A $15-Per-Hour Fast-Food Wage Gets the Time of Day

The second in an occasional series on reducing inequality

In the first post in this series, I suggested that American elite opinion might actually be swinging towards the need to take some long-overdue — and obvious — steps to reduce inequality, including raising area-wide wages in low-paid service industries through policy or by allowing workers to form area-wide labor unions.

One example of progress in public debate has been mainstream media reaction to the demands of fast-food workers for a $15-per-hour wage. The liberal media has not been dismissive of this idea, which is, sadly, a step forward. For example, see this New York Times editorial from Saturday.

One justification cited by The Times for paying fast-food workers more is the savings to governmental public assistance programs for low-wage workers. A recent study found that more than half of fast-food workers rely on public assistance. This same argument has been picked up by a conservative Silicon Valley millionaire pushing for a referendum to raise the California minimum wage to $12 per hour.

The Times also published a news story recently with a back-and-forth among economists about the consequences of a $15-per-hour fast food wage — another sign that the idea is being given the time of day.

Even better, the small community that houses the airport in the Seattle, Washington area has actually enacted a $15-per-hour minimum wage.

Much higher wages for the bottom third of the U.S. labor market, which would help push up wages in the middle as well. An idea whose time has come.


1 comments posted

I think the biggest hurdle in

I think the biggest hurdle in the discussion of minimum wage among the general population is this...

People are confused, particularly ordinary working people in low cost of living low wage areas, about the specific number of $15/hr.

And it's understandable.

People in jobs which require special skills, experience, certifications, or degrees, who make $14/hr or less in Northeastern Pennsylvania, are understandably confused and outraged by the idea that fast food workers are asking for $15/hr.

The problem is that many people are completely ignorant of the cost of living & average wages, in different places outside where they live.

They don't understand that everybody's wages at that low end will adjust.

They also just immediately perceive it as the tatooed airhead that messed up their order at Taco Bell last week will be making more than they are -- Even if that is obviously not true, and not rational to think that - since if the minimum wage were $15/hr - NOBODY would make less.

But we're talking about gut reactions here.  And that's what politics are like these days.  Gut reactions & sound bites that nobody thinks through properly.

We've waited too long to try & catch up the minimum wage.  So now it's just a quagmire of confusion about how much is "right"... compared to the long standing wrongness of wages.

I'm not sure what the answer is.  But I do think that the topic of minimum wage would benefit from some better additional context provided, on a regular basis.


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