Minimum wage never meant to be living wage
Published: Thursday, September 19th, 2013
Some fast food workers in the country made the news a few weeks ago by staging walk-outs to bring attention to their desire to be paid $15 an hour for their labor. Their protests did bring to light what some believe is a need to raise the present $7.25 an hour minimum wage to a much higher level. No one was proposing the rate be raised to $15 an hour, but some thought it should be at least $9 to $10 an hour.
Opponents of such a drastic increase in the minimum wage say that it would not help the economy and would actually result in the loss of many jobs. Employers would have to eliminate lower level, unskilled positions in order to stay within their payroll guidelines. They say that the federal minimum wage was never meant to be a living wage. It is an entry level wage for unskilled laborers and aimed at younger people just getting into the job market.
The present $7.25 an hour minimum wage has been in effect in the United States and most of its territories, American Samoa exempted (but that’s another story), since July 24, 2009. Some type of workers are exempted, like waiters and waitresses, whom employers may pay a minimum of $2.13 an hour, as long as their hourly wage plus tipped income result in a minimum of $7.25 an hour, otherwise the employer must make up the difference.
Fast food workers demanding their wages be raised to at least $15 an hour need a dose of reality. Their jobs would really be in jeopardy if this was allowed to happen. How many people you know would be willing to pay $6 or $7 or more for a fast food burger when they are used to paying $2 or $3? If wages were to double at fast food places, so would the price of their products, and that would actually result in fewer customers. Business owners are there to make a profit, not just to provide jobs.
The first federal minimum wage law was enacted Oct. 24, 1938, and was 25 cents an hour. This amount was raised a nickel the next year to 30 cents an hour on that same date, and again on Oct. 24, 1945, to 40 cents an hour. On Jan. 25, 1950, it rose to 75 cents an hour and on March 1, 1956, to $1 an hour. Five years later on Sept. 3, 1961, it was raised to $1.15 an hour and two years later to $1.25 an hour. We remember this wage well as it was this writer’s first job as a carryout boy at a grocery store. It was probably all we were worth, but we were glad to have a job, as were most people at this time.
Wages have gradually risen over the years as they have tried to keep up with rising prices and annual inflation. After more than four years since the last increase from $6.55 to $7.25 an hour, it is probably time for another modest increase, but nothing near the $15 figure proposed by some. Employees with most any kind of skills earn much more than the minimum wage. The obvious key to a bigger paycheck is learning a trade or getting some sort of higher education.
We should have learned by now that we can’t make one segment of the population more prosperous at the expense of another.
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