The Instigator
Pro (for)
0 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
3 Points

Wage labor is a form of slavery that helps to maintain and perpetuate classism

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/27/2014 Category: Society
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,950 times Debate No: 67567
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (4)
Votes (1)




I assert that wage labor, especially when involving menial positions, is merely slavery by another name. Wage labor serves to foster class consciousness in a society and prejudice in the form of classism. Wage labor gives credence to the system of capitalism which places more value on materials than humanity. Wage labor also undermines the principles of self determination and cajoles masses into spending a large portion of their lives working to support the dreams of others rather than following their own. Working for wages also distracts attention away from the actuality that general access to the land and resources of the society is being curtailed and hindered.
Shared BoF Opponent will have to show that wage labor is not analogous to slavery. Opponent must also prove that wage labor does not foster and promote classism.


Many thanks to my opponent for beginning what I hope will be an interesting and insightful debate!

One reason I'm excited to debate this topic is because I generally (metaphorically) favor the Pro position. I identify as a pro-labor leftist, and I empathize with the arguments I assume my opponent might suggest. However, I am accepting this challenge for the sake of playing devil's advocate, and presenting an alternative perspective - one I think deserves both thorough criticism and a fair defense. Indeed even my bleeding heart support for the labor class is aware of capitalist forces that quell the cries of communists, socialists and the like. In this debate, I will be arguing that wage labor (even if mostly referring to low-skill labor) is not remotely the same thing as slavery. I don't plan on arguing semantics; I believe there is a legitimate and substantial difference.

Wage labor is the socioeconomic relationship between a worker and an employer, where the worker sells their labour under a formal or informal employment contract. These transactions usually occur in a labour market where wages are market determined [1]. On the other hand, slavery is a legal or economic system under which people are treated as property. Slaves may be bought and sold, can be held indefinitely from birth, deprived of the right to leave, forced to work and often do not receive compensation [2]. In addition to the technical differences between these two groups, I believe they have different lifestyles and (more importantly to the resolution) opportunities.


[1] Deakin, Simon; Wilkinson, Frank (2005). The Law of the Labour Market: Industrialization, Employment, and Legal Evolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
[2] Laura Brace (2004). The Politics of Property: Labour, Freedom and Belonging. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 162
Debate Round No. 1


I appreciate Con's stance as devil's advocate and also look forward to a balanced and thorough exchange.

1. a person who is the property of and wholly subject to another; a bond servant.
2. a person entirely under the domination of some influence or person:
a slave to a drug.
3. a drudge:
a housekeeping slave.
6. Machinery. a mechanism under control of and repeating the actions of a similar mechanism.

slavery:n. pl
1. The condition in which one person is owned as property by another and is under the owner's control, especially in involuntary servitude.
2a. The practice of owning slaves.
b. A mode of production in which slaves constitute the principal work force.
3. The condition of being subject or addicted to a specified influence.
4. A condition of hard work and subjection: wage slavery.

1: drudgery, toil
2: submission to a dominating influence
3a : the state of a person who is a chattel of another
b : the practice of slaveholding

chattel slavery:(noun)
Slavery in which one individual owns another individual.

1. menial, distasteful, dull, or hard work.

If you"ve ever had to do the laundry, wash the dishes, make the meals, change the bedding, vacuum the house, and clean the bathrooms day after day, you"ve experienced drudgery. Drudgery is hard, mindless, backbreaking work.

verb \mān-G2;tān, mən-
: to cause (something) to exist or continue without changing

: to keep (something) in good condition by making repairs, correcting problems, etc.

: to continue having or doing (something)

MAINTAIN:transitive verb
: to cause (something) to exist or continue without changing
: to keep (something) in good condition by making repairs, correcting problems, etc.
: to continue having or doing (something)
1: to keep in an existing state (as of repair, efficiency, or validity) : preserve from failure or decline
2: to sustain against opposition or danger : uphold and defend

perpetuate:transitive verb
: to cause (something that should be stopped, such as a mistaken idea or a bad situation) to continue
: to make perpetual or cause to last indefinitely

: unfair treatment of people because of their social or economic class
: prejudice or discrimination based on class

As I also do not intend to argue semantics, I will begin by making some generalizations and prerequisite principles that can be countered or argued by Con if she disagrees.

1. There are different forms of slavery.

2. Wage slavery is not chattel slavery.

3. An application is not a contract.
An application cannot be considered a contract. One of the primary requirements for a valid contract is that there must be an offer and an acceptance of that offer. For example, a job application would be considered the offer -- that is, the person who completes the application is offering his/her services in an employment situation. For the acceptance portion, the prospective employer would have to approve the person's application and agree to hire that individual. There must also be a "meeting of the minds," that is, both parties to the contract must agree on the terms of their contract. In the example I've given above, both parties would have to agree on items such as the applicant's job duties, the salary that he/she would receive (which is usually subject to negotiation between the parties), the amount of annual vacation he/she would receive, etc., etc. For these reasons, an application is totally one-sided, and it cannot be considered a contract.

4. Even chattel slaves were paid
"In some cases, slaves could earn money from their master if they performed tasks with particular skill." [1]

5. A serf is a slave
1. a person in a condition of servitude, required to render services to a lord, commonly attached to the lord's land and transferred with it from one owner to another.
2. a slave.
Serfdom: noun - bour on land belonging to another person and to render some determinate service to such other person, whether for reward or not, and is not free to change his status

6. A worker is a slave if they aren't paid a livable 'wage' or paid just enough to continue working and provide sustenance.
Wage slavery is the predominate form of oppression today. Workers are forced to sell themselves (actually, their labor power) in order to survive. Instead of being owned, and provided for in some fashion, they are "free" for the remainder of the day. However, economic necessity prevents the overwhelming mass of humanity from being truly free. Survival is linked to becoming a wage slave for another. In most cases, the "other" is a giant corporation.

