31.7.13

How Not to Talk about the Minimum Wage

For a story that doesn't affect me in any direct way, the Mcdonalds strike and the reasons behind it interest me. I worked at a Subway ages ago, and I currently work in retail while working on my Masters to help pay for luxuries like rent and food. But since my wife and I both work, and we currently don't have additional mouths to feed, we're doing okay. But I can see how that might not be the case for many, and that's why I feel the need to weigh in on this conversation. First, it needs to happen, and I hope it does. But if the topic of the minimum wage comes up, here are some traps to avoid.

1. Forgetting who you are talking about. Most people still have no idea who is flipping burgers behind the counter. I work in a large retail store in a college town. Many students work there, but a lot of the age and marital spectrum is covered, making a living wage more than just a talking point. And as someone who used to live in New York State, I can vouch for its high cost of living. We are not talking about greedy teenagers here. The $7 an hour gig may still be a stepping stone for a handful, but for many more it has evolved into a dead end. Our economy has changed the picture on us, and we need to keep that in mind as we discuss what should happen next.

2. Lecturing the workers. I have no idea if Mcdonalds employees have to endure rants by customers on how evil their employer is, but this happens in retail. Let's just assume the fair trade shops aren't hiring, and try not to put employees in awkward situations. If you have a job offer, that's different. Offer away.

3. Pretending starving people out is our only option. I've heard the arguments against raising the minimum wage: inflation may rise, employers will have no choice but to let people go. These are challenges, not locked doors. Let's talk about solutions, and if you doubt we need them, please review number 1.

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