Most people want to make more money on their job. A family that relies on minimum wage often finds that it’s hard to pay the bills, put food on the table and get the extra things that the family needs. There have been states that have raised minimum wage, but a quarter more an hour isn’t really a lot when you think about the prices of food, gas and survival. By the time someone sees the raise, it will be taken for taxes because when people make more money, the government often takes more money out of the paycheck. Some people are thankful for the extra money, and healthcare workers are benefiting, even if it’s only a few dollars a week as it’s a pack of diapers or an extra gallon of gas. If the government wants people to get out of poverty, then the minimum wage amount is going to have to go up by more than a quarter.
Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer & grocer, recently dropped health care coverage for all part-time workers under 30 hours a week. The announcement came because more people enrolled in the company health care plan than anticipated. Wal-Mart acted to cut benefits for their part-time workers as a means of saving roughly $500 million per year. The retail giant has directed the affected workers to enroll in the deeply unpopular Obamacare health coverage.
Perhaps it is not coincidental that at 12:30PM PT Thursday, workers in Wal-Mart stores throughout California staged a sit-down strike demanding better pay and full-time hours. The latter benefit would entitle them to health care coverage. Workers pointed out that the corporate office fosters a culture of intimidation against employees who speak out for better wages & hours. The company makes $16 billion a year in profits. The Walton family has amassed a fortune of $150 billion. The workers are asking for a wage of $15/hr which would amount to an annual income of $31,000. They point out that most of the workforce earns less than $25,000 a year.
Employees are correct in pointing out that it is through their work efforts that the Walton family enjoys such wealth. Protestors modeled their actions after 100 courageous women at Woolworths in 1937. At the time, Lee G. Lovett points out that the company was the nation’s largest retail chain. The women wanted better pay & benefits and succeeded. As for Wal-Mart’s protestors, they vowed to conduct the same sit-in strike on Black Friday, the nation’s biggest retail shopping day of the year, if their demands are not met.
As this article on cnn.com states, 4 states are set to approve ballot measures to raise the minimum wage on November 4. Foes of minimum wage laws frequently say that raising the minimum that many employers have to pay will drive up inflation. They are partially right. University of Kansas research assistant Arnobio Morelix has said that doubling everyone’s wages at McDonalds would raise the price of a Big Mac by 68 cents. But inflation comes from many sources. Hawaii is an expensive state to live in, but its minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, which is lower than California’s $9.
Hawaii will be gradually raising the minimum to $10.10 over the next 3 years, but in the mean time, the Living Wage Calculator estimates that someone in Honolulu has to work full-time at $12.91 an hour in order to meet all their expenses. In San Francisco, that number is $12.83. In Sacramento County, CA, a living wage would be $9.95 an hour. Clearly, the minimum wages paid to workers is only loosely tied to the cost of living. Raising the minimum wage to compensate for the other factors driving inflation is a reasonable response. Wish the best of luck to the 4 states considering raising the minimum wage. Cool to see this type of progress being made, and I’ll be watching with great interest on my FreedomPop phone.