This morning Wawa announced a $0.06 increase for hot beverages and a $0.04 charge for refills. This is a small but revelatory addition to the increase in prices all around us. I don’t drink a morning cup of coffee and I don’t drive to work, but I can sympathize with the people who do. They are now facing yet another hit to their wallets when they pull into the station to fill their gas tanks during the morning rush hour. These almost daily price hikes make me wonder when Americans, some of whom haven’t received a raise in the last three years, will rise up and take action.
The revolutions in the middle east and north Africa, most recently in Libya, are being cited as reasons for the recent price increase in oil. Gas prices have gone up $0.28 in the last ten days. CNN Money reports the national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline rose to $3.471 on Friday, according to a daily survey by motorist group AAA. Airlines, which started charging for luggage and meals two years ago, are now adding costs to domestic round-trip ticket prices. Delta raised its prices by $20 but later dropped this charge to match American Airlines’ hike of $10. United, Continental, and US Airways soon followed suit.
There is some positive news though. Unemployment dropped in February, “brightening” the jobs outlook. Still, while businesses added 222,000 jobs last month, state and local governments cut 30,000 jobs. And we barely avoided a government shut-down, which would have been detrimental to Washington, D.C. businesses.
How is the average American supposed to keep up with these hikes? Stop buying coffee on the way to work, maybe. Not take trips, perhaps. Take public transportation to work, sure. A cup of coffee, though, is just an indicator of an increase in grocery prices yet to come. People usually fly out of necessity, if not for business then for personal reasons that often involve moments of crisis (i.e. bereavement travel). And, not all cities in the U.S. have a working metro transit system like D.C., New York, or Chicago.
I understand that many workers have not received raises in the last three years, and I understand that many of those jobs are funded by county and state budgets that have been cut drastically since the economy tanked. What I don’t understand is, if major businesses are making price adjustments to their products and services to account for their loss of income, why can’t the worker do the same? Why doesn’t the worker also acknowledge the quality of his or her service (which sometimes doubles when others are laid off or new positions aren’t filled)? What will it take for American workers to rise up and demand change?
We can learn a lot from the Wisconsin teachers who maintained their dignity and self-respect when they stood up to protect the quality of their labor and the future of their economic contributions. We can learn a lot from the people all across the middle east and north Africa who are saying loud and clear that they have had enough to governments that haven’t recognized their needs. It takes a lot of courage to leave everything behind and fight for yourself. What will it take to push Americans toward real action? When the time comes, will we be brave enough to follow through?