Small Businesses Often Left Out of Minimum Wage Debate

Last week, Seattle passed legislation that raised the minimum wage in that city to $15 an hour. As this is an election year, and one in which Democrats are expected to lose seats in both chambers, this has become a hot button topic with both parties resorting to their partisan talking points to motivate their base of voters.

Though we tend to place the focus for this debate on fast food workers, it also comes down to those 'mom and pop' stores as well.
James Spurgeon, IVN Contributor
For those who have been protesting for the past several months, the increase in the minimum wage by the city of Seattle was a major step. Though I do think that the minimum wage should be higher than it is currently, I think Seattle may have gone a bit overboard and placed it too high, even though it was set at what the protesters have been wanting.

A Facebook friend recently had a discussion about this, and he made some valid points in his argument that are often overlooked with all the partisan rhetoric. Though we tend to place the focus for this debate on fast food workers, it also comes down to those “mom and pop” stores as well.

Big chain stores like fast food places and stores like Target can usually absorb the increase with a slight bump. But it’s the “mom and pop” stores —  those little neighborhood places — that will bare the brunt of such an increase.

It is places such as these that have to work to make a profit and afford the few workers that they do hire. With such an increase, most of them won’t be able to keep their staff which could result in them going out of business since they are not able to deliver the same customer service as before.

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As of 2011, the bulk of minimum wage earners are 16-34. This encompasses high school and college students and those just after college.

Now, I should point out that during college I had a minimum wage job, and I had a different minimum wage job for a couple of years after graduating… which was in 2002.

I did not want either of these jobs to be my career as I had just completed 4 years of college, but it was a way to make money and gain some valuable work experience. I continued to search for a career job during that time. And just like now, 2002 wasn’t the best time to be looking for work.

So what if I had to stay at one of those minimum wage jobs longer than I did? I knew that I could work my way up and get a promotion which would have included more money. I would have taken the matter into my own hands rather than expect the government to do something about it.

If someone doesn’t like that they earn just minimum wage and have to work several jobs, then why not apply for jobs that pay more? Why not work to get promoted at the place you already work… maybe a manager or something similar?

If I'm making $15 an hour at McDonald's or Target, what is the incentive for me to go to college?
James Spurgeon, IVN Contributor
We all have access to a “free” public education through high school. We always have the choice of going to college (or back to college) or even to a technical school, which would provide us access to jobs that pay better. This is not the cheapest route to take, and that part of the topic is for another discussion.

There still needs to be an incentive for someone to better themselves. If I’m making $15 an hour at McDonald’s or Target, what is the incentive for me to go to college and get a degree when I could just start work and save those thousands of dollars?

Some might argue that it would force universities to lower tuition to try and lure prospective students. But in reality, the exact opposite would happen in that the universities would start raising tuition even more as enrollments declined in much the same way that airlines keep raising prices to make more money (and cover expenses) though they knock more people out of being able to afford it altogether.

Also last week, the government released numbers stating that the number of jobs had returned to pre-recession levels.  My reaction to this was whether the jobs that have been created are of the same caliber as the ones that were lost.

Are we adding more wood to the fire to make this issue even bigger or are we creating the types of jobs people can make careers from?

My overall point is quite simple: take charge of your own life rather than letting the government do it for you. If you don’t like making minimum wage then take steps to work your way out of it. It may take some time, and it may not be the route you want to take, but it can be done.

And yes, let’s raise the minimum wage slightly to an acceptable level that won’t force small businesses out of business. Remember, it is supposed to be the ‘minimum’ wage… the base, so to speak… and not necessarily a career wage.

Editor’s note: The author wanted to make it clear that this is purely an opinion piece that reflects the opinion of the author. IVN is an open platform for civil and productive discussion from independent-minded contributors. All content is governed by our 4-point etiquette.

Photo Source: AP