Raising minimum wageWritten by Bob Frantz | | firstname.lastname@example.org
”You know what it means when they pay you minimum wage? It means they’re telling you, ‘If I could pay you less, I would! But it’s against the law!’ ”
The words of comedian Chris Rock, who once made the least money the law would allow when he worked at McDonald’s, ring especially true for those struggling to make ends meet on Ohio’s $4.25 per hour minimum wage.
It’s a humbling feeling to be told that your very best efforts are worth only the least amount of compensation, at least in your employer’s eyes, yet it’s one that most of us have experienced at one point or another. Whether it was a part-time job in high school, or working in the summer to pay for college, or even in that first ”real world” job, many of us who broke into the workforce ended up, well, broke in the work force.
Those of us who remember the tiny number in the ”net” box of our pay stubs, just below the only slightly larger number in the ”gross” box, can truly empathize with those who look at those little numbers today. Kind of makes us wish someone would march right into the boss’s office and demand that he raise everyone’s pay to a more reasonable, livable wage. And when someone finally does, we’ll applaud wildly. As long as that someone isn’t the government.
For nearly 15 years, the State of Ohio has refused to budge from its $4.25 minimum, making ours one of only two states to remain below the federal standard of $5.15. But next year, a group led by the Ohio AFL-CIO will attempt to do what the legislature won’t, and they’re going to the November ballot to do it.
Stand in one place too long in the coming months and you’re likely to find a petition stuffed in your face, with a union member or volunteer lobbyist (being paid minimum wage, no doubt) prodding you to sign it. They’ll need 322,000 signatures to get their proposal on the ballot, one that would raise the state minimum wage to $6.85 an hour, starting in January, 2007.
They’ll barrage you with tales of poor, hard working people who can’t feed their three kids on $4.25 an hour, and they’ll tell you how the mean old corporations are conspiring to keep the working man down. They’ll tell you how the government doesn’t really care about the little man, and that they only want to line the pockets of wealthy corporate executives.
What they won’t tell you, however, is how many of the hard-working ”little men” they claim to protect will be laid off when businesses are forced to increase their overhead costs through higher payrolls.
They’ll happily tell you about Joe and Pete, who will enjoy a higher quality of life on their $6.85 an hour wages, but you’ll never hear a word about Stan.
Stan, you see, will take his lunch pail to the unemployment line because the boss has a limit on how much he can spend on his workers. With three guys making $4.25 an hour, it’ll cost the boss $12.75 in labor to make and move his product. But now Joe and Pete are making $13.70 between the two of them.
Sorry, Stan. We’ve gotta let you go.
Down the street, of course, is a bigger shop, where 20 more Joes and Petes are now enjoying the bigger number on their pay stubs, and with a lot more elbow room in the shop, too. That’s because 10 more Stans are sitting at home.
And Sally at the front desk? The one who was promised a $1.50 raise after her third year on the job? Sorry. Postponed. Joe and Pete are eating her raise.
Too often, groups like the AFL-CIO are able to convince people that all employers are giants like Microsoft or Altell. They can afford to give up some profit and pay their people a higher wage, they argue. And for the large companies, that’s true. But the Bureau of Labor and Statistics says more people are employed by small businesses and entrepreneurs than all other companies in America. A broadstroke raise of overhead on Ohio’s largest group of employers, ignoring the laws of supply and demand, would be devastating to their already thin profit-margins.
So when that paper is shoved in your face in January, think about Joe and Pete and how tough minimum wage is on them. But before you sign, don’t you dare forget about Stan.
Bob Frantz may be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.