Believing that fast food companies pay their unskilled labor low wages primarily because they are greedy capitalist pigs, protestors flocked to McDonalds and Wendy’s last Thursday. Well… “Flocked” might be a strong descriptive term. The pro-union activists, nonetheless, demanded from the purveyors of low quality food-like products that employees get a bump in pay. Currently, minimum wage is set at $7.25 per hour. The economically challenged protestors of market driven wages are asking the profit-driven businesses to increase that wage to $15 per hour.
Heck. Why stop there? Let’s kick it up to 25, or 40 dollars per hour.
Ostensibly the demand is being made because the current minimum wage is not a ‘livable” wage. (Apparently you just keel over if you are employed for under 15 dollars per hour.) Protestors and union activists say that workers making minimum wage are incapable of escaping poverty, and such a low wage hinders the economic recovery of America. . .
And then… We have this moment of honesty from a young woman who protested her burger-flipping job in Hartford, Connecticut:
“And that $15 an hour, that would mean I would have to work a little less days (sic) instead of every day, all day.”
Right. If we up the pay for this lowly fast food worker, then she won’t be burdened with the obligation of going to her job all day, every day, just like the rest of us.
The protestor, however, is a prime example of how liberalism injures the very people it claims to empower. Imagine this single mother’s surprise when, after having the minimum wage increased to 15 dollars per hour, she finds herself laid off. Or maybe she will be one of the lucky few who are able to keep their job (with a pay increase) that will now be asked to work twice as much to make up for the laid off portion of Wendy’s workforce.
The truth is, it is hard to make a living on $7.25 an hour. But minimum wage, just like the jobs that offer such a lowly level of compensation, is not designed to be a wage that empowers a livelihood. Flipping burgers, or mopping the floor at your local Wendy’s is not supposed to be a career choice.
Which brings us to the often repeated (in this column anyway) difference between careers and jobs. The Current Walmart CEO started his career as a part time (minimum wage) employee… But notice that he wasn’t satisfied with remaining in that position. Upward mobility, and ambition, does far more to increase the living standards of any given employee than petitions, protests, and government mandates.
The jobs at the center of the minimum wage discussion are jobs that are not designed for the average American worker to make into a career. Flipping a burger is a job for a part time teenage worker. It can even be a stepping stone for someone who fell into hard times, and is actively looking to increase their skill set (in hopes of obtaining more gainful employment). It is even a great job for someone who is looking for some supplemental income while they job hunt for better prospects.
What the single mother in the video fails to digest, is that there is a finite amount of resources her employer can allocate toward her employment. Her pay is not restricted by her boss’s greed, or the corporation’s insatiable appetite for profit (although, it has been proven that most American businesses are actually run with the intention of turning profits.). Rather, her pay is limited by the willingness of the American people to fork over hard earned dollars for convenient (albeit disgusting) fast food. An increase in the minimum wage is also an increase in the cost of operating a business. Wendy’s therefore, would likely be forced to up the prices on their menu; which would likely turn a portion of their customer base away.
Lastly, it is not as if our single mother anecdote is living off of the take home pay from her job. A single mother in America making minimum wage qualifies for a slew of social programs. All these social programs are designed to help her unlivable wage become quite livable. Does she get housing assistance? Day care assistance? Heating assistance? Healthcare assistance? Food Stamps? Welfare? Child tax credit?
She is obviously, after all, not looking for an increase in income… She’s looking for more money for less work. And that attitude, more than corporate profits or minimum wage laws, are to blame for her diminutive pay.
The jobs that earn minimum wage are not supposed to be careers, or family sustaining employment opportunities. Raising that wage will harm the poorest among us. Joblessness will increase, teens will be blocked out of the workforce in even greater numbers, and our favorite Single mom in Hartford might just find herself on unemployment.
Of course if she was on unemployment, she wouldn’t have to worry about going into work every day.