I’m sure you’ve seen fast food workers and their sympathizers “demonstrating” as they demand to be paid a wage higher than their skill set currently allows. Rather than be content with their current wage earnings, protestors are attempting to force their employers to pay them $15 per hour, based on nothing else than that’s the wage they want. These people need to be reminded that a minimum wage is for minimum skills. There’s no such thing as a “living wage,” as if people should get paid simply because they’re alive and kicking.
But why let the facts of life ruin a good, social-justice narrative that goes against the grain of sound economics?
From The Daily Mail
“A Chicago single mother has revealed what it’s really like to live on McDonald’s wages, where she makes only $10.50 an hour and can only afford to sleep in a moldy basement.
Adriana Alvarez, 22, says that even with assistance from food stamps, Medicaid, and a child care subsidy, she is barely getting by, despite having worked for McDonald’s for five years.
Alvarez is a leader with Fight For $15, an international movement to raise minimum wage laws and acquire the right to unionize.
…The mother revealed in a column for Refinery29 that the first thing she would do with an increased wage would be to find a ‘decent place to live’ with good schools for her three-year-old son Manny.
‘When it rains, water steeps into the apartment,’ Alvarez writes of her basement home, the only place she said she can afford.
…Alvarez said that, after paying for ‘child care, transportation to work, food, rent, and our other basic expenses,’ she can never afford to give anything else to her son.
According to the New York Times, Adriana Alvarez is also on food stamps, receives Medicaid, and a day care subsidy for her son.”
This is a sad story- and it’s supposed to be. If an economic argument can’t be made to increase the minimum wage for the minimally skilled, the next step is to make an emotional argument. After all, any employer who says ‘no’ to raising the wages of a needy employee like Adriana is cold-hearted and cruel-and that’s the message many of these “protestors” and members of ‘Fight for 15′ they’re trying to send.
But it still doesn’t jive.
First, Adriana is a single mother. Being so, why should her employer be guilted into increasing her hourly pay, simply to subsidize her bad decision making of having a child when she couldn’t afford to be a mother? It should be clear to anyone with an IQ above room temperature that the minimum wage isn’t supposed to be enough to support a family. A minimum wage job is supposed to be temporary until the worker earns enough on-the-job training to get a promotion or a raise, which then leads to other promotions and raises which then allows for a person to start and support a family.
Further still- where is her extended family? Are they not helping her? Why not?
Second, even if Adriana got her wage increase, chances are she’d still receive government benefits because she and others will eventually claim that “$15 an hour is still not enough,” which then presents the question- why’re these “protestors” stopping their demands at $15 an hour? Why not demand $20? Why not $25?
Third, if we increase the wages of the minimally skilled apart from actually being worth the increase, employers will then have to increase the pay of other positions as well. When the minimum wage goes up, those employees who have more responsibilities and more job skills such as shift managers, weekend managers and store managers will also need an increase in pay to maintain the justification for employing them too.
Fourth, forget Adriana and others like her. Is it okay to pay a comfortable middle class, suburban teenager who lives with his parents $15 an hour as well? Or is it just for the noble and downtrodden people like Adriana?
The obvious problem in demanding a wage that’s not commensurate with one’s job skills or work history is that in many cases, if these folks were worth $15 an hour, they’d be making $15 per hour. But they’re not, so they shouldn’t.