarantee that many fast food businesses are satisfied solely to use lower minimum wage workers from other states such as "right to work" states to keep wages low. Remote drive-through operators who speak English from India or other areas could be used to keep wages low in the near future. Many large corporations already use cheaper Indian labor for phone operators for product customer service lines. It is unfortunate that the business of keeping many Americans living below the poverty line is big business in America.


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