Fast Focus: 'What should determine the minimum wage?' Dispel the myths

June 15, 2014 

In order to understand why we even need to determine a minimum wage, we need to dispel the popular myths surrounding the minimum wage and so-called unskilled jobs. The minimum wage is not an incentive to work harder. Many minimum-wage jobs are not stepping stones to higher-paying jobs. The promise of increased income is not an incentive to excel. Individual aptitude is the motivation to follow career paths -- whether those paths lead to technical professions, retail customer service personnel, manual laborers, etc.

The minimum wage and other regulations governing workplace practices (vacation, sick time, overtime, safety, etc.) originated from a need to protect workers from exploitation and abuse because, left unregulated, employers exploit employees and expose them to dangerous and abusive environments.

Rather than insult minimum-wage earners by labeling them "lazy" or "stupid," we should encourage people to pursue jobs they enjoy without begrudging them a decent wage. After all, another popular myth endlessly chanted by "job creators" is that employees are expenses. In fact, employees are as much a product of business as the goods/services the company sells.

So how do we determine the minimum wage? The answer is simple and well within our ability to implement and maintain. The minimum wage should be based on the local cost of living. This would mean that the minimum wage of a cashier in a large city would differ from the same cashier position in a small community, but it would also ensure that employees are paid fair wages. If this means that billionaire "job creators" like Sam Walton's heirs make a little less money off the sweat of their employees, well, they certainly won't go hungry, unlike their employees earning the current minimum wage.

-- MIKE WILSON, Richland

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