Thursday, October 26, 2006

7 Days at Minimum Wage

I've been hearing about this on this other blog I like to frequent Chicago Carless. He's involved with a campaign through ACORN that hopes to raise the minimum wage from it's current rate which is $5.15/hour federally. I saw the first video. Today there are two videos of a woman named Jessica who's talking about raising four kids at an "unfair wage". I got the link to this video courtesy of Chicago Carless as well.

Now, I'm kind of torn on this issue. If I consider myself an economic conservative and I believe that raising a minimum wage could hurt the job market. In other words, cause employers to cut back on hiring, at the same time I understand the need to raising the minimum wage so that these individuals can get paid more.

I'm of the school however that you are not meant to stay at the minimum wage. That you must progress if you want that raise. What this means is that you have to get an education or somehow add to the work you do or find a way to get trained in doing another job. If you're merely stuck at this entry level minimum wage job or indeed any job that pays better than minimum wage, that's not good. You're pretty much stuck in a rut.

I see where the blogmaster of Chicago Carless was coming from talking about this project he's involved with. He had a tough time moving to Chicago trying to find a job in keeping with his educational credentials. But at least he was able to find something comparable to his education and experience instead of staying at the little odd jobs he had to take to make a living.

Tough call either way. What do you people think out there?

Crossposted @ It's My Mind

11 comments:

crash-dev 1:42 PM  

In the video on the project, the Jessica, the Chicagoan interviewed, is in school and has attained more degrees since beginning work at minimum wage and has not seen a direct improvement.

I agree that is a tough call either way. One point is that Mike over at ChicagoCarless had some savings during his move. He did blow through them all, but it did not appear like when his first job feel through that he went into significant debt. Thinking in terms of what saftey nets people have, how to encourage them to make better ones, and the role of the government when all else fails is something that has been left out of the debate.

Mike Doyle 4:08 PM  

Crash-Dev, You make a good point. However, how on earth does anyone making minimum wage, paying rent, and feeding and clothing themselves in even the least expensive corner of contemporary America ever have anything left over to build a "safety net"? Or get credit?

For the people we interviewed for 7 Days at Minimum Wage, money in the bank would be a luxury. Money in the bank is wanted by all of them, if they could just be paid enough to allow them to save something, anything, at the end of the day.

You want to talk about encouraging people to make safety nets out of thin air. Unless you know something about alchemy that I don't, for a lot of America's working poor I just don't see how that's possible. If you're looking for somewhere to lay blame, look elsewhere. If these people were being paid enough to save money, they'd be doing it.

Unfortunately, that isn't the case.

Moreover, if you think I with my middle-class background didn't go deeply into debt upon arriving in Chicago, think again on that, too. I did, and I'm still paying the price for that.

Levois, you hit this one on the head. It is truly a hard subject to tackle. Thanks for allowing that there's an actual, human face to the issue. A lot of people who debate minimum wage won't even go that far. I give you a lot of credit.

Peace...

the Other Anonymous,  4:13 PM  

I think the days of a minimum wage being just a starting wage are over; so are the days of sticking with one employer throughout your career.

What you make is much more a function of your first wage (not counting part-time jobs while going to school or major career changes). What's scary is that more and more people fall off the high-wage ladder, often for reasons unrelated to performance. Paul Krugman came up with a great example: imagine twins, both Harvard MBAs. One takes a job with Worldcomm (the safe, smart choice); the other takes a chance and joins the slackers at Google. Twin 1 loses his job, even though he was a competent and honest employee. Statistics show that he will earn much less at his next job. Twin 2, though, gets stock options making him a millionaire -- even though he was a drone not involved in the creative side of Google's success.

I think the same is true of minimum wage jobs. If your first real job is minimum wage, you are stuck in the minimum wage economy for the rest of your life. Our laws about pensions and wages need to be updated to reflect this new reality.

Levois 6:08 PM  

I'm gonna find this article but over the summer there could have been a minimum wage increase that could have been combined with a estate tax decrease. It got voted down. For that I blame politics. There are a lot of issues that could have easily been decided but there are those politicians who just won't compromise and continue on the same talking points without coming back down to earth and looking at what's truly happening in reality. Either way tough call but this just means we have to be willing to roll up the sleeves and come up with something.

