Topic: living wage
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September 24, 2013 at 7:26 AM
Share the wealth
The recently published “no” argument in minimum-wage debate is baffling. [“Should fast-food chains pay a ‘living wage’?”, Opinion, Sept. 21.]
The writer references medieval doctors bleeding people and wages of Mexican workers, considers a tiny island in the Pacific equivalent to the U.S. economy, and suggests that the economic role of minimum-wage jobs is entry-level employment for higher-paying jobs because all minimum-wage jobholders are inexperienced workers with little value to the American economy.
Not only that, but we also overlook that fast-food workers can be replaced with less expensive machines. Whew, this is a truly remarkable senior policy analysis of American-labor economics.
The true impact of paying a “living” minimum wage would be the ability of American (not Mexican or Samoan) citizens to earn enough money to pay for a place to live, buy food to eat and clothe children.
This would thereby reduce the burden of our punitive government to supplement poverty-level wages by handing out food-stamp programs, free lunches for schoolchildren, and hot meals for homebound senior citizens.
Your view of bleeding by leeches is another’s view of sharing the wealth earned by the hard work and labor suffered by minimum-wage workers.
Joy Findley, North Bend
Make independent choice
The debate over the minimum wage shows a stunning lack of understanding of elementary economics.
To wit, if you raise the price of labor, employers will use less of it, and output prices in those industries will rise.
If you feel strongly that wages are too low, stop shopping at Walmart, McDonald’s and other businesses that offer incredible values. Just simply direct your shopping dollars to higher-priced mom-and-pop stores and independent merchants.
You’ve had that choice for a while; why aren’t you exercising it?
Stu Haas, Seattle
September 22, 2013 at 8:02 AM
Event staff deserve more
I love the city of Seattle and value the many public events that provide enrichment for the city. I have joyfully attended many of these events.
It came as quite a shock to me when, instead of joining in the fun, I was participating in these events as an employee.
The large venues in Seattle contract work with event-staffing companies. The staffing companies demand a high price to supply people, then pay those people a pittance and disrespect them along the way.
This is important because every person who pays to attend large events has a say in where that money goes. Right now, it’s going to companies that take advantage of people who are desperate for employment.
These are the people who are willing to work a lot for small pay. But small pay is made even more insulting when the companies treat people like dirt.
As a ticket purchaser, you are making that event possible. Please take that power and put it to good use. Ask venues to demand better wages and treatment for the workers who ensure that the events are safe and everyone attending them is having a good time.
Natalie Boydstun, Seattle
Small businesses can’t afford it
I am a small-time retail-store owner.
I wish that I could afford an employee, but I can’t. Retail customers are a lot like grapes: They come in bunches. That is the time when an extra employee would be beneficial.
During slow times, employees — and all the costs associated with them — have to be paid for by the business owner(s), even though there is little income.
I don’t think that those who want a higher wage can fully appreciate the fine line there is in them even having a job at all.
Marty McNett, owner of Marty’s Paints, Burlington
September 5, 2013 at 6:28 AM
It’s up to you
Let me see if I have this straight, the fast-food workers want $15 per hour because they can’t live on minimum wage. [“Labor turns up heat over low wages,” page one, Sept. 2.]
I’m sorry, but I take issue with that idea. Both of my children worked fast-food jobs while growing up to pay for car insurance and have spending money. They knew it wasn’t a career and made plans accordingly. One joined the Navy, and one went to college, and yes, he got student loans to do just that.
As a single parent, I too worked a low-paying job, trying to make ends meet without child support or other assistance, but that didn’t stop me from pulling myself up by my bootstraps and working my way up to a good, decent-paying job.
Instead of going on strike and asking for more money with no increase in responsibilities, figure out how to get training to make yourself more employable or investigate loans and return to school. There’s a lot of help available out there if you have the desire and are willing to investigate all avenues.
Believe me, I’ve walked in your shoes and understand the worry of how to feed your child, buy clothes and pay the baby-sitter; however, it’s up to you and no one else to make your life better.
Putting some smaller, mom-and-pop fast-food places out of business because it’s the easy way out just doesn’t cut it in my book.
Jill Eshenbaugh, University Place
August 31, 2013 at 8:04 AM
The worst thing we can do
As much as many fast-food workers want to make a living wage from a job traditionally held by high-school and college students, the worst thing we can do is to allow these folks to set this job as their career. [“Fast-food workers take to the streets for $15 an hour pay,” NW Friday, Aug. 30.]
Will they go to community college with some of the increased wages? Will they try to improve their employment? Some will, but many won’t, languishing in a job not meant to be a living wage position.
Then, the young and students will have fewer jobs to experience the working world, and lack the personal skills that retail positions definitely teach.
Do these folks understand what other jobs pay this wage scale? Most are a lot more skilled than them, many with college degrees. Yes, some parts of the country should up the minimum wage, but our state leads the nation.
Here is another thought: these folks should try joining a union, paying their monthly dues, and hoping the strong-arms can further their cause. Aside from the physically or mentally challenged employees, I have to say to the rest, step up and improve your situation, it’s not my responsibility.
Oh yes, and wait till the layoffs start, and they would, bet on it!
