Fast food workers and their supporters demonstrating for higher wages.

Media reports are discussing National and various Local changes to minimum wages. I thought I would throw my two cents into the discussion. Please be advised up front, you will probably not like all I have to say on this subject. But here goes.

For starters, let’s define a few terms. The true minimum wage is zero, as in unemployed, and there will never be a change to this minimum.

Secondly, minimum wage is a bad term. In my opinion, the correct term is a “living wage”, meaning what is the least a person can earn and still live beyond the specter of poverty and without any form of outside assistance – public, family, etc. If you’re working and still qualify for food stamps, etc., then the government is subsidizing the employee’s income. This is more a benefit to the company/employer than it is to the employee. Business owners and executives complain about corporate taxes, but at the same time, they are the biggest beneficiary in the masses they underpay. This may take a moment or two for you to wrap your mind around, but without the Government safety net, many employees could literally not afford these low paying jobs. (The situation is similar if your preschool child spends the day with their grandma while you’re at work.)

Seattle, Washington’s newly enacted $15 an hour minimum wages is being challenged in Federal Court. With the price of a gallon of milk at $4, $3 for a loaf of bread, and the ever fluctuating cost for gasoline, a $15 wage is not the panacea you may think it is.

A wage of $15/hour roughly equates to a gross income of $2,500 a month, with a net of $2,000 per month. According to BabyCenter.com, the average daycare cost for a single child will eat up half of this net income. After you put a roof over your head, in-which the national average is over $1,200 per month for a two-bedroom apartment, it’s quick to see that even at $15/hour a single wage earner is already in the hole with just paying for rent and childcare. A very deep hole. Of course you can find cheaper rents and cheaper forms of childcare, but the old saying you get what you pay for is often more truth than not.

Current statistics show 1 in 3 (one-third) of households are of the single parent (read single earner) variety. And to make matters worse, a disproportionate number of these earners are at the low end of the pay scale. Yes that deep hole is a also very wide because it has a lot of people in it.

Now for some counter arguments. Service sector jobs are undoubtedly where you will find low wages. These include fast food workers, call center workers, etc. Just in the past week or two I have been amazed at the incompetence I’ve faced when dealing with such employees. For example,

  • I was in a restaurant and the worker actually pulled a calculator out of their pocket to compute my change from $21.25 for a bill of $21.16.
  • On more than one occasion, what I received for my fast food orders were not what I had ordered.
  • A worker ran my debit card for $0.11 on a $20.11 order (sometimes the error is in your favor).
  • Clearly 1 out of every 4 times I call a 1-800 number I have to ask for a supervisor (higher paid worker). Often the person I’m subsequently connected to resolves the issue quickly.

    My point is I’m all for people making a wage they can live on, but I’m also all for people being competent at their jobs. If you can’t figure out in your head that 25 – 16 = 9, then you should not have a job where you handle other people’s money. I can’t totally fault the worker either, because someone at the management (or owner) level had to have interviewed and hired this individual, so there is apparently widespread incompetence at his organization.

    So in closing, my two cents says, pay the people, but people need to do their jobs as well – Nothing extraordinary, just competently.

    The New Minimum Wage
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