7. A person can be deemed a slave if expected to perform tasks that the agreed upon wage did not include or have no control over when and how long they will be laboring.
The very idea of wage-labour requires two difficult conceptual steps. First it requires the abstraction of a man's labour from both his person and the product of his work. When one purchases an object from an independent craftsman " one has not bought his labour but the object, which he had produced in his own time and under his own conditions of work. But when one hires labour, one purchases an abstraction, labour-power, which the purchaser then uses at a time and under conditions which he, the purchaser, not the "owner" of the labour-power, determines (and for which he normally pays after he has consumed it). Second, the wage labour system requires the establishment of a method of measuring the labour one has purchased, for purposes of payment, commonly by introducing a second abstraction, namely labour-time.[2]

Depending on one's perspective this can be viewed as a simple or complex argument. It is my position that wage labor or wage slavery was created as a means of maintaining and perpetuating the lifestyle of the upper class after the legal abolition of chattel slavery. Wage labor was a more efficient method of maintaining the class hierarchy and bolstering capitalism as societies moved from agrarian to industrial. Wage slavery "protects the institution of private ownership of the means of production"which guarantees the concentration of capital among a wealthy elite leaving the majority of the population without access. As some opponents of wage labour take influence from Marxist propositions, many are opposed to private property, but maintain respect for personal property.

A point of criticism is that after people have been compelled by economic necessity to no feasible alternative than that of wage labour, exploitation occurs; thus the claim that wage labour is "voluntary" on the part of the labourer is considered a red herring as the relationship is only entered into due to systemic coercion brought about by the inequality of bargaining power between labour and capital as classes." [3]

In the post slavery United States, for example, it was no longer beneficial for owners of chattel slaves to provide food, clothing and shelter for surplus labor. The wealthy elite mentioned in the previous citation used wages as a means of maintaining control over the land and resources while assuring control over labor. They certainly were not willing or accustomed to performing menial tasks for themselves. Though Con has suggested that wages are determined by the market, I assert that wages are arbitrarily determined by this elite group or what has become the corporatocracy. Evidence of this is illustrated yearly when massive profits are accumulated by corporations, yet, wages for the workers do not rise and often decline. Also, the collusion between government and corporations can be seen in instances of corporate welfare or government bailouts.

In regards to menial labor there are closer ties to forms of slavery:
1. Workers are expected to perform tasks that were not part of their original agreement. (i.e. hired as a cashier, yet, instructed to perform stock duties, serve as a cook, or whatever task the 'boss' requires to be performed. This is not free will.)
2. They often work in harsh conditions that are dangerous
3. They workers may be injured without compensation.

The low wage worker has little opportunity for advancement or upward mobility. They are working for survival. The have no 'true' ability for self determination or chance of achieving the illusive American dream.

Wage slavery is not limited to low wage workers. Many are unaware of their slave status. As stated in the article "Are you a Wage Slave":
"If you are fortunately situated, you may feel that my argument doesn"t apply to you...."What sort of slave can I be? I am not ordered about all the time. On the contrary...You are deluding yourself...What makes your delusion possible is that you have grown accustomed to analyse problems from your employer"s point of view. You are every bit as alienated from your own thinking as the assembly line worker is from his or her physical movements."

Sources: [1]
Finley, Moses I. (1973). The ancient economy. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 65. [2] [3]


Danielle forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2


I rest on my argument until my opponent has a chance to make her case


Many apologies to my opponent for missing the last round - it's been very busy with the holidays!

I agree with many of Pro's points, and find most of them to be irrelevant to this debate. I will expand on the arguments which are relevant such as arguments # 3, 6 and 7.

1. I agree that there are different forms of slavery.

2. I agree that wage slavery is not the same as chattel slavery.

3. Pro writes that a contract requires a "meeting of the minds" and both parties must agree to the terms. He explains, "In the example I've given... both parties would have to agree on items such as the applicant's job duties, the salary that he/she would receive (which is usually subject to negotiation between the parties), the amount of annual vacation he/she would receive, etc. For these reasons, an application is totally one-sided, and it cannot be considered a contract."

While a job application is not a contract, an employment offer and subsequent employment contract (which the employee signs and agrees to in accepting the position) absolutely IS a contract, making this an entirely moot point. An employment contract is a written legal document that that lays out binding terms and conditions of employment between an employee and an employer. An employment contract generally covers job responsibilities, salary, benefits, paid holidays, paid vacation, etc. [1]. As such, my opponent's argument is not only null but in my favor. Regardless of the salary one receives, by agreeing to the terms of employment the employer has laid out, they have voluntarily participated in a "meeting of the minds" and accepted the contract. It qualifies as such by the very standards my opponent has laid out.

4. I agree that chattel slaves were paid.

5. I agree that a serf is a slave.

6. I vehemently disagree that a worker is a slave if they aren't paid a "livable wage" or "paid just enough" to continue working and providing sustenance. First, because standards and values are subjective, there is a huge gap regarding what is actually a livable wage. Some people live in very cheap vs. expensive parts of the country. Others are extremely frugal and able to stretch a dollar far, such as those featured on the show Extreme Couponing who spend very little money on food [2]. Additionally many people get help from the government, and live in Section 8 housing or receive welfare. In that case, they may require less wages to live than those who do not receive government aid.

More importantly, not everybody who works needs their job to survive. For example teenagers or people living at home and with the support of their parents might not need their wages to live. A partner with a spouse who earns enough money for both of them might not need their job to live. These people may choose to work because they want to, not because they have to. However, even if they had to work to support themselves, voluntarily agreeing to the terms of an employment contract is a free choice. After all, they could have negotiated the terms or even denied the terms and worked somewhere else.

A slave is FORCED to work somewhere against their will. An employee receiving minimum wage (or even less) voluntarily agrees to work at a certain place and under particular conditions. A true slave has absolutely no choice regarding who they work for, and relinquish all of their rights including their right to autonomy upon being the property of their master. Often it is considered legal to rape slaves specifically because they are your property [3]. An employee is NOT considered property in any way whatsoever. Not only do employees, even low wage employees, maintain all of their individual rights which is contrary to actual slaves, but they are free to quit at any time as per the conditions of their employment contract [4].

