Hike wages, but not now
A minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is an insult to hard-working Americans. That base figure should have been raised years ago, but self-serving politicians saw to it that working-class folks were kept in their place,î as they did the bidding of corporate CEOs.
Be that as it may, there are several ways a sudden bump to $15 an hour could be catastrophic at this time. One has to do with the pain inflicted on businesses by the pandemic — and that’s why the minimum wage hike had no place in the stimulus package passed by the House of Representatives.
It’s understandable that activists want to pull their fellow Americans out of poverty. But even Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has championed a minimum wage increase since time out of mind, has apparently decided the relief package isn’t the right vehicle.
Congress has several other things to think about. While mega-corporations can foot the $15-an-hour tab, that’s not true for small businesses. And even if small businesses got a byeî on the raises or a few years to implement them, trying to compete with the higher-paying mega-corporations for quality labor would be almost impossible. In fact, many larger multi-state companies would have to trim staff. Even the Congressional Budget Office admits the hike would cost 1.4 million jobs, at least in the short term.
If the bottom line of a business doesn’t permit the additional expense, what else could the owners do? Simply close up shop? What about workers who are suddenly without the $13-an-hour jobs they had last year? Apply for welfare? Hope for yet another round of stimulus checks? And what would that do for the morale of employees who worked for years to achieve the $15 an hour rate?
Someone in Congress needs to think of a more creative way to boost minimum wages. Among the ideas to consider would be the tiered increase over few years, or better yet, minimum wages connected to the cost of living in respective parts of the country. After all, $15 an hour will go much farther in Tahlequah than in New York City.
* From the Tahlequah (Oklahoma) Daily Press.