Richard Eirich, Kirkland
August 19, 2013 at 11:12 AM
Column was misleading
To say that today, “more American workers are excluded from the legal right to form a union than currently have union representation,” as David Rolf stated in his column with Nick Hanauer, is totally misleading. [“Guest column: Seattle leads the chorus for a living wage,” Opinion, Aug. 11.]
The right of any citizen to join or associate with any group such as a union is in our Constitution by the First Amendment.
His interest in raising the minimum wage may be influenced by his position as a union president. Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour could double the dues income to his local.
Donald Shuper, Redmond
August 16, 2013 at 11:27 AM
Employers, not taxpayers, should pay workers
A minimum-wage employee is likely receiving a number of government subsidies including food stamps, housing assistance, earned-income tax credit and soon medical insurance assistance. [“A crazy generosity experiment,” NW Sunday, Aug. 11.]If the minimum wage were raised (say, to $15 an hour) the minimum-wage employee would receive fewer, if any, government benefits.
Since these benefits are paid by the government, we the taxpayers are, in essence, supporting part of the overall payment of today’s minimum-wage workers. Why should the taxpayer subsidize wages paid by fast-food companies, Wal-Mart Stores, and other minimum-wage employers?
I would much rather pay a few cents more for a hamburger so the workers earn livable wages, than pay additional taxes to support employees earning the current minimum wage.
Paul Jones, Mercer Island
August 12, 2013 at 6:48 PM
Increasing wage alone will not lead to wealth
If minimum wage were increased to $15 an hour, people currently earning minimum wage and working full-time would take home more than $200 extra each week. [“Guest column: Seattle leads the chorus for a living wage,” Opinion, Aug. 11.]
It is widely recognized that the most common way of attaining wealth is to invest, so I would advise a person being paid that additional $5.81 per hour (before taxes) to invest that extra money, and someday, he or she could be rich.
There are lots of investments that could be very rewarding. Attaining wealth is not only a matter of earning a fatter paycheck. Spending discipline is also a big part of the equation. A fatter paycheck is often the least important factor.
The alternative is to spend that extra cash on rent, food, clothing, entertainment, marijuana, or body art, or some combination thereof. The choice is his or hers.
Eric Tronsen, Seattle
August 7, 2013 at 4:44 PM
An unrealistic wish
To all those fast-food workers who are now demanding a $15-an-hour wage: as the old saying warns, be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it. [“Behind the fast-food protests,” Business, seattletimes.com.]
If you do get it, it’s almost certain that a lot of you will have no jobs at all. There is already proven technology that can replace most counter workers, who mainly take orders and relay them to the kitchen.
Fast food is one of the few remaining industries in which young people with little or no job experience or marketable skills can get a little knowledge of real-world working conditions. It’s doubtful that any owner/manager will be hiring many such applicants at $15 an hour.
This would also impact those who are working part-time to supplement the income of the primary household wage earner. It’s useful to keep in mind that the annual turnover rate in the industry is around 50 percent.
You might as well have set your sights on $50 or $100 an hour, as you’d be just as likely to get that. No employer with half a brain will pay an employee more than that employee can return to the business.
Lee Fowble, Edmonds
August 7, 2013 at 6:33 AM
People need to work for success
I think it is time to remind those with low-paying jobs that nobody owes them a living. [“Northwest Voices: Fast-food worker,” Opinion, Aug. 3.]
Millions upon millions of Americans started out life with low-paying jobs, and worked hard to learn how to do their job better. Through trade schools, correspondence courses and now the Internet, or just plain job experience, we worked our way up.
We couldn’t afford college either, so we had no choice. Every business and businessman constantly looks for able, hardworking employees.
Unfortunately, too many of us expect others to better our lives for us.
Don Curtis, Clinton
August 6, 2013 at 7:08 AM
There is much consternation in Seattle over “living wages” for low-wage workers. [“Northwest Voices: Fast-food worker,” Opinion, Aug. 3.]
Some people think these low-wage workers should, in essence, get off their bums and improve their own prospects. [“Northwest Voices: Fast-food restaurant wages,” Opinion, Aug. 2.] Others think employers should simply pay them more. [“Guest column: Show respect for fast-food workers with sufficient pay,” Opinion, August 1.] Even the mayor has chimed in, recommending that some businesses be prevented from expanding because they don’t pay “living wages.” [“McGinn’s stance on wages ups stakes in mayoral race,” NW Sunday, July 28.]
Despite all the consternation, though, no one, least of all the mayor, is thinking much about why wages are low.
Despite Seattle’s supposedly booming economy, wages are low for a simple reason: The supply of workers for unskilled labor jobs is much greater than the demand for those workers. If employers simply pay more, they’ll have to get some of that money back by raising prices.
The large supply of excess labor means no one has very much money to spend, which means fast-food prices can’t increase much without reducing sales and profit margins. Reduced sales and lower profit margins means fewer jobs and downward pressure on wages.
However, there is a way out of this pickle. If the demand for labor grows, the excess labor pool will shrink, and wages will rise. Thus, the mayor’s efforts to force higher wages by threatening to prevent businesses from expanding will have the exact opposite effect. It will decrease employment opportunities, increase the excess labor pool and put further downward pressure on wages.
James Harvey, Lake Forest Park
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