A possible raise in minimum wage draws concerns from students and adults
by Ellise Shafer ’17
Across the country, concern has been growing about minimum wage, a topic that affects not only the citizens of the United States but also the country’s economic stability. As of June 12, President Obama has decided, without the cooperation of Congress, to proceed with his proposal to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour- but only for employees under federal contract. However, this new rule has sparked further debate on if this raise should be applicable for the entire nation, not just for those working on military bases, national parks, nursing homes for veterans and other federal jobs.
Minimum wage is defined as the lowest wage permitted by law or by a special agreement. Federally, it is $7.25 an hour, although in Ohio it is $7.95. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 21 percent of employed teenagers who are paid by the hour earn minimum wage. A voluntary Arlingtonian survey of 200 students reveals that 35 percent of UAHS students are employed and of that, 34 percent earn minimum wage (see “Pay by Percentage” on page 12).
Obama’s newly released rule guarantees a minimum wage of $10.10 to all employees under federal contracts starting January 2015. As a result, both high school students with and adults minimum wage jobs would be affected.
Arby’s Manager Iva Roesch is quite familiar with minimum wage and the struggles that can accompany it. Before being hired by Arby’s, Roesch worked for McDonald’s for two years, as well as other places of employment known for paying minimum wage such as WalMart and Target.
“I live in a household with three other people,” Roesch said. “I don’t think that minimum wage is enough for families.”
Roesch has seen teenagers interfere in her past employment. When she worked at McDonalds, she recalls teenagers coming in and being promoted before her and other adult employees who had been there longer and had more experience. She said fast food companies tend to prefer teenagers who will work for less pay, despite their lack of experience.
“The reason I resigned from McDonald’s was because teenagers were getting promoted so often as opposed to the people who had put in more work,” Roesch said. “When I moved to Arby’s, I immediately got promoted.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most of today’s minimum wage workforce is made up of middle class teenagers, like those at UAHS.
“Minimum wage workers tend to be young,” the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ website stated. “Although workers under age 25 represent only about one-fifth of hourly paid workers, they make up about half of those paid the federal minimum wage or less.”
One of said teenagers is senior Carter Bivens, who has been working at McDonald’s since last summer. He says his position is paid this way because it’s a fairly simple task, one in which he believes anyone could be trained, for it does not require any post-secondary education.
However, in a survey conducted by Arlingtonian on the matter, 66 percent of UAHS students with jobs earn above minimum wage, like senior Alex Price and junior Annie Murray.
The starting wage for any employee of Barnes & Noble is $8 an hour, despite their positions not requiring an education beyond the high school level. Price, who works at the Kingsdale Barnes & Noble, said the difference in wages may be because Barnes & Noble has fewer employees to pay compared to larger employers, such as McDonald’s.
“This also may be because the average purchase here is around $30, whereas at fast food chains it’s around $5,” Price said.
However, it is duly noted that fast food typically has more purchases on average than bookstores.
Another UAHS student earning above minimum wage is Annie Murray, who is a hostess at Old Bag of Nails. Murray believes she earns this amount because her it requires more work.
“I’m only a high schooler so earning minimum wage seems normal,” Murray said. “But then I look at jobs that my friends who earn minimum wage have, and they do a lot less, like just work a cash register. I guess the work that I do can be more stressful and busy.”
Although it would essentially have little to no effect on her workplace, Price is against the possibility of minimum wage being raised.
“I think it’s a bad idea because many people will lose their jobs,” Price said. “If I can make the same amount in less time, I will want to work less.”
Price’s opinion does ring true: according to the Congressional Budget Office, a raise in wages could result in the loss of 500,000 jobs.
However, Murray thinks a raise in minimum wage would have the opposite effect, helping to lead many families out of poverty.
“There are a lot of people living off minimum wage that still can’t afford a good home and enough food,” Murray said, “From what I’ve read, it has been a big struggle.”
According to the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness, Murray’s assumption would be correct.
“Many low and minimum wage workers cannot afford food and shelter. Over the past twenty-five years, wages for the lowest income workers have not kept pace with the increase in living costs, nor the increase in salaries of those in the highest income brackets,” the campaign’s website stated. “The minimum wage has continually decreased in value since the late 1960s; adjusting for inflation, the current minimum wage is worth 27 percent less than it was in 1968. This leaves the lowest income workers unable to afford necessities like housing, food and medical care.”
These conflicting opinions are not uncommon between other students at UAHS, as proven by an Arlingtonian-issued survey. However, in order to make an informed decision, it is important to know the history of this issue.
According to James Sherk, a Senior Policy Analyst in Labor Economics, Congress first enforced minimum wage in 1938 under the Fair Labor Standards Act. At that time, the minimum wage was a mere twenty five cents an hour. Since then, it has obviously raised, most recently becoming $5.15 in 2007, and $7.25 in 2009. However, the minimum wage is federal, meaning that states within the country are able to set their own rate, as long as it is not below the federal amount.
As stated before, President Obama has been looking to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10. A decision as large as this one does not come without its share of positive and negative values, something that is also important to consider before forming an opinion on this topic.
PROS & CONS
In the President’s Proposal on this issue, many positives of minimum wage being raised are explained.
“Raising the minimum wage is good for the government, good for business and workers and key to a stronger economy,” the official website of the White House stated. “A range of economic studies show that modestly raising the minimum wage increases earnings and reduces poverty without jeopardizing employment. Higher wages can also boost productivity, reduce costs and improve efficiency.”
For these reasons, Obama is trying to pass the Harkin-Miller Bill which would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour and then index it to further inflation.
However, as explained by Sherk, the adjustment to a much higher minimum wage would not be as easy as Obama’s proposal makes it seem.
“Many advocates of raising the minimum wage argue it will help low-income single parents surviving on it as their only source of income. Minimum-wage workers, however, do not fit this stereotype,” Sherk stated in an article published on the Heritage Foundation’s website. “Just 4 percent of minimum-wage workers are single parents working full time, compared to 5.6 percent of all U.S. workers. Minimum-wage earners are actually less likely to be single parents working full time than the average American worker.”
In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans under 25 represent half of those paid the federal minimum wage or less. Sherk then explained that due to this statistic, a raise in minimum wage would not really have that much of an effect.
“Minimum-wage workers under 25 are typically not their family’s sole breadwinners,” Sherk stated on heritage.org. “Rather, they tend to live in middle-class households that do not rely on their earnings—their average family income exceeds $65,000 a year. Generally, they have not finished their schooling and are working part-time jobs. Over 62 percent of them are currently enrolled in school.”
This poses a question: would a raise in minimum wage affect the people who need it most, or just add money to the wallets of suburban teenagers?
It is clear that if the Harkin-Miller bill were to pass, our country’s workforce would change. Whether that change is for the better or worse, it will indefinitely have an effect on America’s economic stability. Although many people have different views on how specific changes would alter others lives as well as their own, some positives may come out of this decision, without dragging side effects behind them.