Yesterday, on the way to my back “procedure” appointment, my husband and I almost had an argument. We didn’t have one because I just eventually shut up when I know the argument is pointless. He keeps talking, but I stay quiet.
Believe it or not, my husband is actually AGAINST raising the minimum wage. No matter how many times we have to go without, he is still against it. He feels like raising the minimum wage to meet the current level of inflation is wrong.
FYI, I don’t support ludicrous raises to amounts like $15 an hour for burger flipping or item scanning, but I do support the simple inflation based raise of $10.74 an hour. Even if people in low wage jobs were still only able to get part time work, like most do now, this would still be a substantial increase for them. At a mere 20 hours a week that’s the difference between $214 (gross) compared to $145 (gross) per week. It still leaves them with a poverty wage, but at least the wage isn’t as desperate as $7.25.
Here are his arguments against it, and my rebuttals.
You can’t raise it that much. It would be a slap in the face to people who already earn close to that for harder jobs.
He doesn’t realize that his wage is based on the minimum wage. By basing his wages against the current minimum wage, you are already getting that slap in the face. As I’ve said before, devaluing my wage to only $7.25 allows your wage to be devalued just as much.
Basically, if you do a job that is dangerous (Like say, working more than 20 feet off the ground, directly under live electric wires, while covered in various bits of metal safety equipment, and carrying a load of conductors near your genitals) your pay is still based on how much above the current minimum wage that job is worth. So if the minimum wage is only $7.25 an hour, all they have to do is double that and you feel like you’re getting a deal.
But you aren’t. My husband works for a major communications company. Like, this company has been around forever, level major. According to CNN, it would take 291 yearly salaries, like my husband’s, to make one of the CEO of that communications company’s salary. And that’s nothing compared to the 793 salaries it takes to make one Mike Duke (WalMart) salary.
The man makes 291 times what the guy risking life and genitals is making.
That’s right, I said that the guy who sits in an air conditioned office, flies around in a private jet, and essentially just holds the rudder on a company ship that’s been successfully sailing on it’s own for decades, is considered 291 times more important that the grunt dangling off a wire during storms, heat, cold, and whatever else, so that you can still get the naughty channels.
So really, who’s slapping whom in the face?
The job isn’t worth more than that.
I actually have a few problems with this one. The conversation about it usually goes like this…
Me: but why isn’t it worth more?
Him: Because it isn’t.
Me: But why?
Him: Because it fucking isn’t that’s why!
I’ve never been able to accept this as an answer. If you can’t explain why something is the way it is, then does it truly have to be that way?
At one point, enslaving your fellow man was something that no one was going to do anything to change simply because “That’s just the way it is”. Women weren’t considered more than the property of their father or husband during several past (and current) points in history simply because “That’s just the way it is”.
Saying that your going to keep doing something pointless, simply because that’s the way it’s always been done, is just stupid.
In addition, the only reason that the job is considered to be worth so little is because the minimum wage is so low already. Raising it to $10.74 wouldn’t make it any less of a low wage job, it would only make the wage more livable, and less desperate. $10.74 is still too low to be considered successful. It’s still nothing more than a passing wage. A starter wage. The last inflation based minimum wage hike was in 1968…going from $1.40 to a staggering $1.60. The proposed wage hike, to somewhere between $9-$11 an hour, is still only the same $1.60 adjusted for CPI based inflation.
Basically what this means is that in 1968 one dollar and sixty cents could buy you one hour of labor for a shitty, bottom of the barrel, level job. Now, after calculating inflation, that same shitty, bottom of the barrel job, is worth $10.74 an hour.
This doesn’t mean that anyone thinks the job is less shitty. Or that the job is somehow worth more. Or that the job has somehow become more important. It only means that inflation has increased the price of paying someone to do the shitty job, the same way inflation has increased the price of everything else.
So why don’t people realize this? Because of my argument above. My neighbor does a specialized and difficult labor based job. He makes $10 an hour for it. Instead of thinking
“Hey, if inflation puts the minimum wage job at more than I already make, how come my pay is so shitty?”
“Hey, I make less than that so they can’t have that much more because my job is harder.”
