Saturday, May 10, 2014

What's Fair?

The debate over raising the minimum wage brings out some strong opinions.

The rant (left, attributed to the Tea Party) made the rounds on Facebook with 149,633 liking it and 192,573 folks re-sharing it on their own timelines.  It got 9000 comments.  It's perhaps representative of one side of public opinion.

The reality is that the minimum wage has lost ground over the years just in purchasing power.  If measured against productivity, it's about half what it was in 1963.

The 1938  Fair Labor Standards Act banned oppressive child labor and set the minimum hourly wage at 25 cents, and the maximum workweek at 44 hours.1  It was a beginning, addressing the economic enslavement and abuse of some for the benefit of others.

When I was a kid, minimum wage was what I expected starting out in the grocery store bagging groceries.  It was years later that I discovered it was there to protect adults in the workplace as well.

Today's job market is pretty tight, and progress can be slow.  Paying for college or recovering from a lost job, it isn't easy to fight your way up from entry level.  And the minimum wage we pay today is worth less than it was when times were easier, economically.

The growing gap between rich and poor illustrates the issue more broadly.  In an industry where productivity has quintupled along with profits, workers make less than a decade ago.  Same issue.