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05 Aug 2015, 08:28

Minimum Wage Increase

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Jens Rushing posted the following on Facebook recently:

Fast food workers in NY just won a $15/hr wage.

I’m a paramedic. My job requires a broad set of skills: interpersonal, medical, and technical skills, as well as the crucial skill of performing under pressure. I often make decisions on my own, in seconds, under chaotic circumstances, that impact people’s health and lives. I make $15/hr.

And these burger flippers think they deserve as much as me?

Good for them.

Look, if any job is going to take up someone’s life, it deserves a living wage. If a job exists and you have to hire someone to do it, they deserve a living wage. End of story. There’s a lot of talk going around my workplace along the lines of, “These guys with no education and no skills think they deserve as much as us? Fuck those guys.” And elsewhere on FB: “I’m a licensed electrician, I make $13/hr, fuck these burger flippers.”

And that’s exactly what the bosses want! They want us fighting over who has the bigger pile of crumbs so we don’t realize they made off with almost the whole damn cake. Why are you angry about fast food workers making two bucks more an hour when your CEO makes four hundred TIMES what you do? It’s in the bosses’ interests to keep your anger directed downward, at the poor people who are just trying to get by, like you, rather than at the rich assholes who consume almost everything we produce and give next to nothing for it.

My company, as they’re so fond of telling us in boosterist emails, cleared 1.3 billion dollars last year. They expect guys supporting families on 26-27k/year to applaud that. And that’s to say nothing of the techs and janitors and cashiers and bed pushers who make even less than us, but are as absolutely crucial to making a hospital work as the fucking CEO or the neurosurgeons. Can they pay us more? Absolutely. But why would they? No one’s making them.

The workers in NY made them. They fought for and won a living wage. So how incredibly petty and counterproductive is it to fuss that their pile of crumbs is bigger than ours? Put that energy elsewhere. Organize. Fight. Win.

I shared the above not because I thought that it was an amazing argument, but that I’ve heard the other side from people in similar lines of work, and was pretty annoyed at their selfishness, and shortsightedness. Where the argument from them was, why should they get $15/hr, I only make $20/hr and I do X.

I’d like to point out up front, that for the most part, we’re not talking very big companies, but smaller ones, where margins are tight. This isn’t necessarily one of those situations where it’s the greedy fat cats against the little guy, at least for many companies that will be affected by the minimum wage increase in New York.

That said, I’d like to speculate on what I do think will happen. I think that it will cause some small increase in prices, but that it won’t be such an increase that it will nullify the shift in earnings. I also think that it’s likely that wages will go up across the board, at all levels, to compensate for trying to attract talent, where they are now competing with minimum wage jobs. I’ve heard conflicting reports on whether or not minimum wage increases cost jobs. Yes, I’ve seen the reports that experts say they will, but I’ve also seen a meta-analysis that plotted the results of many studies where the net-effect was closer to zero.

For the people that get this doubling of pay, I am hopeful that there is a not so small group of people who are the working poor, trying to raise a family on minimum wage jobs, who will be able to perhaps finally have an opportunity to work themselves out of a situation where they’re constantly on the brink of homelessness, or where one small thing can cause huge, catastrophic issues for them. I’ll explain why this is important below.

The bigger picture, for me, is that this will significantly increase the buying power of the lower and middle classes. Even if we don’t assume that everyone’s wages will increase the same, we might assume that there will at least be enough of a shift for everyone else to offset the increase in cost of goods. With that assumption, now everyone has more money. More people with more money can do amazing things for the economy, in a much more sustainable way than a one time tax refund.

I don’t imagine that Basic Income will be a thing in my lifetime, but I do think that this will, at least in many states. In the long run, I think that we will all benefit from those wage increases.

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