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The Value of Work

August 5, 2013

Katrina Trinko has an op-ed in USA Today, and also adds some comments at The Corner over at NRO.

It’s understandable that fast-food employees want to be paid more. Living off minimum wage can be a grim business, particularly if you’re self-supporting or supporting a family. A budget developed and released by McDonald’s and Visa last month assumed that any McDonald’s employee would also work a second full-time (or near full-time) job in order to make ends meet.

Furthermore, it’s not just minimum-wage employees who should be frustrated: Taxpayers should also be upset because minimum-wage employees are more likely to rely on government assistance.

She has a suggestion of adding tip jars to the counters to see if that might help out the workers.  I’m not sure I agree with the premise, or can I figure out how you’d split and track wages in fast food, where workers come and go during the day. I also think it’s a drop in the bucket, but so’s minimum wage.

I have to admit, I’m not a fan of higher minimum wages.  I made my minimum wage for a few years in high-school working fast food, and what it really taught me was that I didn’t want to work minimum wage for the rest of my life.  But even back then, I worked my own budgets and made sure that I could afford to save first and then buy what I wanted.  It was easy for me, yes, since I was still living at home.

I remember the people that worked there as “adults.”  They mostly lasted for about a year before they found better jobs.  Maybe the market was better then, though I recall most of the people telling me that they were working second jobs or always looking for better jobs.  But if fast food was the one they worked, they worked it as hard as they could.

Fast food was also the last time I worked less than 40 hours a week.  As I started working in college, I put in the hours required to get the job done, and that was usually more than 40 (even if that’s all I logged).  As a salaried employee these days, I find myself cramming work in wherever I can in order to get ahead on the job.  Sure, I make more than minimum wage, but I’m not seeing the opportunity for overtime… of course, neither are most minimum-wagers who are stuck part-time, especially with new laws.

I’m sure that anyone stumbling across this would say: Sure, you can want to keep minimum wage low, you have a good job.  Well, I have that good job because I used to work minimum wage, and I found that I wanted to do more.  Just giving me more money back then wouldn’t have made me hungry to get ahead.

And maybe that’s it… I’m not a guy who typically complains about the decline of culture, but people today aren’t as inclined to work as hard, assuming life will hand them results.  Well, life hands you the results you put into it.  Maybe knowing that would push people to work harder, and I’m all for the effect that would have on the country and its competitiveness in the world.

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