Living wage pushes are happening all throughout the country, with minimum wage slowly rising in an attempt to get hundreds of thousands of hourly workers out of poverty. Conservatives, however, are still trying to convince the public that a minimum wage job is one that is primarily populated by teens, that no one is using that work to support a family, and that it will harm — not help — the workers themselves if they get a raise.
“It is true that most low-wage workers will experience a rise in income if the federal minimum wage level is raised,” opines political scientist Thomas Sherrer in a Forbes column. “But it is also true that much of the increased income would accrue to families who are relatively well off, and raising the minimum wage sharply above its current level is likely to reduce employment among young and low-skill workers…Economic research is tricky business, but the literature consistently shows that getting and keeping a job is key to upward mobility. So while it’s probably fair to assess that most low-wage workers will benefit from a minimum wage increase, we must also acknowledge that there is a tradeoff involved, in this case, reduced employment opportunities for the most vulnerable among our workforce. And that is something certainly worth considering.”
What Sherrer is claiming is the idea that if an employer has to pay more, he can only keep on so many employees, in essence threatening workers with the idea that to get a raise would be risking being fired. Any economist with his or her degree has to acknowledge the number of details being left out of the argument: a) a business needs a base number of people to run, and cannot reduce its labor force to less than that without being able to function, regardless of what it costs to continue to employ them; and b) more workers with more money means having disposable income, which allows them to be customers who are able to purchase the products or services that the business is offering.
Minimum wage workers, meanwhile, understand that although economic analysts can wax poetic about the real world impact of raising the hourly wage, for them, it’s truly a matter of life or death. Just last week we saw that in action when a woman juggling four minimum wage jobs died after falling asleep in her parked car between shifts.
Workers are no longer content to work to death, piling up minimum wage positions in order to scrape by. This week, workers across the country have created a day of action to protest for a $15 minimum wage, more than double the current rate. According to Mother Jones, this strike is different from past civil disobedience events, as home health care workers have joined in with fast food workers from dozens of cities. “The Service Employees Industrial Union, which has backed the workers from the start, hopes the addition of some of the nation’s 2 million home healthcare aides to the growing movement will put additional pressure on states and localities to raise their minimum wage,” reports Erika Eichelberger.
The “Fight for 15″group, which is located in St. Louis, has been organizing the efforts in cities throughout the United States, working not just to raise the minimum wage but to allow minimum wage workers the ability to form unions, too. Dozens of activists have been arrested in civil disobedience sit downs during the Thursday protests, including nearly 20 workers at the McDonald’s franchise in Time Square. One worker, who was 81-years-old, is on his seventh arrest from striking for a minimum wage hike.
There are over 3 million workers in the U.S. who earn the federal minimum wage or less. Yes, a raise may bring up the cost of your hamburger. It would also allow them to live without assistance, bringing down the amount spent in social safety net programs, and stimulate the economy with more available spending, creating new jobs.
Even a Forbes economist should be able to see that those are good things, not something to fight.
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