American Elephants


The Unintended Consequences of Demanding Higher Pay by The Elephant's Child

15Apr15-seattle-march_crowd2

The law of unintended consequences strikes again. Low wage workers in Seattle spent months agitating for a city-wide $15 an  hour were successful in their agitation. The City of Sea-Tac (the area surrounding the Seattle-Tacoma airport) had passed a $15 an hour bill. The state wide minimum wage locally was already $9.32.

Workers in local hotels and restaurants and in the airport soon found out that the raise was not as profitable as they had assumed. Hours were cut. Workers suddenly had to pay for their own parking and their own lunches. Politicians, those unfamiliar with basic economics, often assume that they are lifting poor people out of poverty.  Not so fast.

Some workers across the city are suddenly asking their bosses to give them fewer hours, because the higher wage is forcing them off the welfare programs they rely on, so they can earn less to avoid losing assistance. 

Who are low-wage workers, and why can ‘t they get higher pay? A very large percentage are young people in their first job, learning how to work. A hike in the minimum wage law that is unrelated to economic growth, means the hike will be an unemployment act for young people. Ideally, the low-wage worker will learn on the job, skills that are transferable to better jobs. Most employers prefer to hire skilled workers than beginners.

Looking through the images of “Fight for $15” protests, it’s clear that the main driver and sponsor of the protests was SEIU, hoping to unionize fast food workers. The main target was McDonalds. Oddly enough, a very large percentage of McDonalds restaurants are franchises or small-businesses, who are no more capable than other small businesses of absorbing the cost of a government-ordered increase in wage costs. Restaurants in Seattle are closing at higher than normal rates.

No one has ever doubted that it’s quite possible to increase employment and the minimum wage at the same time. But it happens when the economy is growing and demand increases. And, contrary to Mr. Obama’s usual bragging, the economy is not growing healthily.

Most people have encountered low-wage workers who hate their jobs, are unpleasant, but say the required “Have a nice day.” A worker in a local store fits that description, and adds to it tattoos on arms and neck, and ear-lobes stretched out to take huge disks. A long-sleeved shirt would take care of the tattoos, but the earrings will limit his future job prospects.

On the other hand, my grocery had a box-boy, high-school and Jr. College age, who always appeared to enjoy his job, remembered my name, and that I had two cats, and was cheerful and efficient as well. He’s gone on to college now, but he will do well in life.

If you work hard and become the best worker in your current job, you may be ready to move up. Work is not meant to be just a payment to you, but fair pay for fair work. There are plenty of unskilled workers ready to take those jobs you sneer at, and there are other replacements who don’t protest and don’t demand time off, overtime nor sick pay.

I should probably add that this is a case history in the way government welfare is set up to keep the recipients from turning to real work to escape dependence. They are not into helping people on welfare to become self-supporting.


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

My dad always told me “show up early, stay late, and be willing to do the things no one else wants to, and you’ll go far.” Those protesters needed to hear those words.

Comment by Geldarion

Good father. Unfortunately in the inner city there are too many kids without a father in the house. Unfortunately there are hundreds of people ready to replace those fast food workers. The skills needed aren’t really that rare. the protesters should hear that too.

Comment by The Elephant's Child




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s



%d bloggers like this: