Every time the minimum wage increase is brought up in our beloved local paper, the pitchforks come out in the comments section, and it’s left me a bit mystified as to whether I’m doing this whole business ownership thing correctly.

So let me see if I’ve got this straight: People who work minimum wage jobs (generally assumed to be service industry, retail, fast food, etc.) are supposed to just work hard and pick themselves up by their bootstraps to improve their situation, right?

Then to those of you championing the small-business owner as the hero of an unjust economic saga, let me ask you something: Why aren’t the business owners doing that?

I would love to hire an administrative coordinator, but I can’t afford to do so at $15 per hour just yet. So instead of hiring someone at a poverty wage and subjecting them to the stress and misery of living in financial instability, I just do the admin work myself!

The benefits of this are threefold: (1) The job gets done to my standards. (2) It takes less time than complaining about how you “can’t afford good help these days.” (3) I get to break even as a person by not subjecting someone to subpar wages for my own profit!

(Please note that I didn’t say I get to be a good person, because I’m not going to congratulate myself for meeting the barest minimums of humanity by not exploiting anyone’s labor!)

“OK, but you’re just a tiny music studio in a hole in the wall downtown,” you say. That’s true! Thank you for noticing! If a couple of broke millennials with degrees in music composition can make it work, what’s the excuse of the Waltons and Bezoses out there?

I may still be relatively new at this, but there’s one thing I know for absolute certain: If you as a business owner can’t afford to pay a living wage, you’re going to have to do the work yourself. I’ll let you in on a little secret, as someone who has worked a fair share of service industry jobs: If you pay people more, they will actually care about your business more and do a better job at their work. Nice, right? On the flip side, minimum wage is a struggle to survive. Lack of sleep for having to work a second job or cobble together a side income, for example, and therefore often means minimum effort. For locally owned places, enough customers’ bad experiences with a disenfranchised employee — a person you trust with your public image — can word-of-mouth you right out of business.

So, angry commenters: If you really want to support small-business owners, please put down the pitchforks and ask the local shops, restaurants and service establishments you love to take care of their employees, and they will likely take better care of you in return. Better yet, put your own hard-earned dollars toward supporting local businesses instead of major chains wherever you possibly can, so that we CAN afford to pay every worker the dignity of a living wage.

Jennie Huntoon


(30) comments


Unfortunately the writer touches on one of the arguments against a mandated minimum wage which is a decrease in employment that can be associated. Because she cannot afford to pay $15/hr she is choosing not to employ another individual who could benefit from the work experience and the additional income. Or, put another way, because she does not feel there is anyone who could be productive enough to produce $15/hr in revenue, she chooses not to employ that person, which is exactly the point. Wages are set based on what that job can produce, particularly for a small business. So, because that job or that person cannot produce $15/hr is value to the employer, that job will not exist. However, if that job could produce $10/hr in value, suddenly there is a job available for someone who is not looking to make it there lifelong job and career. Perhaps there is someone out there who is looking for a part-time job that could provide some additional spending money each month, or an individual of lesser skills and ability for whom the cost of $15+/hr is too high for an employer (such as herself) but, at a lower cost, might be able to obtain a job that teaches them skills and job experience. Employing other individuals and being responsible for aspects of their lives (income, benefits, job security, and associated risks) is one of the most stressful parts of running a business and small business owners tend to care more about their employees than the larger conglomerates but if the State of Maryland, and others, continue to pile on costs and legislation that make it harder for small business owners to run their businesses, all we will have left are the Waltons and the Bezos of the world to do things for us. I do like her suggestion to everyone out there to basically "buy local" but that's just a nice slogan when people start comparing prices in the big box stores or on the internet and see the difference in savings (automation and the internet are powerfully productive tools).


It is interesting that the folk who might ordinarily argue that a small business owner knows more than the government on this issue are so quick to throw an actual SBO under the bus for espousing a view with which they differ. Pity the poor small business owner for not being politically correct.


As someone who started a business and also was paid minimum wage in the past, Jennie nails this idea. Those complaining about what she wrote are probably people who save money by paying their employees poverty wages and treating them like garbage. When I was paid minimum wage and did things like put in my two weeks notice ONLY THEN would I be offered a raise for me not to leave. I could have had the raise the entire time, but business owners can cut costs this way. It's garbage and I don't believe for a second that those earning high wages off the profit of explotation can't afford to the minimum wage increase.


Hi everyone! I wrote this letter, and thanks so much for your concern, but our business is doing just fine - growing quite steadily, in fact! I certainly don’t mind doing the admin work, especially as doing so did factor into our business plan from the very beginning, as was the commitment to paying a fair wage when we do eventually take on administrative hires. Just wanted to clear up those misconceptions in case anyone was wondering :)


it was perfectly clear to me ‾\_(ツ)_/‾


composer - [thumbup]


This whole comment board can be tidied up simply: A) If you make more than $27/hr, dont compare your life. B) Dont talk about what $15 and hour used to afford, I was at Safeway yesterday and a box of crackers cost $4.22. C) Doubling down on Reagonmic theory at this point is just pouring gas in the dumpster fire. D)


wages have been stagnant for decades while profits continue to skyrocket. the only issue i have with the fight for 15 is that it's temporary and will only lead to another fight in 20 years when $15 is no longer enough to keep up. that's why the minimum wage should be automatically tied to inflation and should rise accordingly yearly.

the other benefit of this is that it's gets rid of the burden of people deciding on these things every so often. people are simply incapable of understanding complex things without a great deal of thought and reflection, and most of the time they'll just think something like, "$15?! my first job was only $3 an hour!" without considering rising costs (especially housing and education) that have occurred since they were young (not to mention that maybe wages were inadequate back then too? should we be trying to improve society or actively making sure it *doesn't* improve in the interest of "fairness"?)


