Friday, July 24, 2015

Miscellaneous musings on the $15 minimum

The new minimum wage for fast food workers is nothing but bad news for the New York economy.

The $15 mark will have to become the de facto minimum wage for all industries because an employer cannot tell a farmer, factory worker, EMT, social worker, reporter and any other skilled, hard-working individual that currently see wages in the $11 to $15 range that the work of someone who prepares a very simple lunch order of processed food (it’s a real stretch to say they are cooks) is worth more than theirs.

They aren’t. It’s simple economics.

Agriculture and manufacturing see people transform resources into finished goods (which adds real value to the overall economy) while the other aforementioned careers require advanced training or a college degree to provide much-needed services.

So, in order to keep those souls pleased and, to compete with what fast food offers in the job market, those employers will have to offer higher wages, not only at $15, but well above it so they aren’t pigeon-holed as offering minimum wage work.

That sudden rise in wages will result in job cuts at non-profits and social service organizations, all of which operate on shoestring budgets now. And, it will absolutely kill manufacturing in the Empire State. New York is already the highest-cost state in the union to do business (before you even add in labor). The new wage will make matters worse and jobs will be lost, in droves, to the Carolinas, Mexicos, and Chinas of the world.          


To put the insanity of the $15 wage into perspective consider this. College graduates throughout their twenties earn an average of $16.60, a buck-sixty more than what the fast food workers are allegedly worth. And that’s after investing heavily in their future: 40 percent of households headed by adults under 35 had student debt -- at an average of $26,842!


Union leaders, especially in New York City, were celebrating the new wage. I thought that doing so was dangerous to their message and their very existence: Governor Cuomo showed that you don’t need to pay dues to get the wage you want.


A few weeks back in this paper I wrote a column about how US Presidents have taken on too much power and have become unconstitutional forces akin to kings. Things are no different in Albany. Andrew Cuomo is the Governor, whose role is to execute the laws of the Legislature. It is not within his power to make laws, which is what he, through the wage board, has done. The precedent set here is worse than that of his SAFE Act because the Safe Act was passed by Senate and Assembly. This new minimum wage wasn’t. He savors this brazenness as made apparent in last week’s appearance on the “Capitol Pressroom” during which he said, “I run the government.”

Speaking of Cuomo, he tried to justify the new wage by saying that New York taxpayers had been footing the bill for the multi-billion fast food companies by paying for their workers’ healthcare and other needs. He compared this to corporate welfare.

The man talks out of both sides of his mouth. He’s the same fellow who championed $750 million in public money to build the Solar City factory for billionaire Elon Musk. He also put $135 million of our money into GE’s and IBM’s semiconductor plants. And, don’t forget 43North, the rest of the Buffalo Billion and the silly tax-free Start-Up NY program.


Governor Cuomo must have a low opinion of his constituents and their potential. He believes that entry-level fast food work is a career. It’s not; it’s a job. It’s not meant to be life-sustaining or your life’s work. You start there or use it as a stopgap and move on to other things. That’s the nice thing about America…you don’t have to settle for where you are. You can always move on to new and better experiences. People once improved their lot in life by pursuing trades, an education or jobs of economic need or skill -- you earned more by making yourself marketable. Now, courtesy of this mandate, they can rely on government to do for them what they couldn't.  

Not that I frequent fast food restaurants (I prefer local, family-owned diners), but I am officially and unequivocally boycotting fast food restaurants in New York State. I hope hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers join me. If Cuomo and the fast food zombies want to mess with the economy and labor markets, we'll give them a taste of their own medicine.

From the 27 July 2015 Lockport Union Sun and Journal

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