Here’s the thing about Minimum Wage
Just a few years ago, service industry workers, primarily food service, did earn minimum wage, PLUS TIPS.
Then the Restaurant industry and lobbyist’s pushed for, and succeeded with, legislation that allowed restaurant operators to set a much lower minimum wage as low as $2.13 an hour, by averaging tips collected into the totals, to determine how wait service personnel were paid. In addition, many places require “pooling” of tips to provide additional compensation to busboys, food preparation assistants and cooks, hostesses, almost the entire staff.
As far as the food service and other industries are concerned, minimum wages are like taxes and other costs; they are passed on to consumers of their products.
Restaurant industry operators worry that Federal minimum wage standards increase their costs to the point where raising prices reduces the appetite of the consumer for an eating out experience.
And, economic circumstances often dictate that when times are tough, consumers eat out less, or eat at less expensive places and less often, changing the business mix and profitability of some chains and locations.
Now, we find some restaurants IMPOSING Gratuity charges of 15%, 18% even more on checks, and diners don’t have a choice. Food service workers that get tips are paid only $2.13 an hour, plus tips. And, the total must add up to the Minimum Wage or the owner must make up the difference.
Restaurants are doing this to create higher wages for service staff without having to raise prices and reduce traffic and sales.
But, that begs the question of what is fair, what is right, and what is necessary.
In a free marketplace, business owners should be able to set wage rates at levels necessary to obtain the quality of worker needed to fulfill the requirements of the job.
Service industry employees, which in this definition includes hotel janitorial staff-and those represented by unions have different wage and working condition agreements-medical industry employees, nursing home employees and many others.
In addition, Department of Labor and The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) exempts millions of workers in many categories from FLSA provisions.
We can think of lots of service-related occupations that give cause for a concern that workers, usually those lesser educated, lower income, poorer; are holders of those jobs.
Consider the farm workers in many, if not most areas, that work the farms that supply the U.S. with fresh produce and fruits. As of today, most are immigrant workers, many illegals, that can’t find work in their home country. Many are exploited with less than “fair” wages, working conditions, no benefits, squalid lifestyles, all undertaken to support themselves or families “back home;” many are not treated unfairly.
Farmers maintain that without these low wage workers crops wouldn’t be planted or harvested.
And yet we import more and more food products each year from all over the world.
American service industry workers, now primarily immigrants, mostly illegals in the farm and food service, medical “threshold” jobs, and all the service industry occupations requiring strong backs and non-existent education-the famed On The Job Training-get whatever wage their employer deems sufficient.
Farmers also offer that many of their jobs go begging for American job takers who, they say, and evidence seems to prove, don’t want those jobs-they are “beneath” them and their sense of self-worth.
Low wage, manual jobs on farms, in construction and landscaping (over 1,000,000 migrant workers just in those industries) for many Americans with low education from poorer communities, have been cultured to believe that these jobs are a return to “slavery” in the modern era, and no self-respecting minority would allow themselves to be enslaved again, economically, or otherwise.
And since our system provides alternatives to working; welfare, food stamps, food banks, free kitchens, shelters, and more, choices have been made that eliminate those candidates from the work force.
Minimum wages at even much higher levels wouldn’t change the character of the work and perhaps wouldn’t fill those menial jobs with American workers.
So, it would be great if all jobs in America were filled by Americans, but some seem to think that low-wage, minimum wage jobs are OK for immigrants, but not for proud Americans, and therefore” minimum” wages or illegal lower wages, are OK..
I wonder, however if a real Minimum Wage of $10.00, even $12.00 per hour would allow the prospect of a reasonable income to offset the negatives of so-called menial labor, farm labor and other service jobs.
While it definitely would increase the waiting lines at the borders, it might just , with some community and religious leader encouragement, make a difference. Americans used to extol the pride of working, of getting ahead, providing for family, saving for the future, getting an education.
Maybe creating some community pride and work ethic for Minimum Wage jobs would justify rethinking what is a Minimum Wage; get more people to work, create higher productivity to offset the higher wage.
Maybe the new Minimum Wage is partly a recognition of a “job worth doing is a job well done.”
The category of Working Poor has grown too fast to be considered a worthwhile part of the American heritage.
A free market society will always have “poor” for all the reasons we know; lack of education, lack of motivation, lack of opportunity. At the same time, America couldn’t have achieved the standard of living we enjoy, the huge Middle Class of all races and colors, including many immigrants, if we had not provided enough opportunity, education and motivation for most to succeed.
The community, the companies,and the educational establishment must all work together to provide the Hope of Opportunity that starts with a Minimum Wage, Entry Level position.
Call it Hope.
The best capital America has to offer is still Human Capital; if the force of competition makes a prospective worker come to the job opportunity with motivation, a minimum education and a desire to succeed, then the business and local community and the education establishment must help prepare the prospective worker to do the job.
Maybe all jobs should be designed to require college education, a full set of skills, and experience. Until then, we have to make the marketplace worth something to the worker. Businesses of all types have to accept that OJT is necessary; the start of an opportunity.
What Minimum Wage works for both the employer and the worker is an open question.
Some, me included, speculate that the availability of low-wage immigrant workers to do labor-intensive work has held back innovation, held back more improvements in standards of living for lower middle class households, particularly those that take and succeed in entry-level positions, the “bottom rung” of the ladder.
Modern society has to accept a change in our thinking about the value of a job, of employment, of the preparation it takes to get to a point of having value in the workplace.
Everyone has value as a human being; they should have workplace value as well.