Friday, June 01, 2007


She Works Hard For Her Money
Summer's around the corner and that puts me in a good mood. When I'm in a good mood, I have no need to vent. I've never really mastered the art of communicating past the point of complaining, so I had significant trouble figuring out what to write for my entry yesterday. Instead I slid into school early this morning, figuring I could cheat and write an entry before classes started...but nothing came of it. I slunk into a colleague's room, hoping for wisdom; instead she offered to take the topic I was writing about and compose the entry. While our reasons differ some, the end result is the same. So enjoy.

Recently, I hired my students for ten dollars an hour.

Money didn’t exchange hands, but for the purpose of a unit on careers, we worked out a budget. The “Aha!” moment came at the end of calculating the monthly expenses. They had a few dollars left over, but I threw them a curve: your brakes need work, your cat gets sick, or you break your leg hanging a picture at home. All of a sudden, they were in the red…and ten dollars sounded like so much when we started.

Ten dollars is above the minimum wage of seven-sixty-five, bumped up in January by the generous powers that be.

Which begs the question: Minimum wage for what? It’s not the minimum wage for living in Connecticut. If you’re making the minimum in Connecticut and over a certain age, you’re hurting and probably living in a box. Keep in mind that a family of four with two people working 40 hours on minimum wage puts them above the poverty level and out of the running for aid.

A livable wage in Connecticut would need to be considerably higher than a livable wage in Georgia- do a compare and contrast of rents in different states and the math becomes clear. Since a huge discrepancy of living costs exists among the states, letting the federal government set the wage lends itself to a one-size-fits-all fallacy that pinches in all the wrong places. Reminds me of the Christmas clothes my aunt used to give me.

Businesses in different states set de jure minimum wage. An offer of seven and change may be just right in some places or laughable in others. Think the casinos are the biggest employers in Connecticut because they offer minimum wage along with the dreamy ambiance? Heck no. They offer higher-than-minimum, bennies, and the dreamy ambiance.

No doubt about it, everybody’s hurt by a federally mandated minimum wage. Pity the poor business owners who have to outsource jobs or hire illegal immigrants because seven-sixty-five breaks the budget. Or don’t pity them. Having the government force them to pay a certain amount doesn’t solve the problem.

Whenever I do the budget activity with my students, I wonder how many of them will have to deal with unlivable wages beyond summer or college jobs. Having served my time on minimum wage, I can’t offer much advice to the unfortunate few aside from telling them to head for the casinos or to get out of Connecticut. They can take the current minimum wage as a broad hint that they’re not wanted here.


IC said...

Kindel couldn't have written that next to last paragraph herself...

Kindel and poster: A federal minimum wage is essential for human rights in this country. A state is allowed to go above a federal minimum wage, and that's what can help a state like CT out. A raised minimum wage contributes to building our economy, as low income households who spend their entire paycheck in a week have more to spend and more to save. Small businesses having to pay less money to hire more workers is a great idea, but these underpaid employees are not nearly as contributive to our economy as a better paid employee.

Anonymous said...

kindel: go home