When I was a kid, in elementary school, we used to play outside a lot. And one person who often seemed to enjoy hanging with us was Butch.
Butch was older than we were, but I think maybe he felt safe with us. He was – not quite normal.
He rode his bike, and there were bullies that tried to chase him. He got scared from them.
I remember when he got a job. He was so proud of his work, sweeping. He knew it was important. It made him feel important. He even got a paycheck, and I remember that he showed it to my mother. (She advised him not to show it to people. She knew someone could have taken advantage of him.)
Butch was never going to be able to get a higher caliber job. He did not have the ability. Something had happened to him as an infant, and he didn’t have the wherewithal. (I asked my family if they remembered more about him. My brother remembered someone called Bobby S (I will omit the last name) who was dropped on his head, and had a misshapen head, but didn’t know more. I am going to assume that Bobby went by Butch, and was the same person I remember.
Why am I dredging up this old memory?
When there are discussions on the minimum wage, I often hear “They need to work to better themselves so they can get a better paying job. These are unskilled jobs.”
The thing is, someone like Butch can’t work to get better paying jobs. He never had a shot at that.
Another argument often made against raising minimum wage is that it is only for teens and people who have their livelihood taken care of. They don’t need more.
That, however, is not what the original intent is.
From FDR: It seems to me to be equally plain that no business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country. By “business” I mean the whole of commerce as well as the whole of industry; by workers I mean all workers, the white collar class as well as the men in overalls; and by living wages I mean more than a bare subsistence level-I mean the wages of decent living.
A living wage. That was the intent of minimum wage.
Right now, people working full time on minimum wage often end up needing help – in the form of SNAP (food stamps) and maybe other assistance.
If you are going to pay for assistance, why not pay for a higher, reasonable wage to start with. Give them back the dignity they deserve. I will gladly pay an extra quarter (the estimate of how much more a big mac will cost) for a burger if it means people will be able to pay their bills.
And when someone says “My business can’t afford to pay more than minimum” – that is akin to slaveowners saying “We need the slaves or we won’t make money.” Are their lives less than yours? You need to rethink your business model if you can’t afford to pay people a living wage.
Just some thoughts I have had.
And Butch, if you are still around out there, I wish you well.