Different Perspectives: Minimum Wage

D.C. Crowell and Daniel Kilkelly, Commentary Editor & Editor-in-Chief

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Between 2007 and 2009, minimum wage went from $5.85 to $7.25: the proposed increase in 2014 to 2016 would bring it up to $9.50.

Below are two articles about the issue, one for increasing minimum wage, and one against it.

Should We Increase It? By Daniel Kilkelly

The minimum wage is set to rise in Minnesota, and quite a few people are freaking out about it.  Opponents, such as Representative Michelle Bachmann, are not only against raising the minimum wage; they are against having a minimum wage at all.  Her argument is that if there was no minimum for employers, then there would be no unemployment!

That makes sense.  Then we could finally start up that much needed “Litter” business.  You know, the things where four people carry a box with sticks, and someone wealthy sits inside?  Instead of paying your chauffer minimum wage to drive you around, pay four broke college students fifty cents an hour to lug you from place to place.

Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not having a minimum wage could be disastrous.  It’s already difficult enough to get by with the pittance we are paid at the bottom of the legal limits.  Many people already have to supplement their paltry incomes with government assistance, food stamps and welfare and the like.  Bill Maher summed this up perfectly on his show, “Real Time With Bill Maher”:

“Do you want smaller government with less handouts or do you want a low minimum wage?  Because you can’t have both. If Coronel Sanders isn’t going to pay the lady behind the counter enough to live on, then Uncle Sam has to. And I for one am getting a little tired of helping highly profitable companies pay their workers.”

I’m tired of it too.  A few summers ago, I worked at McDonalds.  Even though it’s generally considered the bottom of the barrel by snarky internet commentators and those teachers who attach McD’s job applications to failed student tests, it’s by no means an easy job.  That restaurant is all about speed, and during the lunch rush, things get pretty hectic.  Employees must quickly learn to juggle several different tasks at once in a heated environment, or retire to the unemployment line.

For this job, I received $7.25 an hour.  Not terrible, since I was staying with my parents for the summer and didn’t have many expenses.  But if I was on my own, with rent to pay and food to buy, I’d have to clock quite a few more hours just to make ends meet.

McDonalds is an incredibly profitable company, one of the most prominent in the world.  Yet they can’t afford to pay their employees a living wage. Instead, they just offer them the vague promise that they can apply for a 50 cent raise every couple of months, and get food from the restaurant at half price while they’re working.

Employees are then faced with the choice of working themselves to death in order to scrape by or relying on the government to fill in the gaps.  And as Maher says, we shouldn’t need the government to help wealthy corporations support their own workers.

With a minimum wage increase, the lower and middle class would have more income, and the economy would improve.  Sure, there might be some businesses that would need help keeping up, but we could find a way to make it work.  Or… we can just let those big companies piggyback onto our sympathies towards the smaller corporations and watch them profit obscenely in the process.

Should we Leave It? By D.C. Crowell

Many people assume that raising the minimum wage is good. Workers will have a living wage to support themselves and their family. Fewer Americans will be on government-aided food stamps. People won’t need multiple jobs to make ends meet.

But this is a double-edged sword. What about the businesses? How can they afford to pay all of their workers an additional $2.25 per hour? In order to save money, will they have to cut back on workers? Will it be harder to get a job then? What about jobs that didn’t have minimum wage? Will their wage increase too? All of these questions bring about some disheartening answers.

Businesses will struggle, especially smaller ones that cannot afford to keep all of their employees. They will either have to fire some employees or cut back on available working hours.  While people will receive a higher wage for those fewer hours, cutting them too significantly will still be damaging.

This will lead people to look for another job in order to afford their basic necessities. But businesses won’t be hiring. They will be dealing with the same issues as every other business. Some will struggle to get by with only a handful of employees. Some of them will close their doors right away.

Then what about employers without minimum wage? When I was a nursing assistant/home health aide (CNA/HHA), I was paid $9 per hour, which, in the current job climate, is a good $1.75 above minimum wage.

To become certified for this job, I spent nearly $300 through a community college, one of the cheapest options for this type of certification.

Once the minimum wage is $9.50, the pay for the CNA/HHA position will increase to that as well.  Many health facilities can’t afford to go above that. That means a CNA/HHA, who paid hundreds of dollars to do their job, will be paid the same amount as any fast food worker. If that’s the case, why become a CNA/HHA? Why take the time or waste the money to do a more difficult job when there are equally-paid jobs that are much easier?

People are concerned that this will put education into question. Why get a degree when the starting pay will be the same as a McDonald’s worker? This could lead to some people never working towards higher education. Motivation will quickly diminish and minimum wage jobs will be filled to capacity. That would leave us with a group of unemployed with no education. Then we’re back to the main poverty issue that started the increase of minimum wage. Although this is a hypothetical outcome, it’s a possibility.

The ramifications of increasing minimum wage have to be considered for the businesses affected, not just the employees.