Favoring a minimum increase to the minimum wage

by Jim Byers

To some people, the minimum wage = McDonald’s employee = lazy people.

There are many people who earn the minimum wage from working as laborers, secretaries, retail clerks, or factory workers. And let’s not forget the restaurant waiters and waitresses who earn even less than the minimum wage.

Despite what some people think, not ALL of these workers are college kids and derelicts. Some of them are senior citizens trying to earn more money because their social security checks cannot pay for their medications and property taxes. For some people, their skill set or intelligence is only good enough to work at a McDonald’s or a factory. And what’s sad is that some people are college educated but can’t find a better job because the American economy is floundering and the job market is terrible. I give them credit for working a crappy job rather than no job at all. You might gain a little bit more respect for them if you skip the drive-thru, park your car and go inside and order at the counter. While you’re there, ask them what they can afford earning the minimum wage.

A protester urging his elected officials to respect workers by raising the minimum wage/courtesy raisethewagepa.org

A protester urging his elected officials to respect workers by raising the minimum wage/courtesy raisethewagepa.org

And let’s not forget that nepotism and cronyism plays a part in this: they can’t get a good-paying job — hell, I can’t get a good paying job — because all the good paying jobs go to spouses, children, in-laws, cousins twice-removed, and friends who know a school board member or local government employee.

They cannot go to college because they can’t afford it — even a community college. Their minimum wage job can barely cover car expenses, gasoline, rent, home utility costs, food, and trying to buy a little something to make their life and/or their children’s lives a little enjoyable.

For McDonald’s employees to demand $15 an hour is ludicrous. $10 is fair. How many billions of dollars are being made by Mr. McDonald’s or Mr. Lowe’s or Mr. Target while they pay their employees a minimum wage? Capitalism is good when everyone involved benefits, but it can be evil and sinister when the executives are greedy and unsympathetic towards their employees’ well-being. How motivated can workers be when their hard work is rewarded with just enough money to live?

A local radio personality recently said, “People who can’t make a cheeseburger properly don’t deserve more than they get now.” Let’s consider the other 95 percent of workers who can make a cheeseburger properly. And really, how often does someone screw up a cheeseburger? I am 39 years old, and I can’t remember the last time someone screwed up my cheeseburger. I don’t want to disappoint you here but what you get in the paper bag never looks like the burger in the commercial. You get what you pay for. If you want to avoid the 5 percent chance that you buy a subpar $1 cheeseburger then go get a pizza made by another minimum wage worker. By the way, the fast food chain that Republicans love to defend and patronize also pays their workers minimum wage. Don’t they deserve more money for serving food for a company that stands up for its right to discriminate against a segment of Americans whose lifestyle goes against the Bible?

Participants from Philadelphia before they board the bus to Harrisburg/courtesy raisethewagepa.org

Participants from Philadelphia before they board the bus to Harrisburg/courtesy raisethewagepa.org

Senior citizens are silently discriminated against because of their age. Some companies won’t employ this older age group because of possible health issues that would adversely affect health care costs or because they can hire a younger, less experienced worker for less. These older workers may have had respectful, good paying jobs earlier in their career but now cannot re-enter their former industry so they have to accept whatever job and subsequent wage that will help pay for their ever-rising living expenses and taxes.

Either McDonald’s restaurants or Walmart big boxes are the biggest major employers in some rural communities. Some people in those areas, and even the larger towns in Northeastern Pennsylvania, would love to relocate to more prosperous areas but cannot because their current wage couldn’t fund such a move. Some people say that raising the minimum wage will hurt small businesses — that’s not completely true. What does hurt small businesses is that they are forced to pay more and higher taxes because some big businesses avoid them through corporate loopholes and tax-free incentives . . . or just plain ignore those taxes until they are hauled into court where they eventually settle for a lower amount.

It’s not about socialism or communism or Nazism . . . It’s about providing a fair, livable wage for people who for whatever reason lack the ability or opportunity to further themselves.

Some contend that people should work two jobs, if need be. Are they forgetting that some people have children without a spouse or nearby family to help them care for the children? Using daycare basically consumes any extra money they would earn with a second job. Then add trying to pay for and attend college — that may be financially and physically impossible for some people, even if they are single without children. Plus, isn’t life supposed to be lived? How can someone enjoy all the freedoms and other super-fantastic things outlined in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence when they have two or three jobs? Someone could work two or three minimum wage jobs in theory, but that would leave them with perhaps 20 to 30 minutes a day to enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness before they have to go to their next job or sleep for a few hours.

Bill Herbert of the United Steelworkers Local 5652/courtesy raisethewagepa.org

Bill Herbert of the United Steelworkers Local 5652/courtesy raisethewagepa.org

As I previously stated, there are industries other than fast-food that pay minimum wage and there are more than just a handful of people earning that insulting, miserly rate. If large, successful companies considered cost-cutting measures, a cap on executive salaries, and smart marketing that didn’t involve paying celebrity spokespersons to promote their products (which are usually built to break) then they would have the money needed to pay their employees an extra $2.50 an hour. But they won’t. They would rather lay off employees or cut hours in order to maintain their executives’ exorbitant salaries. It’s not about socialism or communism or Nazism — forms of government which the majority of people don’t fully understand and naively, lazily apply to any thing that differs from their preconceived norm. It’s about providing a fair, livable wage for people who for whatever reason lack the ability or opportunity to further themselves.

Yes, there are some people who prefer to float through life, but what about the others who actually want to better themselves? They can’t because they are held back by the floaters who cast a negative shadow upon them: narcissistic executives and politicians who get month-long vacation breaks and receive stellar paychecks and healthcare that aren’t available to the constituents whose taxes finance it. Let’s pay our politicians minimum wage and see how they like it. I imagine they would raise the wage within minutes of it being inflicted upon them. From what I hear, Pennsylvania Democrats and Republicans like to give themselves raises, especially when no one is awake to question it.

Honestly, if there were no mandated minimum wage companies would pay their workers even less, as is done in China, India, and Mexico.

The only thing that is simple about raising the minimum wage is the solution — raise it to $9 or $10 an hour to give the average American a fighting chance to survive in a country where the price of gasoline, milk, and bread continue to increase while the minimum wage remains stagnant.

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