Sunday, April 19, 2015

$15 Minimum wage.

I won't lie. It would hurt.  I might even have to moderate hours, or work more myself.  I also admit that I have ambivalent feelings and am willing to listen to reasonable arguments.

But I think it would be a good thing.  (I can tell you that every other small business owner in town is now cursing me.)

If it is done in stages, I think it might work.

I don't want to be all NIMBY about it, but it might be better if it was applied to larger businesses -- say, any business with more than 5 employees.  But I can see how that might have unintended consequences.

I also wonder if there couldn't be a six month probation period -- but again, I can see how that would have unintended consequences.  (Firing employees every six months...)

I haven't read the article in the Bulletin yet, because I wanted this to be my own response.  But one suggestion would to have some tax breaks for smaller businesses -- under the theory that the state would collect more taxes from the employees.

I've been trying to give my own employees periodic raises -- so that, if they are still with me in a year or so, they will be either at, or close to the 15.00 an hour.  These are good, experienced employees -- and business is currently good, so I can do it.

I have to say -- I like the idea of me rewarding my employees, rather than it being mandated.

There were many times in my business when I couldn't have come close to paying those wages -- but those were also the times when I worked most of the hours myself anyway.

There are some in-between times when I held onto employees or was adding employees, where such a wage increase would be problematic.

I can tell you one thing -- I would expect more from my employees.  No just babysitting the cash-register. Frankly, employees would have to up their game.  No more hanging onto marginal employees.

And it would need to be strictly enforced.  No more competing businesses where the employees are "volunteering." As long as everyone has the same standards, it would all shake itself out.

Over time, the 15.00 would become part of the system.  There might be some fallout at first, but in the end, when everything is said and done, those that work might be better employees, and the businesses better businesses.

I don't know.

It will be hard for very small Mom and Pops.  But if Walmart and McDonald's are forced to pay those wages, it might end up coming back into the coffers of the small businesses.  Theoretically.  (It's a bit like trickle down, but probably more valid.)

Here's the thing.  I'm not totally sure about this.  I could be wrong.  And if I'm wrong, it could have disastrous consequences.  It would have to be done wisely.  My feeling is that any business starting at today's wages, given a two or three year warning, would either be viable at the end of that period or not viable.  Any business that tries to start would know what they need to do to make it.

It's very possible it would be a situation of two steps back and three steps forward.  The short-term results might look scary, but I think in the long run, it would be beneficial.  Especially if the rest of the country follows suit.

It will be interesting to see the results in Seattle and San Francisco. 

I have a feeling it wouldn't be as harmful as it might appear on the surface.  But I could be wrong.

Usually, I'd say when it doubt, leave it alone.  But the wage stagflation and wealth distribution in this country is so fucked up, I think some bold steps need to be taken.

Finally, I am saying this because my business is mature.  I've gotten over the start-up mistakes and the stupid mistakes and the bubbles and become established.

I might have had a very different response 15 years ago, and I think everyone should listen very carefully to those small businesses who are where I was at 15 years ago.  I don't want to be that guy -- I've made it, so now I'm imposing these standards on people who are still struggling to make it.

So...I am open to opposing opinions.


Anonymous said...

An interesting post ........... they are few and far between any more. I find myself going back and
trying to find old blogs I used to read and I either can't find them, or they haven't been updated in
years. To your credit you keep after it, but only on rare occasion do they interest me anymore. I
thought this one on the minimum wage would bring out the comments ..... I'm obviously wrong. Where
have all the people gone?

If you like the $15 minimum wage why don't you pay it? why wait for the government to impose it? If it's
such a good thing you should start the trend and reap the rewards? What about the pressure to raise wages
across the board if this goes through? If you employed a guy at $15 an hour now don't you think he'd want
more too? wouldn't he be worth more? isn't that going to put even more pressure on labor prices across the

The only answer I ever hear is to just raise prices. I really have no idea how most businesses price
their goods. I try to charge as much as the market will bear. just "raising prices" doesn't work in my world.
If I could charge more right now I would ..............


Duncan McGeary said...

I thought this would get comments too.

I am going to be paying my guys 15.00 by the time this is mandated everywhere else, in .50 increments.

That's a wrinkle. I'd like to reward my employees by giving them raises, rather than be forced to.

I'm pretty torn about this. I'm doing well enough at my store that I can do this, but...if things go south, as they have a tendency to do on a regular basis, I can't take back the raises. So it's a bit dangerous, too.