Pro says that wage "slavery" qualifies as slavery because employees are "forced" to sell their labor. That is a fallacious bare assertion. It is absolutely not true that people are "forced" to work; they CHOOSE to work because they might need money and don't have any. They could always choose to not work and either live off other people, live off the land, accept homelessness or poverty in general, marry rich, etc. Pro manipulates the debate by misusing the word "force" when it does not apply. Just because somebody's choices are limited or not ideal does not mean their choices are mandatory.

7. My opponent states, "A person can be deemed a slave if expected to perform tasks that the agreed upon wage did not include or have no control over when and how long they will be laboring." That is somewhat false. If your employer demands that you do something not included in your employment contract, you can refuse to do it. You can quit your job and go to work for someone else - proving my opponent is entirely wrong in this debate and I don't even have to argue further.

I agree that if someone had no control over when and how long they will be laboring, that they are in fact a slave. However we have no reason to accept that a wage laborer had no control of their employment terms. In fact Pro admitted that in a job application, an employee OFFERS their labor in exchange for pay; their labor isn't DEMANDED of them or FORCED upon them once again proving that wage laborers are not slaves.

Pro continues, "It is my position that wage labor or wage slavery was created as a means of maintaining and perpetuating the lifestyle of the upper class after the legal abolition of chattel slavery." First, let me point out that while Pro continuously refers to "wage slavery," he has NOT actually proven that it is slavery - that's the purpose of this debate - so that is a fallacious misnomer. As such it is inappropriate to keep repeating the phrase for emphasis. Second, Pro has not proven that this is true. Third, even if the upper class did create employment terms to keep them ahead, it still wouldn't make the laborer a slave for the reasons I've explained.

My opponent insists that wage slavery "guarantees" the concentration of capital among the wealthy elite. This is another false claim. While class hierarchy definitely exists, it is not guaranteed or necessarily permanent - yet another difference between wage labor and slavery or serfdom. Pro has tried to compare wage laborers to serfs, but serfs were serfs for life [5]. People who work for low wages are NOT necessarily working in low paying jobs forever. Not only do employees receive bonuses, raises and promotions (unlike slaves!), but they often graduate to better, higher paying jobs. For example I worked for minimum wage when I was in high school, but now I receive much higher pay. If my wage labor made me a slave, not only would I have been forced to accept my previous job (I wasn't) but I would have remained in that role for as long as my employer wanted me, not for as long as I wanted to be there which was actually the case. For many or even most, wage labor is a short stop in an otherwise long career path.

Pro suggests that the voluntary nature of employment is not actually voluntary because of economic necessity. Nobody is inherently entitled to food, shelter or any other supplies one might need to survive or live comfortably. If one chooses to survive and live comfortably, they are free to seek employment in satisfying their desires. Nobody should be forced to accommodate their demands and desires; to suggest otherwise would essentially make the other person (receiving the demands) the slaves.

Pro writes, "The wealthy elite [post slavery] used wages as a means of maintaining control over the land and resources while assuring control over labor." However those who agree to work for certain wages did not have to accept the terms. If they did not supply their labor, the capital class (setting the terms) would not receive any of their labor/production and thus would cease to earn profit. In fact this is the entire basis of negotiating and using collective bargaining. Unions operate under the premise that since employers NEED labor in order to profit and continue earning their money, that there has to be a middle ground where an agreement is reached between employer and employee. As such, while it's true the capital owner is going to try and maximize his return, the same is also true for the laborer who is in a worse off position. By agreeing to employment terms, even if someone is in a lower or worse off position, it is still a voluntary agreement with mutual benefits. This is another contrast to actual slavery in which only the capital owner benefits.

My opponent states "Though Con has suggested that wages are determined by the market, I assert that wages are arbitrarily determined by this elite group or what has become the corporatocracy." Because I don't have the character space to negate this concept entirely in this round, I will note that this is another bare assertion from my opponent, as there are multiple and competing theories about how wages are derived [6]. In the next round, I will explain how wages are in fact determined primarily through market forces. The collusion between government and corporations is relevant, but not to this debate. Note that Pro has not included any economic analysis to support his claims, but simply buzz words and catch phrases that mostly appeal to emotion.

Pro concludes by posting a completely biased quote/article riddled with logical fallacies. Because this is a 5 round debate, I have plenty of time to expand on why the claims made in the article (and repeated by Pro) are not true.

Debate Round No. 3


I am glad that my opponent found time to respond...and at length...
I will eat this elephant one bite at a time...

I would first direct my opponent to the 4th definition of slavery aforementioned:
4. A condition of hard work and subjection: wage slavery.
Though Con has attempted to limit the definition of slavery to work done against one's will, this definition clearly illustrates that slavery is not limited to that which she describes. This definition also nullifies my opponents assertion that the presence of a contract eliminates the ability to consider the labor contracted upon slavery. Also, my opponent has overlooked the part of the resolution which states that wage labor is a 'Form' of slavery. "...the earliest wage labour contracts we know about were in fact contracts for the rental of chattel slaves (usually the owner would receive a share of the money, and the slave, another, with which to maintain his or her living expenses.) Such arrangements, according to Graeber, were quite common in New World slavery as well, whether in the United States or Brazil.[13] C. L. R. James argued in The Black Jacobins that most of the techniques of human organisation employed on factory workers during the industrial revolution were first developed on slave plantations." [4]

form:noun [3]
6. a particular condition, character, or mode in which something appears: water in the form of ice.
In case you were disoriented, the form of slavery that we are considering is wage slavery.