Owning a business can really strain relationships as you rely on loved ones to help out or to be patiently in a background support role. My family owns businesses over generations. I don't know everyone's ins and outs but from details about the few I know well, hey, the hardships that can happen aren't for everyone. When I worked for others, I worked side by side with the wife/employee of the business owner, a familiar situation, as I had a mom and both sisters in similar roles. I worked for the comptroller, a job that actually probably paid better than the wife's. As a teenager I worked full time for months on the promise my salary was being set aside toward my education, also for the "work experience". It may then seem a hardship to pay a replacement regularly once you run out of daughters, I don't know, I wasn't there. After being well paid for some time, as a mature person I decided I should work in non-profit, offering skills beyond trainee at a trainee salary and I did that, but I didn't find the level of respect I was used to. The volunteers seemed to assume that being a minimum wage adult, I needed their supervision and input. It was way too many bosses, an interesting experiment but ultimately misunderstood, so I fled to familiarity. I was reading this thinking, "You sound nice, I don't need $15/hr." I can be stupid some ways.


Some businesses will fail, it's part of the business economics world. Do you have a needed product or service and what prices can you reliastically expect to receive. ..All of this planning should have been done before starting your business. That would have prevented your current dilemma.


wait, did you read the letter? the writer doesn't have a dilemma other than doing some of the work they could hypothetically pay someone else to do?


True, so it was poor planning because obviously you should know what to expect for your expenses and profit margins before you start a business. If you do, you would decide on expected wages, along with your other expenses. If you don't meet your objectives, you need to look and see if the can be obtained - if not, fold up the company and do something else.


still think you're missing the spirit of the letter. she says "If a couple of broke millennials with degrees in music composition can make it work, what’s the excuse of the Waltons and Bezoses out there?" to me, that is a clear indication that the business is doing just fine ("make it work" ie it's working). just because they're choosing to do some work themselves rather than pay someone a pittance to do it for them doesn't mean it's time to "fold up" by any means


I've lived a long time and seen this same issue come up for many, many years. Every time the issue of raising the minimum wage comes up, business owners scream "You're going to put us out of business". Guess what? It didn't. If the minimum wage hadn't been raised every time they cried about this, people would still be making $1.25 and hour.


It's been raised by many companies voluntarily and they're still flourishing. A red herring??


Agreed except when the government forces companies to do so when they are not prepared.

That guy

That's why it's a transition. Business owners are given YEARS to adjust their practices accordingly.

Comment deleted.

I just threw the popcorn in the microwave. I'm sure the whole world is going to get turned upside-down and we'll all be forced to use leaves as toilet paper. If your such a great economist then why dont you follow up with some talking point theory that glosses over decades of proven labor theory.

Comment deleted.
That guy

Alternatively, since you're the naysayer here, you could provide evidence of what YOU think will happen when it increases?

Also AOC literally majored in international relations and ECONOMICS. I'll trust her word over some rando on the comments board of my local paper.


You said that you can't afford to pay an admin assistant $15 per hour. Now, what is going to happen when the government forces you to pay your employees $15 per hour? That's the problem.

The Grape of Wrath

Don't believe the "can't afford" part without reviewing the books


Maybe the raise in minimum wage could be accompanied by shifting the tax breaks and subsidies from the large industries ( oil and gas, etc. ) to the small business owner to make it easier to meet their payroll. Or maybe the recent tax breaks for the wealthy could go to the small business owners instead.


Woah woah woah friend! Those companies and billionaires worked hard to afford lobbyists make that idea virtually nonexistent! Let's not get the ball rolling there by putting in in the (essentially equally struggling) middle class's mind forcing elected officials to actually write a bill on it or anything.




Or you know make it so the tax breaks for the wealthy aren't a thing. Tax breaks for small businesses should be what happens.


did i read a different letter than everyone else here? she said she can't afford it for that particular position, so she does it herself. she's CHOOSING not to pay anyone less than a living wage anyway, so i assume she'd be fine if the min wage was raised


That is also true, but she is complaining about doing the work itself. So, it was poor planning. Remember, wages have not been raised to a minimum of $15 yet and she already has a problem. Where does that put her after wages go up? As you stated, not a problem if she continues to do the work. So, it would not impact her, also as you stated. So, why complain?

That guy

Where in the letter is she complaining? She's openly stating that she does the work herself because she doesn't want to stoop to the level of companies who will pay as little as they can get away with. She would rather take a greater share of the workload on herself than subject someone to poverty wages to do the work for her.

This letter is not a complaint about her situation, it's a message to other business owners to pay people a living wage - if you can't, you either need to take on more work for yourself, or you shouldn't be in business.


that guy pretty much covered it but yeah, she's not complaining. in fact, it's quite the opposite; she's telling other business owners who whine about not being able to afford paying their employees a livable wage to stop complaining and do some more of the work themselves in that case


She is saying that the minimum wage is so low, even at $15/hr she would rather work an extra position on top of running her business than subject someone to have to work for that little.

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