To the Editor:
There are, no doubt, many valid reasons to want to raise the minimum wage for working families. But it might make sense to look a little more deeply at the issue, in order to avoid the unintended consequences that have plagued so much recent legislative caprice and posturing in our state and in our nation.
Working families are already aided by the Earned Income Tax Credit, which constitutes a de facto raise in the minimum wage, not to mention all the other forms of public assistance that have proliferated while the minimum wage has allegedly failed to keep pace.
More worthy of consideration in the debate is that of the 3 percent of the workforce that works for minimum wage 60 percent earn an increase in the first year. The word “earn” is an important one, which society should not lose as a concept for entry-level workers.
But the most significant fact, that is totally omitted by all parties in this dialogue, is that of these entry-level workers, the majority are students or others, working seasonally and/or part time, who are claimed as dependents from middle income households.
I operate a resort and over the years have provided a great number of high school students with their very first work experience. Kids are allowed to begin work when they are 14. Or, perhaps I should say, they are not allowed to begin work until they are 14. Many of them know very little about how to work, when they begin legal employment, and need to be taught a great deal. Although I’ve never actually started anyone at the bare minimum wage level, explaining to them that I don’t want them to begin work with a minimum wage attitude, I have to say that a lot of kids are just not worth much when they start out. An employer can spend a lot of time getting them shaped up. In some cases, it’s a fairly charitable endeavor.
I wonder, as the minimum wage is raised, how many people like myself, who have taught these teenagers how to be productive, will be able to continue to afford to do so. And if we don’t, then who will? Another government program? Something to instill a government work ethic in young people, who will no longer need to earn their increases?