While my opponent has noted that acceptance of the terms of an application can be considered a contract, she errs in assuming that this contract provides benefits, paid holidays, paid vacation, etc. Many who work part-time do not receive such advantages. Con admits that "if someone had no control over when and how long they will be laboring, that they are in fact a slave". Part-time employees are scheduled by the employer or 'boss'. This schedule is not written or mentioned in the contract. As I'm sure that my opponent remembers when she "worked for minimum wage high school", the schedule is decided upon for and not by the employee. If my opponent was allowed to create her own schedule, I can assure her this is not the case for most. As there is no meeting of the minds in regard to the schedule, we both agree this is a 'form' of wage slavery. This goes against the concept of self determination. Especially if the work involved places the worker in a position of subjection, subjugation, or servitude.

Consider the practices of Walmart:
You don"t get a job at Walmart unless you are willing to forego that second job. Why? Because the company obligates you, as a condition of employment, to be available to work on just a few hours notice. Even the Walmart defense forces would have to acknowledge that it is awfully hard to take a second job when your primary employment requires you to be on-call 24/7 or risk losing your job.

This leads us to my next point...Coercion
While it is true that workers can refuse to work and opt to starve, this is a form of coercion if the economy of a society is situated so that one has to acquire money to meet basic needs. This is especially true in a discriminatory classist society that hinders or limits individuals from attaining money or accessing resources for reasons such as gender, 'race', age, etc..
In such a society, those discriminated against are less likely to be able to live off the land or choose to be homeless due to policies such as 'racial' profiling, housing discrimination, police brutality, illegality of homelessness, etc.. These policies unlawfully attempt to negate the guarantee to all of the unalienable rights expressed in the Declaration of Independence of the Constitution regarding life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Women are at greater risk of being attacked or raped if they chose to live off the land or be homeless. Thus, these individuals are being forced to work in order to provide shelter from the elements and from the biases of the society. In general, as food, clothing, and shelter are considered to be necessities, all who have no access to land, wealth or resources ('the underclass') are being coerced into employment in a biased, classist, capitalist system that values property over human life. One where corporations are classified as 'people'. Those discriminated against have greater disadvantage. Not to mention the hypocrisy of the so-called land of the free being created by slaveholders. This is perhaps why wage slavery seems justifiable in the minds of many.

Livable Wages:
In such an economic climate, where individuals are essentially being coerced into employment for survival, the unlivable wage serves as a slap in the face. These unlivable wages also illustrate and exaggerate the existence of wage slavery. Firstly, there is little chance for one to 'live cheap' on an unlivable wage. The $7.25 minimum wage provides a part-time worker with ~$1131 a month before taxes. (39hrs max for part timer * 7.25). The average one bedroom apartment costs $773.83 monthly and the cost of utilities adds another ~$160. That leaves an individual working part-time ~200 a month of disposable income. Another $80 a month for transportation and that leaves ~$118 a month for food. [2] There is no way to get healthy food with that amount of money. Let's hope the individual is not a single mother because she and her child would starve. Either way, the individual, if they break even (and that's a big if) would have worked for nothing. As stated, the landowners/corporatocracy set the minimum wage at a price that barely, if at all, covers expenses. Consider that these jobs are now being filled by college grads who were cajoled into taking out huge loans and told they would get a 'good job' and the wage is insufferable. Considering that these are often jobs of drudgery, I would consider this to be wage slavery as well. The workers are subject to the wage itself by way of economic coercion.

Employment Contract
salary:noun [3]
1. a fixed compensation periodically paid to a person for regular work or services.

wage:noun [3]
1. Often, wages. money that is paid or received for work or services, as by the hour, day, or week.
Compare living wage, minimum wage.
2. Usually, wages. Economics. the share of the products of industry received by labor for its work (as distinct from the share going to capital).
3. Usually, wages. (used with a singular or plural verb) recompense or return:

As stated, a contract can still constitute wage slavery. However, the opponent fails to differentiate between a salary and a wage. A salary is fixed, where a wage is dependent upon the scheduling designed by the 'boss'. This scheduling can fluctuate at the discretion of the 'boss' and can provide no work at all at times. Salaries typically provide benefits, vacation, etc. and wages do not. Salaries generally provide more security than wages. Wages are also a share of the products of industry produced by the employer, yet, the worker is not receiving an equitable share. The worker is basically a silent partner receiving a form of hush money, as they are not typically told that they are acting as partners but being paid small wages. They are also not told how much production was accomplished. The difference between the wages paid to workers and total production is called surplus value. Surplus value is equal to the new value created by workers in excess of their own labour-cost, which is appropriated by the capitalist as profit when products are sold. [4]

"Unions operate..." - Part-time workers have no unions

Corporatocracy's forecast of 'survival' needs and the maintenance and perpetuation of classism
"Nobody is inherently entitled to food...etc." - Socialists see wage labour as a major, if not defining, aspect of hierarchical industrial systems. Most opponents of the institution support worker self-management and economic democracy as alternatives to both wage labour and to capitalism. While most opponents of wage labour blame the capitalist owners of the means of production for its existence, most anarchists and other libertarian socialists also hold the state as equally responsible as it exists as a tool utilised by capitalists to subsidise themselves...the claim that wage labour is "voluntary" on the part of the labourer is considered a red herring as the relationship is only entered into due to systemic coercion brought about by the inequality of bargaining power between labour and capital as classes...The attempt to extract more and more surplus-value from labor on the one side, and on the other side the resistance to this exploitation, are according to Marx at the core of the conflict between social classes, which is sometimes muted or hidden, but at other times erupts in open class warfare and class struggle....In reality, of course, a substantial portion of tax money is also redistributed to private enterprise in the form of government contracts and subsidies. Private capitalism is 'wage-slavery;' that is, as an instrument of the capitalist's for reducing the worker's condition to that of a slave, if not below it. [4]

Being worked to death:
Many Americans are not working 60 or 70 hours per week because they want to. Many are doing it because that is what they must do just to survive....This is putting an incredible amount of stress on working class families. In fact, it appears that a lot of Americans are literally working themselves to death. [5]

Sources: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]


To begin, Pro refers to the definition of slavery that includes "A condition of hard work and subjection: wage slavery." However, this is irrelevant as my opponent has to prove that wage slavery is in fact slavery and deserves to qualify as such. That is in fact the purpose of this debate. To rely on semantics or definitions is almost moot, as the entire point of the debate is to prove the terminology is valid. To automatically accept the definition as appropriate would be committing the fallacy of circular reasoning. Pro can't say X is true because of Y and Y is true because of X [1]. In this example, Pro is assuming wage slavery is slavery (X) by definition (Y) because the definition (Y) of slavery includes wage slavery (X).

