Minimum wage is a hot topic up for debate. The majority of Americans already support an increase—a whopping 66% support a $10 minimum wage, 59% support $12, and 48% support $15. So what’s still holding us back?
A quick Google search will pull up a dozen reasons not to raise the minimum wage at all— it would raise consumer prices and cancel itself out; there’s not enough money to go around; a burger flipper doesn’t deserve to make as much as a soldier; minimum-skilled workers “deserve” to be poor; they just need to go to school and get an education, because poverty is suuuuuuper motivational; the economy will crash. All of which are great concerns until you, you know, do research.
In this article, my arguments are based on proposing an $11 minimum wage. I’m using the most common arguments I’ve heard against raising the minimum wage, but please message me if there’s any points I missed and I’ll be happy to update it.
1. Increase in minimum wage would increase prices, raising the cost of living and negating the raise in minimum wage.
Let’s pretend that it is true that the only way to make up for wages is raising the price of the goods minimum wage workers are producing (but it’s not). Take McDonald’s, for example:
In 2013, McDonald’s in America employed about 860,000 people, and its total payroll expenses were $12.27 billion. According to this article (http://247wallst.com/jobs/2013/07/31/the-wage-hike-to-15-would-cost-mcdonalds-8-billion/), an increase in minimum wage to $15 an hour would raise the price of a Big Mac from $3.99 to $4.67…a whopping 68 cents. And that’s if we stuck with a $15 minimum wage. What about an $11 wage? Let’s do some math:
McDonald’s spends $12.27B on payroll, and according to the article above, it would cost them $20.59B at a $15 wage (an extra $8.32B). That’s a 67% increase, which means on average, McDonald’s workers make $8.85. If we increased it to $11, that’s only a 20% increase, or a total payroll expense increase of $2,454,000,000. Meaning an extra 5 cents on your Big Mac. Spoiler alert: that’s something they’re already doing—many “dollar menu” items are now “value menu” items, because the prices have increased from $1.00 to $1.29. And we’ve heard no complaints or national boycotts over that because…I guess raising prices are only natural and expected until you threaten to feed the poor with them?
2. There’s just not enough money in the economy to support a higher minimum wage.
Of course there is. You’re just under the impression that there isn’t because you have no idea where it’s all going. And I get that, I get being afraid that those wages are going to come out of your pocket, but that’s not the case. So what’s the proposal?
On average, a CEO makes over 300 times what his workers make. Here people are going to assume that I’m against people being millionaires, and that’s not the case. My problem is not with the wealthy, but with the wealthy getting wealthy off the backs of people who are incapable of bettering their situation because the system is set up to reward wealth, not hard work. So what if a CEO and his board members made, like, $4M total, instead of $10M? How completely horrible does that sound? This is not cross-subsidy, this is human decency. Workers’ wages should be treated as any other COG, not a way to split the leftover money after you’ve taken your millions to go. And the thing is, even after paying their employees a living wage, these people will still be millionaires. It’s not like anyone will be suffering because the people at the bottom are now slightly above the bottom. There is more than enough money to go around, it’s simply a matter of management. (I highly recommend watching Michael Moore’s “Where To Invade Next” if this is still a confusing concept for you.)
3. How dare you suggest Sally McPoorpants make $11 an hour when that’s how much our soldiers and EMTs are making??
Okay, that would be a fair point if we were suggesting that a burger flipper works just as hard as a Marine. But what we’re saying is, if $11 is the minimum you can make to keep your life together, then why aren’t you mad that that’s what our men and women are making on the front lines? You’re making $25+ an hour as an accountant, while your friends and nieces and nephews and children are making less than that, literally being shot at for a living? The initial wage for an E-1 is $1,416.30 a month…I made that working in retail, and that bothers the hell out of me. I don’t deserve less money, they deserve more. Why is that hard? An EMT starts at $20k a year, or a little less than $1,700 a month, working the ridiculous hours they do, seeing the horrible things they do. They work harder than $1,700 a month. Why is that hard? You are keeping the wages low for hard-working, life-saving men and women to justify paying unskilled workers a literal poverty wage. It’s disgusting.
4. Unskilled workers deserve low wages. If they want more money, they should work harder.
Here is a flowchart of what living on minimum wage at 40 hours a week looks like (in a city that allows for poor people.) (Also, is it a very pretty flowchart? No, but flowcharts are not my major.)
In case you suck at math, this person’s total expenses amount to $143.87 more than they make in a month. And this doesn’t include things like new clothes, toiletries, copays for doctor visits/prescriptions children, etc.
“They can get food stamps!”
Oh good! Now they have $29.13 left over at the end of the month! They can buy…one shoe! Or some goldfish! (Also, aren’t you the same guys bitching about food stamps?)
“Then they should work more hours!”
Okay, so here’s something cool that’s been conveniently left out of textbooks:
In the 1790s, American workers went on strike to have their shifts reduced to 10 hours a day (yes, reduced to 10 hours).
In 1842, Boston ship carpenters earned an 8-hour day. In 1868, Congress passed laws to limit federal employees’ hours to 8 a day.
In 1867, Chicago’s economy shut down for a week before collapsing because of a city-wide strike for an 8-hour work day.
In 1872, 100,000 workers in NYC went on strike for the right to an 8-hour day.
In 1869, Ulysses S. Grant issued a National Eight Hour Law Proclamation.
