Friday, August 04, 2006

Minimum Wage

There is an item on Neal Boortz's website wherein he makes the assertion (paraphasing) that unless they have a physical or mental disability, any adult who is trying to support a family on minimum wage is a loser. Apparently, there has been a lot of backlash to this statement from folks on the other side of the political spectrum.

So I was thinking about all of the crappy jobs that I've had, from gas station cashier to waitress to pizza maker at which I worked for minimum wage or less, and I think Boortz might be on to something. If an employee gets a minimum wage job in a regular business (fast food, retail, whatever) and shows up to work and actually works, they will get a raise. In the non-documented labor market, the going rate for babysitters in our area is $8-12 per hour and the rate for day-laborers is $9-10 or more - both well above the minimum wage of $5.15 per hour. Frankly, in our area, I don't know that there ARE any minimum wage jobs - even fast food places pay more than minimum wage in order to attract workers.

Your thoughts?


corinne said...

Steph, I think it's very easy for us to say what you're saying. We have very, very easy lives. We've always been - and hopefully always will be - upper middle-class. I think it's very easy for me to look at the labor jobs around here(I agree there aren't many minimum wage jobs in north, suburban Atlanta), and think 'I could work at the Chic-Fil-A, and work hard, and get a raise'.
But think of other markets where the jobs really are minimum wage - north, suburban Atlanta is pretty unusual. And many people who are working those jobs aren't people like who we were when we worked those - we were single, privileged teenagers living with our parents....not people (possibly with children to support) living at the poverty level. I have a book called 'Nickeled and Dimed', in which a woman spent some time living at the poverty level and on minimum wage, and wrote a book about her experiences. It's not quite as easy as you & I might think. I'll bring it to the next knitting night....And I haven't seen Morgan Spurlock's '30 days' episode about this yet (he and his fiancee spent 30 days living on minimum wage to see what it was like), but that's another thing we might want to check out.

corinne said...

ps - Happy Birthday!!!

Steph Bachman said...

I would like to borrow that book, thanks. The McDonalds movie was interesting, so the book should be also.

I would agree that I had a (comparatively) easy time working at the minimum or sub-minimum wage jobs as a teenager and beyond, but I don't that negates the theory that it is unlikely (and a bit silly) for an able adult to still be working at a minimum wage job. Yes, Atl is a better job market than some areas (Detroit, ex-manufacturing towns) but the premise of the argument is the same regardless of the job market. The US is so great because our potential for job advancement and earnings seems limited only by your ability/willingness to find a job and do it - in other countries, you are limited by class distinctions, education tracking, etc.

Colin said...

Steph, when I was 24, I was hired at REI for $5.85/hour. The only help I had from my parents was that they let me do my laundry at their house, and they fed me dinner every Sunday night. Somehow, I managed to pay my rent and bills. I worked hard, and got a raise to $6.50/hour after about six months. I kept working hard, and got a raise to about $7/hour six months later. A few months after that, I got a promotion and was making between $9-10/hour.

My point being...I agree with you and (although I hate to say it, because I think he's a prick) I agree with Boortz. Anyone who is at minimum wage for an extended time is there because they wouldn't suck it up and stick with it. We all know that, at most hourly wage jobs, all you have to do to get a raise is to stay. You don't even have to be a top performer, you just have to get the job done.

Anyway, that's all I have to say about that.

michelle said...

Keep in mind that the min wage jobs that we worked in were service and sales. Manufacturing is a totally different world. If your textile or auto employer is not at capacity due to a slow down in the market (ie. the current decade), you won't get a raise regardless of how many buttonholes you can sew in an hour. US manufacturers have seen their gross margin shrink steadily over the last 20 years. Not so with retail and service industries as a whole.
And, you can't teach everyone to do the type of work that you can grow in. Sales, for instance, depends a lot on appearance, voice and ability to empathize. Service depends on an average level of comprehension and cognition as well as emotional maturity. Not being the sharpest knife in the drawer or being severely passive-agressive won't get you disability and it won't get you a raise.

Opportunity for growth does not exist for all employed people. But, that doesn't mean I support raising the min wage.