There has been a lot of talk lately of raising the minimum wage. From strikes carried about by employees of everyone from Wal-Mart to McDonalds, to statements by Obama and others calling for the minimum wage to be raised, to McDonalds publishing a financial planning guide for it’s workers…which assumed they would hold a second job in addition to their full time employment with the golden arches.
And while raising the minimum wage AND tying it to cost of living increases is a step in the right direction, it fails to address a very important issue. The differences in cost of living throughout our nation. (And of course the very fact that many employers would pay even less if they legally could).
Let’s face reality. The very basic costs needed to get by vary greatly in our nation. Someone doing the same job, and making the same wage in rural america will be infinitely better off then someone in LA or New York City.
So, I would argue, that a flat, across the board federal minimum wage will never be fair to the worker, and to a lesser extent the businesses and the american people in general. One size rarely, if ever, fits all. And we need to face that simple reality. And create a minimum living wage law. One that mandates that the real local costs of meeting the basic human needs be used to set the minimum wage for that particular area.
As someone who has been both employee and employer, I would argue that no one who does an honest days work should have to be worrying about whether they, or their family, will have food on the table that night. Whether they will have gas or bus fare to get to the job the next day. And as an employer I learned that no matter how menial and unskilled the job may be, the company can not run without it being done.
I would also say that I have witnessed some of the famous strikes in our country- garbage collectors in NY City during the summer, rail and bus in SF, air traffic controllers under Reagan. And witnessed just how important these jobs really are to the way companies, cities, governments, our nation… It’s no different from a machine. It may be a $2 part that fails, but it still stops the machine. You’ve gotta take care of the machine as a whole, or you end up paying a far greater price.