In fact, I've already pointed out in the last round how the term "wage slavery" is misleading from the start, as it implies Pro's position is automatically correct just because the word slavery is contained in the name. Don't fall for it. While I won't quote the phrase "wage slavery" throughout this debate, please note it should be.

More importantly, this argument commits the fallacy of a false equivalence [2]. An example of a false equivalence is the following:

P1- Marijuana and alcohol are both drugs.
P2- A 1/8 ounce of pot costs about the same as three bottles of booze.
Conclusion- If you think one should be legal, you should think the same of the other.


P1- Both slaves and wage slaves have employers.
P2- Wage slavery and slavery both refer to the lower economic class.
Conclusion- Wage slavery is the same as slavery.

The premises do not logically follow. As such, please extend my arguments that:

1. Slavery is working against one's will with the threat of violence; not so for low-wage workers
2. An employment contract signed voluntarily indicates an exchange with presumed mutual gains

Pro claims that the presence of an employment contract is irrelevant, because many times those contracts do not include benefits, paid holidays, paid vacation, etc. for their employees. This is entirely irrelevant argument. While employment contracts can and do outline those provisions for the jobs in which they are offered, I never implied that they are (or should be) offered to every employee. Not only would this be an undue hardship on certain employers, particularly small businesses, but it would make it harder to even establish new businesses in the first place if they had to have so much capital to start in order to be able to afford these employee benefits. In other words, Pro is advocating to make it harder for small businesses or "the little guy" to create a new business of his own. Instead, he suggests that only big corporations or the people rich enough to start new enterprises in the first place should be able to do so. His position perpetuates classism more than Con's, as it makes it harder for innovative entrepreneurs to get started (or automatically puts them in loan debt).

Next Pro suggests that because an employer creates the schedule, that employees have no control over accepting that schedule and thus qualify as slaves. That is a ridiculous and untrue claim. Most employees outline a time of availability in which the employer works to schedule their shift (for instance, a HS employee could not work during school hours). Second, employees do not have to apply for jobs that operate during the hours or days which are not suitable to their needs. Third, if one was scheduled to work at a time they couldn't or didn't want to, they could simply quit or not show up and therefore do not count as slaves. Slaves are forced to work against their will.

Pro makes multiple references to chattel slavery, though that is completely different than wage slavery. The two are not even close let alone synonymous. With chattel slavery, workers are legally owned throughout their lives, and may be bought, sold or otherwise exchanged by owners while never or rarely receiving any personal benefit from their labor. It refers to the civil relationship in which one has absolute power over another's life, fortune and liberty [3].

As such, please extend my other arguments:

3. Wage laborers are NOT the employer's legal property; they are not forced to work
4. Wage laborers are NOT legally owned and cannot be bought or sold
5. Employers do NOT have absolute control over the wage laborer's life, fortune or liberty

Pro describes Wal-Mart as an employer of slaves. However, a Wal-Mart employee can quit thanks to the legal concept of at-will employment, which is the labor policy of the U.S. [4]. Furthermore an employee does not have to apply to Wal-Mart in the first place. The managers at Wal-Mart nor the Walton family or their shareholders can buy or sell their employees and demand they work at Wal-Mart in particular.

Next Pro argues that voluntary employment is technically coerced because some people are poor or don't have many options. That's too bad. Just because someone has little skills or little opportunity does not mean their employers are slave owners. It simply means those laborers need to acquire more skill or pursue different paths that lead to more opportunities. Again, nobody is arguing that this is easy or that classism and it's repercussions do not exist.

My opponent notes that some people have a harder time finding good jobs because of factors working against them including their sex, age or race. First, I will point out that while this is true, it is not absolute. For instance while many fields are dominated by men such as firefighters ($43,000 median salary), others are dominated by women such as nursing with a whopping 90% of American nurses being female [5] and earning a median salary of $65,000. Some fields are dominated by particular demographics, but that does not make people slaves.

Moreover, consider immigrants of generations past who once found it hard to find work, such as early 20th century Italian-Americans. The article "Italians in America: From Discrimination to Adoration" details how initially being Italian was considered low-class and came with a lot of racist stereotypes; in fact Italians were not considered white [6]. After awhile, the perception of this group changed and Italian-Americans no longer face as much persecution. So, one's fate is not automatically determined for life by their profile.

The real reason this is a moot point, however, is mostly in part to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits the legal discrimination of employment on the basis of things like sex and race [7]. Over the years, innumerable lawsuits and laws have been established to protect most undue discrimination as the best the law can police (even though I personally disagree with this law in general, but I digress). Coercion is the practice of persuading someone to do something by using force or threats. Please refer to my #3 point - employers do not use force or threats in the process of buying or hiring their employees.

This of course dismantles my opponent's argument that "the claim that wage labor is 'voluntary' on the part of the laborer is considered a red herring, as the relationship is only entered into due to systemic coercion brought about by the inequality of bargaining power." As you can see, it's not a red herring and the argument stands.

Pro argues that because the minimum wage is so low, small wages must qualify as slavery. He also claims that because the boss schedules the hours of the employee's shift, that their pay is at the boss' discretion and therefore counts as slavery. These are bad arguments. First, note that Pro completely dropped all of my last round's points regarding the subjectivity of a "liveable wage" and extend them. Second, if the amount one is paid determines whether or not one qualifies as a slave, what if one was self-employed (or a salesman) and only earned $10 per day because their product didn't sell? What if one was a contracted Sony musician, wrote a song but nobody paid for it on iTunes - was their labor "slavery" because they earned so little? Clearly not. Slavery is determined by the voluntary nature of the labor exchange; not the amount one is paid.

