What some minimum wage supporters think of employers

Jun 1, 2015

After reading the comments of a blogger last week shrugging off the closure of Z Pizza in Seattle due to the city’s newly increased minimum wage, it occurred to me that what seemed like the insensitive (and even offensive) musings of one political gadfly are disconcertingly shared by other supporters of a higher minimum wage.  These are people who believe employers have a moral obligation to ensure their workers enjoy a certain standard of living (of course that standard is subjective) and if they do not, then they do not deserve to be in business.

This mentality relies on the overly-simplistic belief that business owners can somehow afford double-digit increases in their labor costs with no impact or mitigation of that impact.  It assumes every employer is getting rich from their business, raking in profits that allow them the luxury of simply absorbing any arbitrary increase in their cost of doing business.

Harvard economics professor Richard Freeman says:

If you’re so unproductive that you can’t pay a little bit more, than maybe you don’t belong in a modern economy.”

In the WPC-sponsored minimum wage debate at WSU earlier this year, panelist Stephen Price, Seattle social justice activist and $15Now representative, stated:

If you have a small business and your margins are very low and you have to keep your workers below a living wage...then there is something wrong with that business model."

And according to nationally syndicated radio talk show host Thom Hartmann:

If a business won't pay a living wage, it shouldn't exist."

The disconnect between these comments and the reality of running a small business that operates on a shoe-string margin is telling.  The vast majority of employers value their employees and want to pay them well. Many small business owners do not themselves earn a $15 per hour wage, or even $12 in some cases.  Contrary to what liberal billionaire venture capitalist Nick Hanauer thinks, most employers who pay minimum wage do not subscribe to the "I would pay you less, except then I would go to prison" philosophy of running a business. 

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