In August 1866, the National Labor Union at Baltimore passed a resolution that said, “The first and great necessity of the present to free labor of this country from capitalist slavery, is the passing of a law by which eight hours shall be the normal working day in all States of the American Union. We are resolved to put forth all our strength until this glorious result is achieved.”
More protests, more strikes, more proposals, etc. allllllll the way up until in 1937, when we passed the Fair Labor Standard Act which stated that a standard work week would be 40 hours, and anything beyond that would be paid a time-and-a-half.
The people who fought for this 40-hour work week were not bankers, lawyers, accountants, business owners, wealthy men who decided how they bottom half should live. They were laborers, carpenters, mechanics; they were the “dirty workers” of society who demanded to be treated like humans beings. They were the majority that spoke against the establishment, and they won.
There are two main points that I want to make with this information:
a. The 40-hour work week is not a new concept. This is not a problem we Goshdarn Millennials™ invented because we’re lazy and entitled—this has been a topic of debate for over 200 years.
b. The minimum wage we have currently is a clever way of keeping the lower class “in their place”, and an incredibly vile way of evading fair pay, namely benefits and time-and-a-half. Most minimum-wage employers will not even officially give you 30 hours, because that would make you a full-time employee, which would require them offering you benefits. What they should do is hire x amount of people at 35-40 hours a week with benefits; instead, they will hire 2x amount of people at 20-“ish” hours a week, and ask them to work more than they signed up for in order to avoid all those pesky benefits and bonuses—which surely the employee can refuse, but at the risk of retaliation. The employer will schedule you for 25 hours, name you “officially” a part-time employee, and then ask you to come in an extra 10 hours during the week, effectively screwing you out of benefits, but not giving you enough hours to warrant time-and-a-half. When a person is working 60 hours a week and not receiving benefits or overtime bonuses, that is a legalized form of theft.
5. Why don’t they just get an education so they can get better jobs?
Refer to above chart.
As wild as this concept is, school costs money, and take lots and lots of time, and according to so many of you, “poor people” don’t get to enjoy an abundance of both—they must sacrifice money for time, or time for money.
So, say those people followed your advice from Point #4 and picked up another job (as I said before, if they’re working 40 hours a week at minimum wage they’re probably already working two jobs) to pay for school anyway. Here’s what that looks like:
55 hours a week @ $7.25 an hour = $1,451.45 a month after taxes (no OT, because they’re working 2-3 separate jobs)
42 hours a week of sleep (6 hours a night—less than the average adult needs)
9 hours of class (they only have time/money to be a PT student)
12 hours of studying (that’s underdoing it—for each credit hour you take, the recommended out-of-class time spent studying is 2-3 hours, meaning realistically they should be studying 18-27 hours a week)
20 hours of commute time (public transportation is a bitch—as someone who has actually lived like this financially, on almost this exact work schedule, I can assure you 20 hours is no exaggeration)
10.5 hours getting ready (1.5 a day—combined time preparing for work and bed)
10.5 hours for meals (1.5 a day—includes prep and consumption…Ramen? A salad? A piece of toast?)
I’m a firm believer in taking care of yourself, as I know firsthand the effects when you don’t (refer to previous article on mental illness). Those 9 hours a week give them enough time for…I guess naps? They have no time to work out (which is hard to do on 6 hours of sleep in addition to 55 hours of work and 21 hours of study time, anyway), no time to focus on her health whatsoever. Sick days? Ha! You would have to be in 100% perfect mental health to be able to handle this, and thanks to Baby Boomers and Gen X, most of us are in sub-par mental health and don’t have the means to fix it (anxiety is rampant among us Goshdarn Millennials™, for good reason, and psychiatric health does in fact cost money and time, if that’s not something you struggle with).
6. But the economy will crash!
Generally speaking, the middle class tends to spend more money proportionate to their income, compared to the upper class…meaning that if Average-Income Anne can afford all of her bills and have money left over to spend without becoming impoverished, she will, instead of amassing it and sitting on it, never to see the light of day (or the economy) again. So if millions of people suddenly have a couple hundred extra dollars a month, the economy is going to explode. The government is going to save billions on welfare/food stamps (read: your taxes). The millionaire CEOs will still be millionaires, the billion-dollar-companies will still be billion-dollar-companies, and more people are gonna be able to buy stuff (i.e. more money is being injected into the economy and circulating instead of being hoarded by aforementioned m/billionaires)! Nobody is going to go broke by paying people a livable wage! That’s literally the whole point! Again, why is this so hard?
In conclusion, if a person is willing and able to work a full work week, they do not deserve to live in poverty. Your hard work is not suddenly going to become meaningless because the minimum wage is no longer a poverty wage; and if you are worried about suddenly being devalued as a person because working people are no longer, you know, starving, then you have more pressing issues (see: narcissism). Our ancestors fought for living wages, for reasonable hours, for opportunity. Being educated, skilled, or even smart should not be conditions on which you are allowed to feed yourself and your family.
Italy recognizes this, and their economy is doing fine…still plenty of millionaires.
France recognizes this, and their economy is doing fine…still plenty of millionaires.
Germany, Australia, and Denmark recognize this, and their economy is doing fine…still plenty of millionaires.
We can afford it. We are considered the most powerful country in the world: we have nuclear weapons; we have trillion-dollar army jets; we literally have a list of multi-billionaires that is at least 400 people long (https://www.forbes.com/forbes-400/list/9/#version:static) who are not paying their full share of taxes within their income brackets.
Claiming that we cannot afford to pay our own people a decent living wage proves that we are not, in fact, the most powerful country in the world. That is shameful, and weak, and a damn lie.