The Herald of Everett, Washington
Customer service  |  Subscribe   |   Log in or sign up   |   Advertising information   |   Contact us
HeraldNet on Facebook HeraldNet on Twitter HeraldNet RSS feeds HeraldNet Pinterest HeraldNet Google Plus HeraldNet Youtube
HeraldNet Newsletters  Newsletters: Sign up  Green editions icon Green editions

Calendar


HeraldNet Headlines
HeraldNet Newsletter Delivered to your inbox each week.


Published: Wednesday, February 19, 2014, 1:00 a.m.

Stop insulting minimum wage workers

Beating down low-paid workers is not only not nice but also not necessarily good for business. And though some arguments against raising the minimum wage are debatable, others are simply insulting.
The national minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour. Back in 1968, it was $10.77 in today’s dollars. So President Obama’s proposal to raise the minimum to $10.10 is hardly radical.
Many states exceed the federal standard — with Washington’s wage the highest, at $9.32 an hour. Last year, voters in the small city of SeaTac, home to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, went a big step further, raising its minimum wage to an unprecedented $15.
All eyes are now on SeaTac. Will the $15 minimum floor, now in its second month, lead to a wave of layoffs and business failures as its foes predict? So far, there’s scant evidence of that, according to The Seattle Times. One hotel did close its full-service restaurant, but another is adding rooms and a day spa.
Some SeaTac businesses have increased prices to cover the wage hikes. Yawn. Folks flying to Honolulu or London can surely afford 10 cents more for their burger.
Many insist that raising the minimum hurts consumers through higher prices. They may not be wrong, but consider the class implications of that argument. If the CEO were paid a few million less, consumers would benefit. No one ever says that.
Another bizarre talking point has been making the rounds — that most earners of the minimum wage aren’t poor so raising it wouldn’t cure poverty.
“Only 11 percent of the workers affected by such an increase come from poor households,” David Brooks writes in The New York Times. “Nearly two-thirds of such workers are the second or third earners living in households at twice the poverty line or above.”
That may be so, but the minimum wage is not only for the impoverished. It’s also for the struggling middle class, including those earning somewhat more but affected by the minimum. By the way, living at twice the poverty line, or $47,100 for a family of four, is not easy, especially in expensive parts of the country.
Now imagine a lawyer being told by her firm, “Hey, you’re married to another lawyer, so you don’t need to make $70,000.” (That’s the average beginning lawyer’s salary and three times the poverty line for a family of four.)
Note how those making the lowest amounts are also scrutinized for what they intend to do with their money. Oh, they’re only high-school kids saving for a car, we hear. First off, how they plan to spend it is nobody’s business. Secondly, would anyone base a lawyer’s pay on whether she’s earmarking it for a child’s education or handbags?
Higher wages can be good for business. Because Oregon has a minimum wage well above that of neighboring Idaho, employers in the eastern part of the former are deluged with job seekers willing to drive across the border for a better deal.
Businesses in SeaTac report a surge in applicants attracted by the $15-an-hour wage floor. Employers now have their pick of the most motivated workers.
A higher minimum helps the economy by putting more money into low-income pockets. It also lifts many out of the poverty programs, such as food stamps.
Obviously, setting the minimum wage is a balancing act, and a too high level would do more harm than good. But experience shows that moderate increases have had little effect on employment.
Finally, let’s be mindful that a minimum wage is about more than keeping the poor from starving. It’s also about attaching dignity to a person’s labor.
Froma Harrop is a Providence Journal columnist. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com.

Share your comments: Log in using your HeraldNet account or your Facebook, Twitter or Disqus profile. Comments that violate the rules are subject to removal. Please see our terms of use. Please note that you must verify your email address for your comments to appear.

You are logged in using your HeraldNet ID. Click here to update your profile. | Log out.

Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.

comments powered by Disqus
digital subscription promo

Subscribe now

Unlimited digital access starting at 99 cents, or included with any print subscription.

loading...

Herald Editorial Board

Jon Bauer, Opinion Editor: jbauer@heraldnet.com

Carol MacPherson, Editorial Writer: cmacpherson@heraldnet.com

Neal Pattison, Executive Editor: npattison@heraldnet.com

Josh O'Connor, Publisher: joconnor@heraldnet.com

Have your say

Feel strongly about something? Share it with the community by writing a letter to the editor. Send letters by e-mail to letters@heraldnet.com, by fax to 425-339-3458 or mail to The Herald - Letters, P.O. Box 930, Everett, WA 98206. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We'll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 250 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it. If your letter is published, please wait 30 days before submitting another. Have a question about letters? Contact Carol MacPherson at cmacpherson@heraldnet.com or 425-339-3472.

HeraldNet Classifieds