Raise the Minimum Wage and Lift up America.

Opinion Essay

Because I know you really want to read my opinion on the potential minimum wage increase to $15 in Oregon….
And because I want you to know that I want ALL OF YOU to be able to have a better quality of life; and if you don’t want someone to be able to take their family on one vacation a year, just because they are a lesser-skilled worker, then you are pretty much, the definition of Evil. Evil ain’t cool.

Yesterday on the radio, a business owner stated that although it will be hard on him to pay the anticipated increased minimum wage (see: Oregon may raise minimum wage to $15 per hour), he supports any idea that will allow more customers to afford his products.  It was the first time that I heard this perspective in the discussion on raising the minimum wage in America.

Opponents of the wage increase, often cite that it will hurt small businesses the most.  This causes a little fear in me, because I prefer working for smaller businesses.  I always have.

I quit working for the corporate world when I stopped working for a corporate coffee chain back in the early 2000’s. I have worked for 12 small businesses in the last 13 years.  If more people can afford to shop at small or large businesses, then both workers and businesses come out on the winning end. However, I have also always lived in cities that had a thriving small business scene: Portland, New Orleans, Austin.  I have lived in Portland half of my life, and everyday, and it almost feels like a small business virus has taken over, and you can’t keep up with how vast and fast these new places are opening up around town.  Oregon is one of the more progressive states for raising the minimum wage (currently at $9.25 p/h).  If it was true that the minimum wage increase was hurting small businesses, then why is the opposite dynamic occurring?

One of the stronger arguments that I have heard, in regards to the increased pay, is that it will force companies to make a better product or provide a better service.  Those companies who can’t afford to raise their hourly pay to be in sync with the cost of inflation, would need to get out of the game, and quit using their low wages as the crutch that allows them to do business.

This sounds like basic economics to me. Which is related to the greater discussion about true capitalism.  True capitalism isn’t relying on bail-outs, subsidies, and other forms of corporate welfare.

One argument, which almost made me uncomfortable with the thought of an increased minimum wage- is that people who work lower-skilled or menial jobs, would now be making more than many people in our society think that those positions deserve.

And that is where I had a little epiphany yesterday.

During the soundbite that I mentioned in the first line of this essay- I wondered what it would be like for some poorer people to obtain a wage that allowed them more possibilities; whether it be treating themselves, or being able to purchase a higher quality item that fulfilled their basic needs- like a comfortable and long lasting pair of work shoes.

Then it occurred to me- this odd thought process that had made me question if lower skilled workers deserved to make $15 to flip burgers, or wash bedsheets in a hotel basement.

How dare I allow myself to think for a moment- that certain jobs do not deserve to be paid $15, when the cost of EVERYTHING has risen. It is silly to allow ourselves to not want to let this wage increase happen, just because it sounds like what would have been a lot of money back when we were younger and/or less skilled upon entering the workforce.

Successful business owners adjust the cost of goods and services for a variety of reasons (profit, competition, greed, necessity, seasonal fluctuations), and continue to receive pay increases every year.  It is ridiculous that workers should be stuck at a certain wage, while the silly laws of economics allow numbers to rise for everything else.

But most of all, in my epiphany, I imagined a country of people who felt some financial relief, and were able to afford a better quality of life.  I had to wonder- on my drive to work, yesterday- would it really be that “bad”, if all Americans, could work at a wage that would allow them to pull themselves up a little more?

The possibilities are endless, as to what a wage increase could do for someone!  From my own experience in the job market, I imagine a best case scenario, in which the minimum wage increase give people a better footing to try to grow their careers, and/or seek a better place in the workforce.  It is scary to leave one job for another, because there is always the chance that a promising new place may not work out, for a variety of reasons.

At one point in my adult life, I took a lower paying job of “Daytime bartender”, because I thought the type of restaurant that I was entering into, would make me happier.  I knew that it wouldn’t pay well, but I would have the chance to trade shifts for people who wanted the well-paying night shifts off, and in the long-run, employees would move on to other work or have babies, and I could work my way up within the business, since I usually do, as a responsible, hard-working go-getter.

Well…it wasn’t in the cards at this one particular place that I adored working at.  All of the other employees loved the job as well, and had all of the good shifts on lockdown.  No one was going anywhere.

I constantly considered getting a second job or a new job, but I had gotten myself in a bind, where I was making so little, that I know I wouldn’t have been able to pay my bills, during the low-paying training weeks that come along with starting a new job in the restaurant industry.  Days and nights of training with no tip income, on the low federal minimum wage meant that bills were going to be late.  I fucked myself over with the original low-paying job.  I had to sell some of my possessions to be able to move on.

A wage increase that is in sync with inflation, could allow so much opportunity for Americans.  Most of all- it means A BETTER QUALITY OF LIFE. Why are some of us Americans, not wanting to enable a better quality of life for all?  That is a very selfish, and odd thing to try to prevent.

What kind of person does not want someone else to be able to do or have things?  Dare I say- it is evil for us to not want to allow this financial growth for our citizens.  Evil is a word usually reserved for Bibilical nonsense.  But I don’t know what other word to use.  If you are a believer in the Bible, than you too, might want to consider what kind of wage Jesus would want people to have.

This may be a new kind of patriotism- Another reason to love America- because you could finally afford to.

http://www.15nowpdx.org/faqs/the-basic-facts/ (A website in favor of raising Oregon’s min. wage to $15 p/h)


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