My opponent points out that part-time workers typically do not form unions. That is true, but they have the legal right to. Moreover you don't need official unions to employ the processes of collective bargaining and negotiations.

Pro concludes by suggesting Americans are "literally being worked to death." I would caution against accepting the word literally, as we are all literally dying the second we are conceived as our death is inevitable and influenced by a plethora of factors. Nevertheless Pro posits that Americans have to work 60-70 hours per week to survive which is a claim he has not proven. One needs basic food, water and shelter to survive and if I can prove that one does not need to work 60+ hours to either afford or have access to these things, then this argument must be dropped (it's also an obvious appeal to emotion and a waste of character space).

I have a few characters left to finish my last round conclusion: In R2, Pro ended by saying wage laborers have "little opportunity" for advancement. That stands contrary to slaves with virtually no opportunity for advancement. There is far more upward mobility with people working for wages than those without and whom are considered legal property. Please also extend my other argument:

6. Many low-wage employees work because they want to, not because they have to.

Debate Round No. 4


I thank my opponent for her response...

Con: "I agree that there are different forms of slavery" "I agree that wage slavery is not the same as chattel slavery."
My resolution: Wage labor is a FORM of slavery that helps to maintain and perpetuate classism

As wage labor is classified as a form of slavery, given as an example in the definition cited and referenced by Con, I do not see a need to prove this as it is not my definition. Con did not dispute the definition until it was used in my argument. I would like the reader to note that Con is citing, referencing, and clinging to a definition that, to this point, she has not documented. Furthermore, she is attempting to Con both me and the reader into accepting her definition of slavery as the standard. As Con has not proven herself to be a lexicographer, I do not accept her definition as the only definition of slavery.

comparable in certain respects, typically in a way that makes clearer the nature of the things compared.

Wage slavery refers to a situation where a worker's livelihood depends on wages, especially when the dependence is total and immediate. It is a pejorative term used to draw an analogy between slavery and wage labor by focusing on similarities between owning and renting a person. [3]

Circular Reasoning Defense
"Both slaves and wage slaves have employers..Wage slavery is the same as slavery."
My comparison did not depend solely on both slaves and wage slaves having employers. I stated wage labor is analogous to slavery.

Employment Contract
Rather than going tit for tat with my opponent I will provide an example that illustrates how wage labor is analogous to slavery, even within Con's constricted and astringed guidelines as to what slavery is.

Prison Industrial Complex
..a prison population of up to 2 million "mostly Black and Hispanic" are working..for a pittance. For the tycoons who have has been like finding a pot of gold..[no] strikes.. unemployment insurance, vacations or comp time..workers are full-time, and never..late or are absent because of family problems..if they dont like the pay of 25 cents an hour and refuse to work, they are locked up in isolation cells.

...'no other society in human history has imprisoned so many of its own citizens.'...the United States has locked up more people than any other country: a half million more than China, which has a population five times greater than the U.S...the US holds 25% of the world's prison population, but only 5% of the world's people..

What has happened...Why are there so many prisoners?
[It] is one of the fastest-growing industries in the [US] and its investors are on Wall Street..the federal prison industry produces 100% of all military helmets, amm[o] belts, bullet-proof vests, ID tags, shirts..Along with war supplies, prison workers supply 98% of the entire market for equipment assembly services; 93% of paints and paintbrushes;...[and people wonder where the jobs went?]


Factors that increase the profit potential..:
- Jailing persons convicted of non-violent crimes, long prison sentences, three strikes" laws...a prisoner who for stealing a car and two bicycles received three 25-year sentences., Longer sentences, A large expansion of work, More punishment of prisoners,

Prison labor has its roots in slavery..a system of 'hiring out prisoners' was introduced in order to continue the slavery tradition. Freed slaves were charged with not carrying out their sharecropping commitments..or petty thievery " which were almost never proven " and were then hired out" for cotton the state of Georgia, 88% of hired-out convicts were Black. In Alabama, 93% of hired-out miners were Black..a huge prison farm similar to the old slave plantations replaced the system of hiring out convicts. The notorious Parchman plantation existed until 1972.

..Jim Crow racial segregation laws were imposed on every state, with legal segregation in schools..and many other aspects of daily life. Today, a new set of markedly racist laws is imposing slave labor and sweatshops on the criminal justice system, now known as the prison industry complex.

Who is investing?
At least 37 states...IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft...and more..between 1980 and 1994, profits went up from $392 million to $1.31 billion.

Wages Colorado, they get about $2 per hour, well under the minimum..privately-run prisons, they receive as little as 17 cents per hour for a maximum of six hours a day, the equivalent of $20 per Tennessee.. prisoners receive 50 cents per hour for what they call 'highly skilled positions.'

[Land of the Free?...Home of the Brave New Third World]
..Third World labor markets..In Texas, a factory fired its 150 workers and contracted the services of prisoner-workers ..[Former] Oregon State Representative Kevin Mannix recently urged Nike to cut its production in Indonesia.

..Private prisons receive a guaranteed amount of money for each prisoner, independent of what it costs to maintain each one...sentences reduced for 'good behavior,'...for any infraction, they get 30 days added...more profits...inmates lost 'good behavior time'" at a rate eight times higher than those in state prisons.

Profits are so good that now there is...importing inmates with long sentences..the CCA signed contracts with sheriffs in poor counties to build and run new jails and share the profits...

