Recent comments in the Penticton Western from Jason Cox, president of the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber, raised my ire. Mr. Cox suggests that if the minimum wage (for unskilled labour) in B.C. goes up, “… their skilled counterpart across the hall or across the room is going to need a reciprocal increase as well to maintain that value differential.”
What’s that? Did I hear right? Is he suggesting that when the wage for the workers at the bottom of the ladder goes up, there is some moral or unwritten obligation for everyone else to get a raise too?
If you have five kids and you realize that one of them isn’t getting enough food, you either divvy up the food better or you spend a bit more on food. Your solution depends on whether you have enough money to buy more food. Do those who are getting by need to get more money when someone else (who isn’t getting by) finally gets enough to get by.
If everyone gets a proportionate raise at the same time, there is no net change for people at the bottom. Low-income employees work hard and they too deserve to be fairly compensated for their efforts. People earning minimum wage don’t “deserve” to be at the bottom. They aren’t there because they like it there. They are there because not everyone can be at the top.
If an employee gets a raise who is not at the bottom, they don’t ever feel compelled to share their newfound wealth. No, instead, they seem to think they somehow deserve it.
In “for-profit” enterprises where the business is just getting by, the employer will simply look at how to keep the bottom line the same and will reduce hours of the employees when the entry level positions cost more. They won’t declare Christmas for their employees.
The ones who need a leg up are the ones who have little taxable or no taxable income, the ones who work hard and don’t have much hope of reaching the top because, well, those positions aren’t vacant! The ones trying to feed their five kids, the ones spending the majority of their disposable income just to survive, the ones who don’t have a retirement plan because there is no money left over to put away (try surviving on full-time take-home pay of $14,000 a year).
Let’s raise our glasses to those working for minimum wage, and give them a comparative leg up. No, Christmas isn’t coming early for all employees, because if every employee gets a raise at the same time, it would wipe out the proportionate pitiful gain of those at the bottom. And the small business owner has but a finite amount of money for payroll.