Tag Archives: Minimum Wage

A Living Wage: (n) A wage that is high enough to maintain a normal standard of living?

(Credit: Photo By STAN HONDA/Getty Images)

livĀ·ing wage
noun
a wage that is high enough to maintain a normal standard of living.

By now you have heard that individuals across the nation who have joined together, fighting Congress in raising the minimum wage from the federal wage of $7.25/hr to at least $9/hr. President Obama proposed pushed to increase the minimum wage earlier in the year, but Congress refuses to raise the federal wage. This has created an outcry by those affected most: the minimum wage worker. Activists have joined the fighting in standing in solidarity with the low wage workers while echoing the common sentiments over the last few years: income inequality that comes by the 1% which have directly impacted several the 99%-ers. Since 1979, the average income of the 1% has grown a staggering 240% while the average overall wages has grown a measly 13%. The great news is that the economy has grown nearly 62% over the last 20-years. The bad news is that with the growth of the economy and the many recessions that followed 1979, cost of living has sky rocketed while worker wages continue to a near flat-line rate.

A full time minimum wage worker will make roughly $290 a week before taxes. Congressional leaders make $294 in 3.5 hours according to the $176k salary standards for any leader holding a seat. GOP lawmakers are mostly opposed to any minimum wage hike. Republicans in Washington have argued that raising the minimum wage would hurt everything from small businesses to teenagers looking for part-time work, but several studies have contradicted their claims. It is easy to offer a rebuttal to people who practice hypocrisy daily. Small businesses being affected? How many of these leaders hold stocks in Walmart? Not to mention the numerous corporate kickbacks obtained by these same leaders from businesses who have crushed small businesses in America. Affecting teenagers looking for work? Well, it is a common misconception that the majority of minimum wage workers are teenagers. In fact about 3.6 million hourly workers earned at or below the minimum wage or less and 22% are teenagers (792,000) between the ages of 16 and 19 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

(Credit: Photo By Mayra Beltran/Houston Chronicle)
Fast food workers and supporters protest outside the McDonald’s at Kirby and 59 as part of the Fight For 15 national campaign on Dec. 5, 2013.

While 19 of the 50 U.S. states have increased or voted to increase the minimum wage, unfortunately Texas has ignored the issue. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) suggested that the minimum wage be done away with entirely.

I think it’s outlived its usefulness,” Barton told National Journal. “It may have been of some value back in the Great Depression. I would vote to repeal the minimum wage.

However, do not expect Texas leaders to present a bill that would increase the minimum wage. Texas Senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz have each expressed that increasing the minimum wage would deeply impact Texas as a whole. Unfortunately, each Senator has yet to prove the statements by facts or studies. Texas seems to be echoing the same rhetoric that comes by any “red state” standing in solidarity with the other.

States who have increased the minimum wage:

9. Massachusetts $8.00
8. California $8.00
7. Nevada $8.25
6. Illinois $8.25
5. Washington D.C. $8.25
4. Connecticut $8.25
3. Vermont $8.60
2. Oregon $8.95
1. Washington $9.19

Houston, TX – Remington Alessi stands up to a Houston Police Officer after wrapping “crime scene” tape around a local McDonald’s.

Locally in Houston, fast food workers have protested twice in the past 4-months, demanding the federal minimum wage to increase from $7.25 per hour to $15 per hour which is considered a “living wage.” From 1998 to 2007, the FLSA remained at $5.15 an hour. In 2009, the FLSA rose to $6.55 an hour and finally in 2010, the FLSA went up to $7.25 an hour. If minimum wage had grown at the same pace as it had for the top 1 percent of income earners over the last 24-years, the minimum wage would be close to $33 an hour. On a more reasonable level, if the minimum wage kept up with the rise in productivity, the minimum wage would be at $22 an hour. This means that over the last 20-years, an average of $7/hr that has risen by productivity increases which have been denied to the employee, who is essentially the reason why productivity has grown. It isn’t hard to determine where the financial difference is going.

Dialog from the Writer
“You served me a cheeseburger. How hard can that job be? Yet you think your worth that $15/hr living wage?” YES! The common assumption is that placing a Happy Meal on a tray and handing it over to a customer is worth nothing from a financial aspect. That is absolutely the case when we’re looking at a society that has continued to kept the poor down for far too long. McDonald’s income revenue for 2012 was $27.6 billion. McDonald’s employs 1.7 million individuals worldwide and 761,000 employees in the United States. McDonald’s would hardly be affected by the increase to $15/hr.
Recently, economists at the University of California, Berkeley found that 52% of fast-food workers rely on taxpayer-funded public assistance programs, such as food stamps and/or Medicaid.

“Taxpayers are subsidizing the low-wage model of these employers, who are making record profits in some cases.” – Dorian Warren, Associate Professor at Columbia University who studies income inequality.

Another example is the mega-chain, Walmart, who claimed $447 billion with a 24.9% gross profit margin in 2012 and employs 1.4 million individuals domestically. Walmart pays an average of $12.83/hr. Right before Thanksgiving, in Canton, Ohio, Walmart held a Thanksgiving Charity Food Drive for their own employees. Walmart spokesperson, Kory Lundberg, spoke well of the charitable event praising employees and bragging that the drive to collect holiday food for fellow employees shows just how much Walmart employees care about one another. Just how much did Walmart executives donate to this event? ZERO.

Instead of these businesses offering a living wage to their employees, these businesses put the burden on the tax payers, people like you and I, in covering cost of social programs like food stamps and Medicaid. The rhetoric “If you don’t like it, get another job” or “Why don’t you go to college and get a degree if you want that kind of money” comes by individuals who have absolutely no clue about defined economics and/or have been conditioned into this type of thinking that usually comes by political rhetoric, politicians and mainstream media. I commonly say, “Is that $15/hr really going to effect your every day living?” I am also concerned about individuals who settle for $15/hr after obtaining a college degree. We are living in an economy where gas averages $3.15/gal. Milk is an average of $3.00/gal. A loaf of bread averages $2. Produce costs are on the rise. Meanwhile the cost of living has risen at astronomical levels, wage pay remains low and society assumes that minimum wage workers are looking for a handout when that is not the case. Some individuals work these low paying jobs to make some money for leisure or to put a few dollars in their pockets, the majority of workers are employed in these jobs for basic survival. Many work 2 or more minimum wage jobs to make up the hours lost by being a part-time employee, only to make $15k annually which is below the poverty line. It is my thinking that if we raise the minimum wage to $15/hr, it would lower the unemployment rate, boost the economy and morale.