Thanks for stopping by Mike Doyle.

crash-dev 6:53 PM  

Echo the Thanks for stopping by Mike Doyle.

I apologize for saying you did not go deeply into debt, when I obviously had no realy knowledge. I just wanted to bring wealth onto the table. I just read a couple of Thomas Shapiro's works.

I want to let you know that I think your project is awesome and definitely influenced my vote on the illinois ballot initiative that I just voted on this afternoon.

Anonymous,  7:04 PM  

My first few jobs were minimum wage. Then I got a job at the RR that paid about 3* the minimum wage. Then I got laid off. Then I got a job with the state that paid OK but on the low side.

The only thing that really increased my income was a decision to go back to school and get a college degree, which I did in my 30's. Education is the key to lifting oneself out of poverty. Marrying up is another path for those who can do it, and I'd guess more than a handful of welfare moms have taken that path.

Increments in the minimum wage just keep the sharks at bay for a little while, and pretty soon everything else catches up anyway. I am for a fair wage, but also realize that low wages allow for low prices for other low wage earners, too.

It's like medical insurance. When insurance was rare in the ealy and middle parts of the 20th century, doctor and hospital visits, and medicine, were relatively cheap. The "safety net" of insurance and government aid for the poor has in part pushed the going rate for medical care to astronomical levels, and really put the squeeze on the working poor uninsured and underinsured.

Anonymous,  8:11 AM  

More importantly, are we making our lowest wage earners have to make tough choices? Pay the cigarette tax or go gambling at the casino? Pay the fuel tax and vehicle tax, or pay the liquor tax? Property tax or sales tax? Tolls or take the bus?

How will we ever be able to continue to raise taxes if poor people can't pay them?!?

Mike Doyle 10:27 AM  

I think the above comment speaks for itself. Taking stock of my friends (and enemies), none of them are in poverty. Several of them partake of the above vices. And since when is public transit a vice?

You obviously don't get out much, Anonymous. You may want to consider widening your circle of friends. Being poor is not a lifestyle choice and is not a marker of moral worth. Poor is not a stigma.

Stupidity is.

NW burbs,  10:27 AM  

Seeing as how the vast majority of people working at minimum wage are single mothers, when do you propose these single mothers "progress" through either education or extra work? And what effect will that additional time away from their kid have on the children?

And, given that they're at min wage to begin with, don't you think they may be in a dead-end job as it is?

Have you actually thought about this issue or are you just paying lip service to earn some "compassionate conservative" bones?

Anonymous,  2:52 AM  

Education is the key to lifting oneself out of poverty.

Let's correct that to 'education in a marketable skill, without going into outrageous levels of student loan debt'. IOW, don't pay $50K for training/ed for a job that pays $25K. Many people with education and good paying jobs wish they had savings accounts and are living the same paycheck to paycheck existence of min-wagers, just with bigger numbers.

Mike Doyle 12:25 AM  

Thanks again for covering 7 Days at Minimum Wage. With Election Day finally upon us, I wanted to let you know what the project team is up to in support of the six minimum-wage ballot initiatives in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, and Ohio.

I won't kitchen-sink you with all the details--you can browse the 7 DAYS project website for that, at http://www.sevendaysatminimumwage.org/site/?page_id=23 . But if you do click through, you'll find information about phone banks, door-knocks, prayer vigils, canvassing, election observations, and watch parties sponsored by ACORN and AFL-CIO throughout the six key states. (You can also find a lot of this last-minute info on ACORN's www.raiseswages.org and AFL-CIO's www.americaneedsaraise.org ).

It's obvious why these increases are important: an hour of human labor should cost more than a Starbucks venti latte. That the federal government thinks it's ok to pay you or me or anyone else $5.15 an hour is positively obnoxious--and most of those hours are below full-time and without health insurance.

I know I'm angry about that, and sad for the way the people we interviewed are forced to live because the law says it's ok to keep them earning below the poverty line. I know how deeply that fact affected me through my work on 7 DAYS. If the project touched just one other person out there to go to the polls and help raise their local minimum wage, then I know we've accomplished what we set out to do.

Please remember the folks we interviewed when you consider your state's or your city's minimum wage...or the next time you tip anyone, anywhere, for that matter. Do click through and see how to support minimum-wage increases in your state. And most of all, thanks for watching. Good luck to everyone on November 7!

Peace...

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