Most everybody has worked for minimum wage at one time. Either as a teen at an after school job, or young adult home on college break, or maybe just part time to help make ends meet.
They are the type of jobs that need getting done, but don’t necessarily take a lot of skill, strength or know how. Stocking shelves, flipping burgers, washing dishes, mopping floors, mowing lawns. You get the idea.
On Jan. 1, the upstate wage for such jobs jumped from a minimum of $9 an hour to $9.70. It’s one step in the ultimate goal of paying a minimum of $15 an hour.
The arguments for raising the minimum wage, on the surface, seem sound. A worker making more money is happier, more productive and less likely to bounce from job to job. More money in the pockets of people will stimulate the economy and, ultimately, help the individual businesses forced to pay more for labor. And people making a living wage need less social services so it will help keep taxes in check too.
Those benefits are theoretical at best, however, and are outweighed by the real negative ramifications to the individual businesses and the economy as a whole.
If it costs a business more to do business, logically it has two alternatives: cut back or raise more revenue. That could mean hiring fewer employees or charging more for its products.
The Empire Center, an Albany-based think tank, estimates that raising the minimum wage will ultimately cost 200,000 jobs statewide. When unemployment goes up, so too does the need for social services.
While there aren’t many people making minimum wage – only about 2 percent of all full-time employees nationwide according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – if you raise the wage of those at the bottom rung of the ladder, it stands to reason those on the rungs above will expect more too. That’s just human nature, so the idea of raising the minimum wage to create a happier, more content workforce is a farce.
Judging by the statistic above, most employers realize a happy satisfied workforce is paramount to a business’s success and already pay more than the minimum wage without a government mandate.
Bigger companies might be able to absorb the impacts of raising the minimum wage with little or no major adjustments or ramifications. The small businesses, though, will feel the brunt of this misguided idea.
And small businesses are the backbone of our economy.
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.