The newly chosen focus of the Democratic Party, the “Fight for $15.00 an hour” is a hot button topic that has been gaining steam for quite some time now. I personally have seen a surge in the propaganda against the movement, and judging by the direction of the attacks it has never been hard to tell where the conservative right will focus next. We have already seen them try to distort the facts to try to back up their narratives on other matters, and the fight over the minimum wage is no exception. Now we are seeing them try to direct all the focus on a small portion of the work force in order to sway public opinion on this debate.
The reality is, we do not know what the exact effects of a $15.00 an hour minimum wage would be, and neither do conservatives. No one really knows because we have not gotten to that point yet. We’ll know soon enough though because not long after Seattle raises their minimum wage, Los Angeles and San Francisco plan to follow suite. The problem now is, we are constantly being misdirected to small businesses when the people that are most opposed to raising the minimum wage are the ones that own or run large businesses.
Therefore, when this situation exists, I always chuckle a little when someone says they oppose a raise in the Federal Minimum Wage. Those people have no idea how much this debate can affect them. Honestly though, the results on that could be good or bad. Again, nobody really knows. There are some good theories though.
My favorite theory and one that seems obvious to me, that a raise in the minimum wage would help local economies, at least in the mid to long run. One thing I can tell you as a person who has been money conscious his whole life is that when I am paid more, I spend more. I spend some of, if not all of that money on something I need, or something fun I want. That money goes right back into that economy and that is more than what would go into it if I were earning a low wage. In fact, it almost seems like the companies the pay their employees the minimum wage would be most affected if the wage goes up, and at the same time, eventually their sales would increase due to people having more money. Imagine Walmart. If people have more money, then they are likely to spend a little more freely in Walmart. By that logic, there is a chance that Walmart would be able to make up having to pay their employees more in the event of a wage increase. Again, this is only speculative. For all anyone or I know, Walmart could end up seeing a decrease in profits.
Then again, when concerning any business, isn’t that particular fear one that all of them are concerned with? No company wants to take a chance and see their profits hurt. Now when considering a large corporation like Walmart, we are indeed talking about the loss of profit, but in the terms of the billionaire Walton family, or the other people that profit of off that company, that profit loss does not bring about the reality of poverty. It is simply less profit than before, which for some reason ends up being reprehensible. To me, that reeks of greed. Now considering a smaller business, there is a chance that a wage hike would hurt a company to the point where it may have to move or go out of business. I do find that tragic, and I would hope a good business with a good product or service would survive a rise in wage dispersal, but at the same time, I probably won’t feel too bad for a business that cannot make it if they have to pay their employees a wage that is not a living wage.
We have to keep in mind, this is just speculation coming from someone who reads too many news articles and has lived among blue-collar workers his whole life. I do truly believe that the people that are leading this latest attack to keep the minimum wage low are the same folks that would ultimately lose profits as opposed to livelihood. The corporations are the ones behind all this propaganda and they are doing so to keep the minimum wage where it is. Right now, the federal minimum wage is $7.25, and the reality is, nobody can sustain a household in any state at that wage. At a 40-hour workweek, that wage is below poverty level, and people simply cannot support a family on that amount of money. So why is the conservative right so against a raise in the minimum wage, and how far are they willing to go to fight it?
They are attacking one of the only industries that people are already holding under deep scrutiny. When you hear someone say something like, “I don’t think burger flippers should make $15.00 an hour”, not only is that an attack on raising the wage, but also reflective of the perceived worth of a person working in that field. And this rhetoric is everywhere now. Why is that?
The next thing to consider is the advancement of the internet and social media. Originally, a disgruntled customer would have to place a phone call to lodge a complaint. While usually based in truth, the anger of the customer would dictate how much they would embellish the particular infraction. For instance, if a delivery driver cuts someone off, that person may call the store to complain, but if they are particularly angry or vindictive, they could add extra details onto the story. Perhaps that person calls the store and tells them that the driver cut them off, while at the same time flipping them off and yelling obscenities. For some people, anger led to a natural escalation of inaccurate details in regards to the event in question.
Now going beyond the phone call complaint network, the rise of social media and the internet has now given way to business rating and review sites, such as Yelp and Angie’s List. On the surface, these sights are amazing and a great help to anybody looking to compare companies based on other customer ratings, but with a little searching, you turn up a darker side of online business reviews. People have taken to these review sites to ramp up their aggressive revenge tactics on business that have upset them, and it can often lead far away from the truth, just like the tall tales from before. Understand, when a business that serves the public does not perform to standards, then it should be held accountable in the eyes of the public. That being said, there is a trend of people that purposely give bad reviews for places for the most petty of reasons. This is a trend that I have seen firsthand, and I am happy to say that it is easy to see through most of the unrealistically negative reviews.
I have gotten to the point where I believe that a combination of the public negative feedback, as well as most businesses catering to the most asinine of terms for customers, has given the a portion of the public an undeserved sense of entitlement toward the service industry. The evidence is out there anywhere you look. We’ve all seen a video of a customer losing their mind for the simplest mistakes at a fast food place, and often assaulting an employee that happens to be within reach, either verbally or sometimes physically, but it is even more distressing when you see some groups that blame the problem on the worker, another form of blaming the victim. I also believe that most people realize this trend exists, but they are not aware of the people that would exploit it further to advance political gain and corporate greed.
The first thing a person learns when working in the food industry is that these businesses do not like to pay people to be stationary. In almost all of these establishments, a person is expected to stay busy. If a restaurant begins to slow down, a majority of the people working have their shifts end. A fact is, that the food service industry is usually based around the volume of customers and the majority of the shifts at any given place are reflective of that. For instance, if a restaurant is only busy for two hours in the evening, then the majority of the staff only works a two or three hour shift in the evening to reflect that. Of course, it varies from place to place, but it is a good bet that most places have the majority of their staff working part time with shorter shifts. The amazing thing is, in most of these instances the employees are expected to get a lot of work done, and obviously, they do. They usually not only have help prepare and cook the food, but they are also expected to clean, interact with customers and stock anything that is used. It’s not particularly labor intensive or mentally straining work, but it’s also not as lazy as it is often made to sound. In a well-managed restaurant, every member of the crew is working hard to try to get all his or her customers served in a timely manner. Mistakes happen at all places from time to time, and are usually easily fixed. Beyond that, if there are employees standing around or being lazy, a manager is the one who is at fault, and they should correct the employee action.
The first step to combat this policy is to try to spread awareness of the vast range of jobs that are paid minimum wage, and the array of people that have to use that pay to try to support their family. We have to recognize that the people who are behind this movement are most likely the people that would profit if the conflict swings in their favor, which just happens to be the people that collect all the profits of the companies who employee the minimum wage paid employees. Finally, the public needs to realize that if they are not willing to support a living wage for employees, then they will ultimately have to help subsidize them themselves social welfare and benefit programs. That is the reality we live in now, so to do anything different would require the willingness to change, and for that to happen, people have to look beyond the rhetoric.