In the dystopian world of the popular book and movie franchise “The Hunger Games,” working people out in the districts are starving. They work all day, some in dangerous coal mines without proper safety gear and some out in the fields all day with no breaks, to provide food, clothes, goods and technology that all goes to the Capitol…the ultimate 1 percenters (think of President Snow as the long-lost third Koch brother).
If this sounds familiar, you shouldn’t be surprised. Our economy is just as out of whack as that of Panem. Nearly all — 95% — of the income gains from 2009–2012 have been captured the wealthiest 1%.
In this system of the extreme, haves vs. the have-nots, it takes courage to start a rebellion. It takes the kind of thinking where one considers the bigger picture outside of him- or herself.
In “The Hunger Games,” our hero Katniss defies the oppressive Capitol regime committing to eat poisonous berries to upset the grotesque gladiator-type spectacle that forces 24 children, picked at random, to fight to the death.
It’s this act of bravery that starts the spark needed to inspire the people of Panem to rise up against the Capitol.
There is a rising tide of working people in America finding new and innovative ways to create a better life. Sure, we’re not shooting arrows at Capitol aircraft or blowing up the Capitol’s version of the Hoover Dam, but we’re coming together to move the roadblocks to our better lives, just like the courageous rebels of Panem in “Mockingjay” who overthrew the Capitol.
Here are nine ways working people are leading the rebellion against our out-of-balance economy:
1. Working people are raising wages
2015 stands to be the biggest year for collective bargaining in generations. Some 5 million workers will bargain for new contracts this year, with everything, including raising wages to bettering working conditions, at stake. From airport janitors in Phoenix to musicians in New York City, workers have won good contracts and will continue to fight to raise wages through collective bargaining.
2. Being in a union is cool again
From traditional occupations to the “new economy,” workers are surging to join unions and they are doing it on their own terms. Less than one year ago, 9,000 American Airlines agents joined the Communications Workers of America (CWA). AFSCME grew an astounding 135,000 new members from last year through this March. And workers at digital outlets, includingGawker, Vice, The Guardian U.S. and Salon, all joined a union despite the difficulties involved in organizing in the digital economy.
3. Commonsense rules are leveling the playing field
Working people have had the deck stacked against them for far too long, but their voices are starting to turn the tide. Rulings the National Labor Relations Board have restored common sense to the union election processand have made it harder for companies to hide behind contractors in order to abuse working people.
4. Making workplaces safer
Today, too many people put their health and safety on the line to put food on the table. That’s why workers have fought hard to make workplaces safer. Whether it is the United Steelworkers (USW) and the building trades unions working together to improve worker safety at oil refineries or mine workers ensuring high standards, a union workplace is a safe workplace. After the rebellion, citizens of Panem will able to advocate for safety regulations on the job, whether they’re the loggers from District 7 or the coal miners from District 12.
5. Corporations are responding to worker pressure
Working people are standing up and speaking out for a robust raising wages agenda, and some of America’s biggest corporations are listening. Under pressure from workers, corporations such as Walmart, Target and McDonald’s have all raised their minimum wage over the past year.
6. Workers are winning at the ballot box
Last November, five states and two cities voted to raise their minimum wage. Working people in major cities such as Seattle and Los Angeles now have more money in their pockets, with many cities from Huntsville, Ala., to St. Louis debating on whether to raise the minimum wage.
7. We’re winning in the South
Over the past year, workers have made great gains in the South. From peanut shellers in Alabama to steelworkers in southern Virginia, workers are beating back the efforts of big corporations to keep wages low and conditions poor.
8. We’re winning fair scheduling
Corporations increasingly create unfair and unsustainable work schedules for working families, but we are fighting back. Over the past year, working people from across the country have spoken out for scheduling reform, earning big wins in California and at one of the world’s biggest telecom corporations.
9. Sick leave is the new norm
A decade ago, paid sick leave was a dream. Now it’s a central part of the economic debate. Whether it’s at the ballot box, through local legislation or through collective bargaining, working people are demanding the right to be healthier and happier in the workplace.
We’re joining the Harry Potter Alliance to lift up stories on economic inequality and how working people are fighting back. How are you fighting inequality and injustice? Don’t forget to share your stories of real-life inequality and how you’re working to change the odds on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr using the hashtag #MyHungerGames.
May the odds be ever in your favor.