World Cup Gridlocked in São Paulo

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SÃO PAOLO, Brazil -- The demonstration that shutdown subway networks in São Paulo, Brazil has halted, if only momentarily, after having plagued the biggest city in Brazil since last Thursday, 5 June 2014 .

Organizers of the transit union walkout suspended the five-day protest this morning, 10 June, in response to escalating traffic congestion that have turned the streets of São Paulo into one giant gridlock. International soccer enthusiasts have turned to taxi services in order to travel to Arena Corinthians, a major stadium located outside of São Paulo city limits.

Both sides in the ongoing saga are looking to compromise, although the leaders of the São Paulo transit union and Governor Geraldo Alckmin are currently stuck in stalemate. 60 employees have been fired after chaos erupted during union demonstrations yesterday, 9 June 2014.

During the protest on Monday, riot police removed the demonstrators by any means necessary, scattering hundreds of union members and sympathizers with stun grenades, tear gas and pepper spray. But the hostility between police and protestors has only further divided the opposing camps.

The São Paulo transportation union is now warning that subway employees will not return to work on Thursday, 12 June, unless the 60 employees are rehired and a 12.2% wage increase is met by authorities. On Thursday, Brazil welcomes the world to São Paulo during the opening World Cup match between Brazil and Croatia.

In the months leading up to the biggest sporting event in the world, Brazil has spent billions on infrastructure and planning. The effort to accommodate masses of international spectators has angered many Brazilians, especially those living in poverty. Those most affected include the residents evicted from select slums throughout Rio de Janeiro in preparation for World Cup fervor.

Governor Alckmin will honor a 8.7% increase in worker's salary, but has firmly rejected the 12.2% demand. Also, he has notified union officials that the fired men and women will not recover their lost jobs. Unless Alckmin or the union authorities rethink their position, continued disorder is guaranteed throughout Sao Paulo in the coming days.

The subway stoppage is only one of many concerns in an ongoing saga of protests against the Brazilian government. Notably, the eviction of blacks to make way for parking lots in Rio have been called racially-biased and unjust. Prices have increased for products across the board, surpassing even high-end predictions. And the investment of billions of dollars into the tournament has upset even more throughout the country.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Brazillians widely disapprove of the direction of their country. An April poll affirmed that 72% of nationals are discontented with their government.

Follow Michael on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Editor: @MAndrewRansom

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The Thievery of McDonald's Execs

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Michael Ransom, Contributing EditorLast Modified: 04:35 a.m. DST, 22 May 2014

Protesters at McDonald's, Photo by Phil Dragash

OAK BROOK, Illinois -- Yesterday, 21 May 2014, over 1,000 people protested against the McDonald's corporation at their corporate headquarters, located in suburban Chicago. The peaceful demonstration was the second attempt to bring attention to wage inequality in the internationally known, globally recognized food chain.

The localized protests are part of a larger international campaign to raise awareness of poverty wages and the role that fast-food giants play in the servitude.

The movement is taking place throughout 33 different countries, where McDonald's and other restaurant "whoppers" like Burger King, KFC and Wendy's have uniquely tailored menus and strong market footholds. Hundreds of McDonald's employees came to the rally in Oak Brook wearing their uniforms, some of whom boycotted shifts to participate.

The concept of a wage hike is nothing new to CEO Donald Thomson, whose earnings have seen a steady appreciation in recent years. He is expecting to earn $9.5 million next year. While executives count their pay increases in the hundreds of thousands, the average hands in the assembly line bring home a paycheck that is not even consistent with inflation.

Over 100 McDonald's employees were arrested and over 30 union members and spiritual leaders are in police custody after demonstrators occupied campus buildings yesterday. Headed by organizations such as Fast Food Forward and Service Employees International Union, the collective was relatively small but extremely vocal. The action was purposefully orchestrated one day before an important shareholder meeting, scheduled for today, 22 May, at the corporate offices. In anticipation, an entire branch of campus was encouraged to stay home and work remotely yesterday.

The day before the annual meeting proved to be an excellent platform for the collected grievances. Those with partial ownership of McDonald's will weigh in on Thomson's salary during the shareholder's meeting. His pay is over 600 times that of his average foodservice employee, which is not totally surprising. McDonald's is famous for their minuscule raise policies. They also supplement profits with various forms of wage theft.

These Illinois protests are just one voice in an international chorus of dissent. The similarities between Japanese, Indian and Brazilian strikes shows the vast subjugation that sustains the American-based restaurant machine.

In the past year, business tycoons and politicians have been critical of demands to raise the minimum wage in the United States. In the same vein, critics of the striking employees are calling the terms of the demonstration absurd.  But, even the twofold increase to $15-an-hour would be below the living wage in the US, according to a breakdown by Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The MIT Living Wage Calculator indicates the severity of the poverty that fast-food employees almost necessarily face. At $7.25-an-hour, an individual making minimum wage in New Orleans, Louisiana is earning well under the regional living wage of $10.51. In an expensive city like Washington, D.C. the minimum wage is set at $8.25. But the living wage for a one parent, one child household is $26.37, according to MIT statistics. The average McDonald's worker supporting one child in the District is not making even a third of the baseline living wage.

Notably, research indicates that more women are pigeonholed into poverty wages than male coworkers.

Opponents of the measure claim that increased wages will cause a decreased number of jobs. And by simple arithmetic, this may be true.

But so often, the rhetoric of corporate employers follows the notion that the company is creating job opportunities as if some sort of charity. Obviously, a business is not going to extend a job at the expense of the bottom line.

In reality, it is a give-and-take, as the corporation is only viable with hard-working men and women on the ground, and people need opportunities to make money. With McDonald's' lobbying effort to paralyze the minimum wage, and their ban on unions, the ideal "give-and-take" is actually veiled exploitation.

Follow Michael on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Editor: @MAndrewRansom