Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Wanna make more than minimum wage?

Work for the Amish.

As both of you know, I'm really happy we have Amish neighbors. They are kind, thoughtful, industrious, generous and more than fair. Whenever we've had them work for us, they frequently work out a trade – I'll cut your fallen tree if you'll let me have the wood, for instance. When we pay them money, it's always a reasonable amount for their excellent craftsmanship, and we frequently give them more than they ask for.

The community is split into two locations. The families who live on our road are only a couple miles away. There's another set of families who live a bit further out, and on the other side of the main highway.

I got a call from one of my neighbors asking if I could fill in for their regular driver this week to transport three little girls to and from their school. Total mileage each day is about 30. Total time is about an hour and a half.

They pay $20 a day.

Which, at about $13 an hour, seems like way too much to me.

And leads, naturally, to the larger issue of just what IS a fair minimum wage? 'Cause $7.25 an hour surely is not. At least in my opinion. (Here's an in-depth piece about the subject.)

Those who would defend it say minimum-wage jobs are for teens, who need to support a family but do need work experience. They say prices for goods and services would rise so high the businesses (mostly restaurants) would have to close.

And yet, Australia has the highest national minimum wage (at more than $16/hour) in the world, but it takes just 18 minimum-wage minutes to buy a Big Mac. Here in the States the minimum wage is less than half – $7.25 – and thus we need to work about twice as long to buy our sandwich. You can see a comparison of other countries here.

Those who favor raising our minimum wage say more money would be available to spend. And seriously? Who in the fast-food drive-thru lane is going to object to spending an extra 50 cents IF prices rise? I don't buy fast food, so I can't say if the additional cost would get me to cook my own burger.

It's complicated, for sure.

I know one thing: When I eat in a restaurant or stay in a hotel, I tip generously. Having been there/done that (when I made $1 an hour, in 1967), I just think it's fair.

Where do you stand on the minimum-wage issue? Have you ever worked for minimum wage, or do you now?

5 comments:

  1. Plenty of adults with families are living on minimum wage. Costco pays its workers well above minimum and does quite well. But their business model of selling to upscale neighborhoods might not duplicate to, say, Walmart.

    Restaurant workers and other workers who get tips do not make minimum wage. They make less. When I was working as a waitress part-time I didn't really take home anything in my paycheck, it just went to pay the taxes on the tips I reported and to cover the meals I usually ended up buying (at a discount, but still not free) when on shift.

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  2. P.S. Your Amish neighbors probably pay well in the hopes that you will make sure to be available when they need you. That seems fair. If I had Amish neighbors, I would be tempted to ask for my pay in baked goods... but you don't eat flour and sugar. ;)

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  3. I think the concept of "teenager" jobs is long past its useful life, if it ever had one. It seems to be simply a justification employers use. Why would anyone NOT want a job that allows them to live? That's what jobs are FOR. A business model that does not allow for a living wage for its employees is a failed model, and the owners shouldn't expect their workers (or taxpayers) to subsidize their failure.

    Whenever I see discussions of minimum wage, someone always says "if they don't like minimum wage they should go to school and get training to get a better job." That really doesn't address the issue at all - we cannot all be chemical engineers or corporate lawyers. There are very few jobs to be had, at all, and people who are taking that attitude may very well find their jobs outsourced or replaced by a microchip tomorrow.

    I think I'm turning into a socialist...

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    1. I think there are worse things to be than a socialist. Just sayin'. But believe me, I don't say that very often, especially here in southern West Virginia!

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  4. When I couldn't figure out what I was doing in college, I moved to San Francisco for a year and worked for minimum wage full-time at a big bookstore (we were union employees too, part of the warehousemen's union). I was only supporting myself, lived in a rented room, shopped at thrift stores and ate a lot of burritos. It was fun, but I was 19 years old and knew I would not be doing it forever. If I had stayed on I would have gotten more eventually (and more benefits) like some of the older people who worked there did.

    I too get annoyed when I hear people say that those jobs are for teenagers. Last time I checked McDonalds and all the other fast food places are open for business well before school gets out. If they truly depended on teenagers for employees, they would not be able to open until at least 3 pm.

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