This is the problem with basing wages for more difficult, and more specialized, jobs off of an already unreasonably low wage. Because of that, everyone is already making significantly less than what they should. But no one realizes it.
Why does my uncle, who is a retired Navy Veteran, has an MS in computer systems management, a BS in business management, and graduate degrees in Vietnamese and Russian, and enough security clearance to work for any department in the US Government, still have to work two jobs….because his worth is only based on how much more than $7.25 an hour he should get.
It’s supposed to be a shitty job anyway, you can’t expect more for it.
This is another side of it that always devolves into the “because!” reason being thrown around without any substance after I ask “why?”
First of all, this argument usually centers around the idea that you are supposed to think the job sucks so that you won’t do it anymore. But someone is still going to have to do that job.
And you don’t know why the person is doing that job. So how can you just arbitrarily say that they should move up. Why should someone feel forced to do something they don’t want to do anyway. And being good at one part of a job doesn’t mean that you will be good at another part of the job. If you aren’t good at it, you risk losing it. Why are we forced to take that risk?
Say you’re really good at pulling a lever in a factory. Like good enough to be the best damned lever puller in the business. Good enough that other companies have offered you jobs pulling levers for them after seeing how well you can do it. Your lever pulling abilities have increased production and productivity, not to mention industry efficiency. You know you aren’t getting rich at it; but you have pride in knowing that you do your job well, you improve the quality of the product being made by your company, and you can basically support your family. You’re not living well, but you are making a living and have the pride of knowing that.
But that’s not how it is. It’s how it used to be. But it’s not how it is now.
It used to be that if you found a job, or profession, that you did well. A job that you did well enough to improve the quality of what your employer was providing. Good enough that you were consistently increasing efficiency and productivity. Not only were you allowed to stay in that position, if you wanted to, but you would be rewarded for loyalty and a job well done. The company WANTED you to stay in a position that you were good at because it was best for them and for you.
But not anymore. Now, once you’ve become a great lever puller, you’re supposed to move up.
But no one realizes why this is an employment death sentence in many cases because you are now set up for the company to not have to pay a higher wage for long since they’ll likely be able to fire you shortly.
This time I’ll give an example from my own wheelhouse. I worked for an auto parts store in Kentucky for a year. In that year, we had three managers. I was hired by the newest manager only two weeks after she took over the store…which she did after the previous manager handed the keys to the kid on shift at the time and just didn’t come back.
She was a great manager, as far as her employees were concerned. She was supposed to be awarded bonuses for increasing efficiency…meaning that she had to keep the fewest number of people possible working in the store on each day. However, she was only given so many man-hours to use each day. The company kept these staggeringly low. Like no one could actually accomplish any task during the course of a day low. So she was always going over and loosing her bonuses because of it. When they threatened her over it, she started doing the other jobs herself. I personally watched her work from open to close one day, then keep working until 3 am, then come back and open the store the next morning. The rest of that week was spent working open to close every single day. Since she was salary, this was the equivalent of her working for roughly $4.00 an hour that week…I know, we decided to do the math one day. Why? Because her regional manager told her flat out that, as a manager, if she had to work every shift by herself that was what she was going to do to keep her job. They wouldn’t give her any more hours, or people, and she just needed to suck it up.
She only lasted six months and I still applaud her for making it that long.
She did it because she fell into the same trap as so many others. If you don’t want to move up, if you are happy with where you are and do a good job, that means you are lazy.
It’s not laziness to expect to be paid on the same level as the rise in inflation. It’s not lazy to do a job that you do well. It’s not laziness to want to work for a living even if it’s a low wage living. Equally, it’s not anything awesome to have a list of degrees longer than your arm and still have to work two jobs. It’s not right for a free country to perpetuate what amounts to serfdom, where the lords of the manor get to say that you don’t deserve anything because you are serfs. It’s not right and it needs to change.
But first you have to get people to realize that something actually needs changing.
And that’s apparently a lot more difficult than I anticipated.
- Must See: Jon Stewart Blasts Arguments Against Raising the Minimum Wage (alternet.org)
- Minimum wage makes more per year than our military?! (halftangible.wordpress.com)
- The Wrong Questions Are Being Asked in the Minimum Wage Debate (civilbeat.com)