Friday, July 25, 2008

Hard work better than minimum wage

It appears that the savage weather that has ravaged us for the past couple days is now over. In many parts of Maine and especially New Hampshire a long cleanup is beginning. My little place got by with just a lot of rain and no damage. And today should bring some sunshine which could last at least into tomorrow. It will be a welcome relief.

The Federal minimum wage went up yesterday. It rose to $6.55 an hour and next year will go up again to $7.25 an hour. The Federal increase won’t affect Maine which already has a minimum of $7.00. The purpose of the minimum wage is to assure a “livable” wage. It’s really more of a political “feel good” raise than one that creates a “livable” wage. There are some outcomes of changing the minimum wage.

Some low income wage earners are let go from their jobs. That minimum wage, you see, doesn’t take into consideration the ability of a company to pay it. So quite often to maintain a payroll that it can afford, especially small shops such as the Mom and Pop convenience stores which are abundant in Maine, have to adjust the size of their workforce. So as that minimum wage goes up, in some instances employment goes down, and with it goes some customer relations.

For small companies that can’t afford to layoff any more workers, prices have to be raised so that the company’s income remains consistent with making a payroll. That may have the consequence of causing less business and, therefore, possible personnel cutbacks. Workers who have received a minimum wage increase so they can now buy more goods soon discover that nothing has changed, except they along with everyone are now paying more for goods and services.

Who really benefits? No one, except the lawmakers who now “feel good” because they’ve increased the minimum wage and have thus purchased the votes of people who think they are now better off. Wages should be established by the companies themselves. An applicant can either accept or reject the offer.

“Hey, Gatorman, how about you? You probably have no idea what it’s like to earn a minimum wage,” you’re probably thinking. Sorry, I have. Except I must admit I’ve never earned a mandated minimum wage as my entering the workforce was before such things existed. My first post high school full time job was at a newspaper in Florida. I earned a whopping 85 cents an hour delivering newspapers to advertisers for the paper’s advertising department.

My daddy had taught me, though, that hard work and loyalty to a company would lead to advancement and mine came less than a year after I started working. I received a promotion to lay out the advertising on the paper’s pages. I had to determine the amount of space the ads needed and then proportionately determine the number of pages the next edition would be. Once the newsroom was notified of the number of inches it had to fill, I then had to draw in the ad inches on dummy pages. The newsroom then used those dummies to place its material and the completed project was the “blueprint” for the composing and printing rooms.

Even though my pay went well above a dollar an hour, I quickly learned that I needed an education to really move forward. I had a couple of things going for me. I lived in Florida where, at that time, all residents could attend the University system virtually free and I had parents who were willing to help me out financially. That education wasn’t totally free as we did have to spend a couple hundred dollars a semester, but by today’s standards it was free.

I helped out by working menial low paying jobs both during summer vacations and at the University during the school year and, although a little later than my high school classmates because of the time I had taken off from learning, I earned my college education.

My low wage didn’t end with that degree, though. My first job after I returned to Maine was only part time, but it was less than a dollar an hour. I had met the girl who would become Wife Gator and we dated and began saving on my tiny wage and her pay which wasn’t a whole lot better. I did enter my chosen career before a year was over, but that entry pay was just about as minimal as one can imagine. We both knew, however, that with hard, dedicated work, and in my case some more schooling at what would become USM, we’d be O.K. And we were and have been now for more than 48 years, almost 47 of them as a family. Sometimes I think she grew more than I in our chosen fields.

You’d be hard pressed to convince me that an artificial wage will really help anyone. I honestly believe that only hard work and dedication to task will result in financial success. Promotions and pay increases come with proof to an employer that the goal of what you do is not only to improve your own lot but also that of the employer.

Free handouts and artificial minimum wages aren’t going to do it.

Enjoy your weekend.


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