“Yesterday’s New York Times carried an article about recent efforts of labor unions to organize the “low wage end” of the workforce in cities, such as New York and Los Angeles. While workers with pay at or near the federal minimum wage (now $7.25 per hour) can be found throughout the economy, the focus was on the fast food industry, e.g., McDonald’s, Wendy’s.
Often, we think of workers at McDonald’s as teens looking to earn spending money for clothes and gas, but many are adults, including some with families, among the workers at McDonald’s and similar companies. It’s hard to imagine a family surviving on the annual take-home pay of such workers — in Virginia, much less in New York City. There are undoubtedly many reasons why adults end up at ages 30 to 40 working the Wendy’s counter. The person may have dropped out of school or has not been able to get training for a more highly skilled job. Maybe, the person just doesn’t have very good work habits. Most of us would see globalization playing a part: as our domestic economy offers fewer and fewer jobs requiring little skill or education, there are more and more such workers left to compete for the remaining low-wage jobs.
Of course, the government likely is already providing additional support to these workers in the form of food stamps, tax credits, or other subsidies. As things stand, that is how more and more workers will likely survive: a minimum wage job supplemented by government assistance. Now, maybe unions (unionization) will come to the rescue of some of these workers.
But, are these our only choices: $7.25 an hour with government assistance or unionization with higher wages, but also with all the pitfalls of a unionized workforce? I think there is a better way!
Since we will end up paying these workers more (and there is a strong moral argument for higher pay), let’s do it efficiently. Let’s raise the minimum wage to a living wage. We will head off the unions and all the attendant inefficiencies. And, we will reduce the amount of government by allowing these workers to earn a living directly at their jobs and not being forced to look to a government bureaucracy for handouts.
The unions are conveniently pointing the way. Now, let’s take away the need for them and do a good thing for these hard-working citizens at the same time.”