- 97% of 125,000 federal inmates have been convicted of non-violent crimes.
- It is believed more than half of the 623,000 inmates in municipal or county jails are innocent of the crimes they are accused of.
- Two-thirds of the one million state prisoners have committed non-violent offenses.
- 16% of the country's 2 million prisoners suffer from mental illness. [1]

- Prisoners are threatened (isolation) and punished (isolated) if they refuse to work. (Coercion)
- Isolation is a form of torture. [2]
- The prisoners signed no contract
- There is a 'race' and class component to prison labor
- Prison labor has direct ties to slaves and slavery
- Con concedes maintenance of classism, specifically (age by omission) and somwhat race and sex
- Analagous to slavery, prison labor is sponsored by the gov't to make profit from cheap labor
- As these prisoners are being bullied into work, so are the majority of low wage laborers.

The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons..Fyodor Dostoevsky

"..Consider Immigrants.."

..the process through which European American immigrants became 'white'. Roediger..has argued that Italians were 'working toward whiteness.' That is, though they were seen as 'not yet white' upon immigration, they learned quickly that becoming 'white' had its rewards..part of this process involved distancing themselves from 'African-Americans' to prove their whiteness. Hence, new immigrants quickly learn that the worst they can be is 'black', and their consciousness of an in-between racial status has led to a desire for a literal distance from 'African-Americans.' [4] Thus, immigrants have proved their 'whiteness' by continuing the process of discrimination against 'blacks'. These false social concepts are promoted to mainatain classism and discrimination.

"..moot point..Civil Rights Act..prohibits the legal discrimination..on the basis of things like sex and race.."
First, there is proof racism still exists. [5] Second, Con admits that sexual discrimination still exists by stating 'while this is true..', yet, attempts to ignore the reality of 'racism' and ageism for the purpose of her argument. Thus, "the claim that wage labor is 'voluntary'...etc" it's still a red herring.

Livable Wage vs. Cost of Living
Answered - left for reader to decide.

Working to Death blue-collar professions were incapable of saving for their old age because wages have stagnated and not kept pace with the cost of living. Sadly, most Americans may as well get used to the idea that 'traditional retirement'" means having to work until they drop dead just to survive. [6] He is free, you say. Ah! That is his misfortune..These men ..[have] the most terrible, the most imperious of masters, that is, need..They must therefore find someone to hire them, or die of hunger. Is that to be free?..Simon Linguet [3]

"work because they want to"
They labor for love not necessity...Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life...Confucius
The problem is people don't choose food, clothing and shelter they require them.

experience demonstrates that there may be a slavery of wages only a little less galling and crushing in its effects than chattel slavery, and that this slavery of wages must go down with the other..Frederick Douglas [3]

Sources: [1] [2] [3]
Covert Racism: Theories, Institutions, and Experiences Rodney D. Coatespg. 162 [4] [5] [6]


Definitions, Circular Reasoning and Debate Mission

Like my opponent, I agree that arguing over semantics is irrelevant. Indeed the entire purpose of this debate is essentially justifying the term "wage slavery" as appropriate. Despite contending that it is, my opponent never denies that his circular reasoning is a fallacious justification, and thus he rightly drops this argument. He also ignores the legitimate point I made about him relying on a false equivalence. However this too is irrelevant, because my opponent DOES in fact fulfill his burden in addressing the actual issue: Is it fair to qualify low-wage labor as slavery on the basis that it pays low wages?

Semantics over definitions aside, that is what Pro (proudly by his own admission) is arguing in this debate.

Pro is asserting that working for low wages qualifies as slavery, because it creates an inherent system of oppression.

From here out, I will bold my affirmative arguments from the last round and keep them in the order I presented.

1. Slavery is working against one's will with the threat of violence; not so for low-wage workers.

Pro has argued that despite not REALLY being coerced (through threat or violence), coercion still exists through a system or hierarchy and thus threats are irrelevant to one's working contracts. By this logic, voluntary exchange can never be legitimate because of inherent inequality. That is simply untrue. For instance, while women were undoubtedly politically and economically oppressed in 1905, does that mean that no sexual act could be considered valid and consensual because of the inherent (political, social and financial) inequality that existed between the two parties? Absolutely not. It is possible that despite that, a woman truly welcomed and invited sex with a man for mutual satisfaction in many instances.

Another example - if a teenager with no experience agrees to work for you to gain experience and opportunities, and offers their services for lower pay than a 24 year old would, does that automatically invalidate both mutual work agreements or offers because disparity exists? No. Just because subjective needs and values exist that affect the bargaining process, does NOT mean that things agreed to during the bargaining process are automatically and inherently illegitimate or invalid.

I maintain that just because there is not complete financial equality, and despite the disparity involved in mutual gains, that voluntary choices can still be made and considered valid in an otherwise free society. Classism does not mandate slavery; Pro hasn't proven that it does.

2. An employment contract signed voluntarily indicates an exchange with presumed mutual gains.

In the last round, under this bolded headline Pro says that he will "provide an example that illustrates how wage labor is analogous to slavery" and yet not only fails to do so, but doesn't actually address my point about the presence of an employment contract implying shared mutual gains. Instead, Pro makes an entire new argument regarding prison labor -- which is fine and I will address it -- but prison labor is NOT the same as a free person signing an employment contract. Pro dropped this argument entirely and it must therefore be held in favor of Con.

3. Wage laborers are NOT the employer's legal property; they are not forced to work.
4. Wage laborers are NOT legally owned and cannot be bought or sold.
5. Employers do NOT have absolute control over the wage laborer's life, fortune or liberty.

Pro's new argument regarding prison labor and comparing it to a freed person's wage labor is more in response to these arguments than my #2 point. However, they are not analogous and should not be used for a reliable comparison. The similarity between prisoners working for low wages and free persons working for low wages is that prisoners have lost many if not most of their legal rights upon their sentencing. They ARE forced to work or spend their time at one institution against their will. They CAN be moved to different places (and held captive) against their will. Whether or not the laws justifying their capture or punishment are valid is a completely separate issue that is entirely outside the scope and framework of this debate. For all we know, the prisoners in question could be in jail for rape or murder. Pro cannot imply that these two circumstances are analogous for a reliable comparison.

