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.