Minimum Wage: The Wizard of Oz Approach

Living on the minimum wage is no golden brick road

On January 1 nearly one million Americans in 10 states received a pay raise because of a hike in minimum wage — but the issue of state and federal minimum wage laws will not go away.

It suddenly struck me that a Wizard of Oz approach is needed for future negotiations. It will take brains, heart and courage to deal with the issue.

BRAINS, because we have some passionate advocates who are woefully ignorant of basic economics and think money can be pulled out of thin air with no repercussions. They think “inflationary spiral” and “ripple effect” are two new flavors at Ben & Jerry’s.

Some seem ignorant of the fact that minimum wage jobs are supposed to be ENTRY-LEVEL positions that you graduate from. Granted, sometimes life hits you hard and leaves few opportunities for upward mobility; but a lot of workers are held back by complacency or baggage. (Dropping out of school, hooking up with a substance-abusing lover or having children without weighing the costs can add to the “trapped” feeling. Kids aren’t left by the stork — or by flying monkeys, for that matter.) These people need to be reminded that if you stand in the same place too long, someone will drop a house on you.

HEART comes into play because a lot of bosses, whether raised with the proverbial silver spoon or not, just don’t “get it” when viewing the Munchkins (little people). They are forced to fake empathy with platitudes such as “I know the idea of a ‘living wage’ sounds appealing, but such things are hard to define. As are ‘stock options,’ ‘corner office’ and ‘smokin’ hot secretary’, which is why I got my lawyer to be so meticulous about putting those in my contract.”

These people are a little too quick to parrot homilies that “each employee must deliver value to the company” (unless Junior can’t seem to hang onto a job in the outside world and The Spouse nags you about giving him one more &^%$# chance with the family business).

COURAGE (or “the noive,” as Bert Lahr called it) involves tough decisions for everyone. Taxes and regulations must produce a business environment in which jobs exist for entry-level people to move INTO. Legislators need to modify the social safety net so it’s not yanked away prematurely when workers dare to TAKE a higher-paying job. Some workers need to be more courageous about relocating in order to better themselves.

If your business is prospering, don’t hide behind the businesses that really are struggling with razor-thin profit margins.

And employers should be a wee bit more willing to “hire from within.” At my previous “day job” there was a mutual benefit to my being trained to move from an assembly-line job to a data processing job, and companies should watch for individuals with potential. (“Harumph! I started this business with nothing but half a shoestring and I built it from the ground up by trial and error and now I insist on certified experts who are ready to hit the ground running. Quit looking at me like that!”)

Together we can see that good jobs aren’t just “over the rainbow.”

And that the bank holding your mortgage won’t announce, “There’s no longer a place like home.”

Danny Tyree
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