Opinion: The other side of an extreme minimum wage

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Ray Paoletta is a senior political science major. Contact him at [email protected]

Ray Paoletta

An hourly wage of $7.25 cannot support a family. Heck, an hourly wage of $10.10 would be difficult for someone to support a family with.

However, raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour at places such as McDonald’s or Wal-Mart is not the answer for those who struggle to support their family on their restaurant wage. Those types of jobs are not meant to be forms of long-term employment that support a family. In addition, raising the minimum wage to an extreme level like $15 per hour is not as simple as just raising the wages of workers making below that number.

Numerous jobs pay in the ballpark of $15 per hour and require little or no college education and a small amount of job training. Retail sales associates, custodians, landscapers, medical assistants, bus drivers and secretaries are all jobs that have an average wage around $15 per hour and possibly much higher, according to jobsearch.about.com. That does not even include mid-skill level jobs that often pay salaries that equal much more than $15 per hour and require two or less years of schooling. I cannot speak for people in the above fields, but as someone who works in food services, I would much rather take $15 per hour from a non-food industry job than make $15 per hour working at McDonald’s or Wendy’s. 

Furthermore, raising the minimum wage to $15 is not as easy as raising wages only for those who make less than that. If you raise the wages for line cooks at a fast food restaurant, or the cashiers at Wal-Mart, then the workers above them (supervisors, managers and shift leaders) may also demand a higher pay. On top of that, workers in other fields that make around $15 per hour already may demand a higher wage. 

Just think about it, if someone could work as a cashier for $15 per hour, why would a construction worker or a landscaper settle to make close to that same amount of money? Of course, some might say that it is a good thing for all wages to increase, but the reality is that it would not happen without consequences. 

Drastically increasing wages and salaries for large amounts of employees would cost a great deal of money for businesses. Mega businesses might be able to afford that, but an average restaurant runs on a 4 percent profit margin in a highly competitive sector, according to Forbes magazine. It would be absurd to expect businesses to adapt to a high minimum wage without either an increase in prices, a decrease in hiring and/or an increase in layoffs to offset the increased labor costs.

At $15 dollars per hour, a grocery store may as well lay off four full-time cashiers and install a self-checkout machine with the money saved from not paying those workers. That consequence would be the complete opposite of helping poor workers.

I completely agree that someone with a family should not have to rely on $7.25 an hour to support a family; however, hiking up the minimum wage will hurt the economy and workers.  A better solution to give poor workers who are in need a hand up is to connect those workers to more reliable, higher paying job opportunities. Working in a fast food restaurant or a retail supercenter should be a job for young people, or a job just to hold someone over until they find a better paying job. Furthermore, creating better job training programs and easing the financial burdens of job training and trade schools would allow poor low-wage workers to obtain the skills needed to work higher paying jobs. 

There are people in this country that need help. Raising the minimum wage to $15 dollars will not help.