Thursday, December 5, 2013

At A Minimum

Fast food workers in South Florida are joining the protest for higher wages.

Protesters will gather at different restaurants in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach as they seek to have their wages raised to $15 an hour.

Right now, employees of fast food restaurants claim they’re living at or just above the poverty line, with the average pay for a fast food worker at $8.94.

Some argue that the low pay forces these workers to take government assistance, meaning tax dollars, and claim it’s slowing down the economy.

Some workers even claim they can’t afford to pay for clothes for their kids working these jobs.

The protest, the third in the nation since last spring, is set to take place at noon. According to organizers, the demonstration will include rap battles against the fast food industry.

Do the math.  If you earn $8.94 an hour and work full-time — 40 hours a week — you would earn $18,592 a year before taxes.  We don’t need to get into the intricacies of the tax code, but even assuming that there’s only Social Security and Medicare taken out, you’re down to $17,172 a year.  If you’re at the federal minimum wage level of $7.25 an hour set in 1998, you’re grossing $15,080, net $13,926.  It’s $1,161 a month.  Try living on that.  And many minimum wage earners are not full-timers, so it’s even less.  Many of them are not single teenagers living with their parents; they’re all ages, many with dependents, or they’re elderly trying to close the gap between a pension, Social Security, and the avoidance of Tender Vittles for dinner again tonight.

President Obama is backing the effort to raise the minimum wage to $10.10.  That would barely catch it up to the average cost of living, grossing out at $21,008 a year.  That’s an improvement — certainly better than the status quo — but again, figure in taxes and you’re barely breaking $19,000.  That sounds like a pretty good annual income — it did to me in 1990 — but then I was paying $500 a month in rent, I had a partner who was making about the same, and it was 27 years ago.

The workers in California are asking for $15 an hour.  That would bring the gross up to over $30,000.  A lot of corporations are saying that’s too much; they would have to raise prices and it becomes a vicious cycle.  There’s good arguments for both sides, but it’s clear that $7.25 an hour is way too low in this economy.  Minimum wage earners have to make up the difference somehow, either through the social safety net of food stamps and housing assistance from the government, which we all pay for.  It makes a hell of a lot more sense to pay workers enough money that they don’t need to rely on the kindness of the tax code.

And there’s one more thing.  Knowing you’re earning a salary that doesn’t make you shop for food with kittens on the label might tend to help with the morale and enthusiasm for the job, which translates to a better work place and a minimally better life.

3 barks and woofs on “At A Minimum

  1. 0h, my! The CEO’s must get their millions, the people who do the actual work of the companies be damned! The income inequality in this country is shameful!

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