The New Minimum Wage

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.

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    Miranda is NOT what you think it is

    It seems like every other drama on TV deals with law enforcement, whether it be federal, state or local. Recently, just for the heck of it, I went through the TV guide and found during a 24-hour period, there were 28 different “Law and Order” shows broadcast. I’m not sure why the TV moguls think the police so are entertaining, but alas, it is what it is.

    During any police show, we’ve all become familiar with suspects being “Mirandized”. You know, “You have the right to remain silent …”, etc., etc.

    First let’s look at the history of these “so called” rights. The concept of “Miranda rights” was enshrined in U.S. law following the 1966 Miranda v. Arizona Supreme Court decision, which found that the Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights of Ernesto Arturo Miranda had been violated during his arrest and trial for armed robbery, kidnapping, and rape of a mentally handicapped young woman.

    The Supreme Court did not specify the exact wording to use when informing a suspect of his/her rights. However, the Court did create a set of guidelines that must be followed. The ruling states:

    The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he/she has the right to remain silent, and that anything the person says will be used against that person in court; the person must be clearly informed that he/she has the right to consult with an attorney and to have that attorney present during questioning, and that, if he/she is indigent, an attorney will be provided at no cost to represent him/her.

    Now for the update. On June 1, 2010, in deciding the Berghuis v. Thompkins case, the United States Supreme Court declared that criminal defendants who have been read the Miranda rights (and who have indicated they understand them and have not already waived them), must explicitly state during or before an interrogation begins that they wish to be silent and not speak to police for that protection against self-incrimination to apply. If they speak to police about the incident before invoking the Miranda right to remain silent, or afterwards at any point during the interrogation or detention, the words they speak may be used against them if they have not stated they do not want to speak to police.

    So in simple terms, it is now up to you, when being questioned by authorities to specifically state that you do not want to talk to police and to keep your mouth shut. Your failure to do so, will give you an up close look at just how un-entertaining law enforcement can be.

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