Saturday, June 1, 2013

Working for a Living

When I was an employer and not really having time to think about such things I offered a package of work for pay that seemed reasonable at the time.  There were not positions that paid minimum wage because it was not that sort of business.  We consistently gave raises yearly even in the years we were not doing as well as other years.  No, I was not probably as good an employer as I could have been given my much broader understanding of that now, but we held our own at the time.

Now that I do have time to ponder the situation I read with interest any article that broadens my understanding.  My spouse worked for the welfare department in her state and has explained to me that many she interviewed over the years were told when they went to work for WalMart that they should apply immediately for food stamps, medical assistance and any other help available at the time.  I was flummoxed by this bit of information... but the continued reading has proven this to be true.  What sort of business model preys on its customers in this way?  With the owners of WalMart very firmly part of the 1% I got a clear view of what greed really looks like.


The economic theory at work here is not, "we're in this together..." but, rather, "Give me all you got, I got mine...".  It is the bully's way of walking the path.  It is corporate irresponsibility at its greatest.  Years ago I hired a painter to spruce up the house.  He was struggling a bit at the time and decided to take a job outside his field to tide him over in a down economy.  He ended up at WalMart for a time and told me the stories of their employee abuse.  I was stunned then by the system in place to suppress the workers who made the company run.

So, here come the questions.  What is a fair wage for the worker bees?  Why are unions so vilified and suppressed today?  What is a reasonable minimum wage and why?  Who is writing the laws that favor the abusive practices?  What is to be done to correct the abusive power of corporations AND can it be relatively painless? 

I have read several opinions about what the minimum wage should be.  The easiest of these puts the minimum at around $14.75 and hour on the logic that with steady but small steps would have put it there since its last adjustments.  I have noted that Congress rarely takes up this question and generally acts long after the need has become extremely dire.  That is, or seems to be, the model for this rate.  I have also read that if the MW had been upped all along the way since the 1960's (even though it dates from 1938) the current value would be in the neighborhood of $21 and change.  What does that mean?

The minimum wage as a percentage of the poverty level.

(From study by Oregon State University)

I have to ask why is the minimum wage for a full time worker LESS THAN THE POVERTY LEVEL?

If one is working full time to get to somewhere in the area of 60% of the poverty level there would seem to be something seriously broken in the equation.  This means there is no healthcare in the formula and that we have reached a level of indentured servitude not seen for centuries.  This is not freedom.  This is not acceptable either.  The politicians have failed us in providing for the general welfare.  They have crimped economic expansion and eventually it will lead to a deep collapse of the economy.

As an aside here is the history of the Federal Minimum Wage:

Minimum Wage Chart

If you are in the situation of providing for your family at these levels you are incapable of making a meaningful stand against a specific employer.  The threat of job loss is too great.  Even if you are not truly making a living you are fearful of losing what little you do have.  Given that the employee handbook for so many organizations admonishes against talking about your wages with other employees there is every reason to suppose that you are powerless as an employee.  Given too that appointments to the Labor Relations Board have been stalled in Congress for some time the mechanism for dealing fairly with employee complaints has been hamstrung.  There are so many reasons the scales have been more than just tipped against the worker at this point that general unrest and frustration is begin to form the early cracks in the system.

Which means for me... more on this later.

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