I have never denied that people were not unjustly or falsely imprisoned. Those people are in fact slaves. However, nowhere in this debate was it required that I prove "innocent people who are put in jail and forced to work is not equivalent to slavery" - because I would not have accepted that resolution. Instead, I have to prove that wage labor in general is not slavery, and I have. In fact the majority of the last round was spent by my opponent not responding to my arguments, but instead making a case that the Prison Industrial Complex is similar to slavery. As someone who vehemently opposes the Prison Industrial Complex, I would tend to agree. But again, to use PRISONERS who have forfeited their rights in a legal capacity as a representation of low wage workers -- when the vast majority of low wage workers are free people -- is poor conduct and irrelevant to this discussion.

In addition, Pro argues that because racism and sexism exists (which I have never denied), that wage labor IN GENERAL is automatically oppressive. Pro in no way whatsoever has proven that just because unfair or unwarranted 'isms' exist such as sexism, racism, classism, etc. that contracts cannot be considered voluntary. Moreover, another reason this argument fails is because it discounts the low wage jobs held by white men. Even more discrediting to this claim is that the people who work at the federal minimum or below are overwhelmingly white. In fact 77% of them are white [1].

Considering a lot of white people including white men work for low wages, it cannot be argued that wage labor is reserved for particular demographics alone and thus qualifies as slavery. Pro never contested my examples of both Italian-Americans and women achieving advancement through capitalistic enterprise not only in spite of wage labor, but often with the help of it. People of all religions, backgrounds and skin color have worked in low wage employment roles all over the globe throughout history, so this argument is moot. Pro's arguments in this debate should be limited to classism, not other ism's.

My opponent's final point is that low wage workers are "literally working themselves to death." In conclusion of his argument regarding the voluntary nature of wage labor, Pro says that because people have basic survival needs (such as food, shelter and clothing) that they do not have a choice to work, and therefore their employment choices must be considered oppressed and enslaved to the demands of their humanity. In R3 I have already argued that people do not NEED to work for survival, and pointed out that it would be Pro's burden to prove otherwise. He hasn't. He also hasn't proven that people need to work 60-70 hours per week to survive as he also claimed. In fact he's made a lot of unsubstantiated claims and bare assertions, coupled with appeals to emotion. As I have said, nobody is denying that classism and its repercussions do not exist or make it very hard for some people to "get ahead." However that does NOT mean voluntary low wage contracts qualify as slavery. Even if you have to work, you have choices about the working conditions you accept.

My final (official) point and one that Pro again dropped despite my repetition is

6. Many low-wage employees work because they want to, not because they have to.

Please extend my arguments that many people in low wage jobs are young and/or working as a preference.

However Pro has dropped a lot more arguments than that. For example, in the last round I explained that just because not all employees receive benefits such as paid time off, their employment does not necessarily qualify as slavery. I argued that not all employers (especially small businesses) can afford those benefits or to pay higher wages, especially when first starting off. Pro dropped these arguments and the one where I pointed out that HIS advocacy perpetuates classism by making it harder for "the little guy" with less start-up capital to go into business. Instead he wants only the wealthy, corporations and those with enough start-up capital (or who can afford debt) to be able to create jobs and go into business for themselves. Please extend these arguments.

Pro also dropped his argument (and my effective rebuttal) noting that just because employers create job schedules does NOT mean that employees have to accept them. In many cases, they tell their employers their hours of availability. This is contrary to actual slavery which provides little to no choice whatsoever; the same thing applies for prison laborers. In the last round I pointed out that low wage workers (such as Wal-Mart employees) do not have to work at Wal-Mart, can quit at any time, can work elsewhere, challenge their working conditions and legally unionize even if it is discouraged. This is contrary to slavery where workers have little to no control over their working conditions or whom employs them. Even if I concede that humans have to work to achieve their basic survival needs (which Pro hasn't proven), we still have voluntary choices to make and control over our labor.

Pro completely dropped my points about the voluntary nature of one's work vs. the pay one receives for one's work. If a musician works for years to write a single song but nobody buys it on iTunes, does his meager pay reflect years of slave labor? Of course not, that is why Pro did not address this argument or similar analogies.

Thank you again to my opponent for an interesting discussion - vote CON!

Debate Round No. 5
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by TheJuniorVarsityNovice 2 years ago
Pro made an awesome case for the resolution. I really have enjoyed reading so far. I can see why danielle has forfeited haha. Some people so far have said that slavery must be the same strict meaning reflecting the times of black slavery in the world but really to be a slave all that is really required is significant loss of rights and control by another group. Mentalist has shown this pretty well so far, all he really needs to show at this point is that this slavery perpetuates classism, Good job :P
Posted by Longline 2 years ago
I disagree with is one. Because a slave is a person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them.
this slave have no benefit for whatever work they do. not even talking about wage, or rights.

a wage labour is someone who might or might not have the necessary skill or knowledge about certain job, and of course they get training, there rights are respected and they are treaded like a human, they are also recognize by the government same cannot be said about slave.
Posted by mentalist 2 years ago
@ monethys...can you expound on your reasoning or provide an illustration?
Posted by monethys 2 years ago
I'm not sure you'll get many takers on this one.
Proving that 'wage labour is not analogous to slave labour', is a very patchy and malleable resolution.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Skepsikyma 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Arguments to Con because Pro dropped the argument over coercion by going on a tangent about prison labor; the resolution requires him to prove that wage labor is a form of slavery, and he fails to do that by focusing on an irrelevant form of slave labor, therefore dropping the argument. This is fatal to his case, as he also misconstrues Con's claim the he is making a circular argument when he uses the fact that slavery can be defined as wage slavery to claim the wage slavery is slavery. He also includes a definition of wage slavery in his defense that includes the sentence 'It is a pejorative term used to draw an analogy between slavery and wage labor by focusing on similarities between owning and renting a person.' This undermines his argument that wage slavery is slavery by completely contradicting the argument that he is making (That wage slavery is literally slavery.) The relative living wage argument was also dropped. Con had slightly better sources, but it doesn't justify a point