Raising the minimum wage is a hot and complicated topic with many, many sides to it. In the end, however, it just comes down to common sense: more money for employees is a great motivation for them to work harder.
President Barack Obama has been encouraging states not to wait for Congress to approve the proposed minimum wage increase and, so far, two states have decided to follow his advice. On Monday, Maryland’s state Legislature approved a bill that would increase minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 by 2018. This came less than two weeks after Connecticut announced that they would gradually raise minimum wage in their state to $10.10 per hour from $8.70 in gradual increases by 2017.
In Kansas, however, news about minimum wage remains oddly quiet. If history repeats itself, I suspect this may very well remain the case for some time.
The last time Kansas raised minimum wage was Jan. 1, 2010 after then-Governor Kathleen Sebelius signed a bill raising it from $2.65 per hour to the federal standard of $7.25 per hour. At the time, Kansas had the lowest hourly minimum wage in the country.
Opponents of an increase in minimum wage often argue that these low-wage jobs are typically held by high school students and are not the main source of income for most families. In a sense, they are correct. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately half of minimum wage workers were between the ages of 16 and 24 in 2012. On the flip side, this also means about half of people earning minimum wage in 2012 were older than 24 years old. This means half of minimum wage workers are older than the average college graduate. When something is split in half like that, it isn’t fair to discount the other half just because it doesn’t fit into your argument.
Another argument opponents use is that it would wreck small businesses who can’t afford such a jump in salary for their employees, but once again this is an argument that is only showing half of the story.
Small Business Majority, a national organization for small business owners in the U.S., conducted a research poll to see where small business owners stand on the subject. The poll involved 500 small businesses representing all 50 states and found that 57 percent of them were in favor of increasing minimum wage. That number was even higher for retail and restaurant owners.
The margin of error for the poll was reported to be plus or minus 4 percent, so even if you subtract 4 percent from that poll, you still get about half in favor and half opposed, with those in favor slightly in the majority. I think it’s also interesting to note that 82 percent of the businesses polled already paid their employees more than minimum wage. This means there are a significant number of small business owners out there who are opposed to increasing minimum wage, even though they already pay their employees more than the current $7.25 per hour. It doesn’t say how much more they pay them, of course, so bragging that you pay your employees more than minimum wage could mean anything.
Aside from all the arguments about the demographics of minimum wage earners, I think the best argument in favor of increasing it is quite simply because it’s good motivation for employees. Speaking from personal experience, having worked a lot of low-wage jobs, you kind of stop caring about the quality of your work after a while. Working for $7.25 an hour is, simply put, depressing. Living from paycheck to paycheck and never having any savings is depressing. Knowing that you’ll never be able to afford a new car, let alone be able to afford retirement, is depressing. And it’s of no surprise that depressed workers are unmotivated workers.
Moo Cluck Moo, a fast food burger joint based in Detroit, pays their workers $12 an hour. The restaurant’s co-founder and co-owner, Harry Moorhouse, has told reporters in a number of interviews that he sees this livable wage make a difference in workers’ productivity and motivation.
Of course it does. That’s just common sense, to me.
Karen Sarita Ingram is a senior in English.