I’ve been reading about the minimum-wage increase to $15.00-an-hour in Seattle lately and the most important point made on the issue that I have read is in an op-ed by Will Hutton in The Guardian.
The campaigners had two important replies to the charges that this would make Seattle’s fast food, catering and hotel industries uneconomic. The first was that living on the old minimum wage of $9.10 (£5.41) an hour was scarcely possible; families depended on food stamps, homes were dark and the cheapest of presents for kids was simply unaffordable. Compare that with the profits of the corporations and pay of the fast food bosses: the CEO of McDonald’s is paid more than $9m (£5.3m). Maybe they could be paid less and their workers a fraction more?
The problem with living in the United States in an economic sense is the financial disparity. If you read Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century, the numbers are vertiginous (a term Piketty often uses.) The difference between the national income of the top decile (10%), not to mention the top centile (1%) of the population, and the rest of us is simply sickening.
The powers that be want us to think about whether if we believe a low-wage, working citizen deserves that $15.00 an hour. Do they work hard enough? Did they work hard enough in High School? Do they? Did they?
But let me turn that argument on it’s ear: does the CEO at McDonald’s actually earn $9 million dollars a year? What about the Wall Street CEO’s who make $150 million or $180 million in a year? Do they deserve that? Do they work hard enough? I’m sure they get a lot more vacation hours than the people at the bottom of the ladder, with better healthcare and all the perks they could desire.
It’s an issue of fairness and the minimum wage does not provide some of our hardest workers basic human dignity.