Hardworking Americans know that in the market economy, job advancements, promotions, and raises are be achieved based on job performance and other common sense factors: Does the employee show up to work on time? Does the worker show a professional appearance? Does he/she show leadership and initiative? What about the discipline to learn and grow in the company or the industry? What's the worker's attitude toward the clientele and rest of the team? Ordinarily, one who performs well in these areas will take on greater responsibilities and thus attain additional pay and benefits.
This week's tip for Labor Day weekend: Enjoy the festivities, be safe on the highways, trains, and buses. Have fun. Of course, don't drink and drive. When you go back to work after the holiday, be a good, productive and honest laborer. Through merit and performance, more opportunities will be offered to you.
Fast food strike, the marketplace economy and transit
By the way, news of yet another labor dispute has flooded national headlines. Many non-union workers working in the fast food industry have joined a nationwide strike to demand livable wages, $15 per hour to be exact which is more than double the federal minimum wage.
Not surprisingly, U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez--the one who is responsible of putting our transit systems in fiscal limbo over frivolous labor union disputes--jumped to the conclusion that the strike demonstrated a need for the federal government to raise the minimum wage. It's too early to judge whether the sudden rise of these labor disputes were staged all because of the political views of Perez; there's no public evidence of that. However, President Obama needs to tell Perez to knock off this fiscal madness right now. Meanwhile, the federal minimum wage now stands at $7.25 per hour with California at $8.00 per hour.
Increasing marketplace wages the right way
One thing we need to make clear of the marketplace economy is private companies have every right to pay employees below the marketplace median average but never below the regulated minimum. The federal minimum was set as a floor to counter corporate corruption and workforce abuse. Of course, in today's economy, minimum wage is not sufficient to raise a family outside of the poverty line if only one member works. Look at impoverished places like Mecca near the Salton Sea. However, the answer is not for Washington to spike the nationwide minimum wage to $15 per hour which would exacerbate the problem with higher consumer and living costs. The solution lies in getting the private sector to invest back into the marketplace economy which would increase the value of the wage dollar.
In the late 1960's prior to the fuel crisis, the federal minimum wage was under $2.00 per hour, but tie in inflation and the value of $2/hour in the 60's adds up to over $9/hour in today's currency with a spike across the $10 mark in 1968 based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That, of course, exceeds both the state and federal minimum wage today. Informed individuals know that the country experienced its longest uninterrupted period of economic expansion in U.S. history during the 1960's. In contrast, during the late 1930's, minimum wage was less than $.50, but worth about $4 in today's currency coming out of the Great Depression. So it's clear that the value of hourly wages goes up when the job market is strong. If Perez wants to increase the value of nationwide wages as demanded by the unions and fast food workers, he needs to support the fact that the trivial federal regulations that obstruct economic expansion needs to be streamlined or repealed by Congress.
Tips for the labor workforce
Economics teaches that the value of marketplace wages rise and drop based on the job market; as more private sector jobs come back into the economy, marketplace wages naturally rise as more "Now Hiring" signs and ads are posted. Another fact is that not every fast food and retail business pays minimum because the industry knows that paying wages too low results in high employee turnovers. That's why places like McDonald's, Burger King, Taco Bell, many gas stations, and Wal-Mart consistently hire during a robust economy, but that's their business model which works for them and they are free to practice it. In addition, such a business model provides entry-level workers a place to start building up experience in the marketplace. Even the burger restaurant Wendy's acknowledged that it was "proud to provide a place where thousands of people, who come to us asking for a job, can enter the workforce at a starting wage, gain skills and advance with us or move on to something else."
If you want more bucks for your work, perform well at your job. Be willing to learn more about the industry. Seek opportunities. Innovate. If there's trivial government red tape that stands in your way, put it in the public arena for debate. Don't use unnecessary government regulations as an excuse not to prosper.
If your employer does not take care of you or feel you're being morally cheated, seek work elsewhere. If you work at a fast food place that pays the minimum and believe you've built up the experience necessary to move on to something better, put in applications at places you know will take better care of its employees. Why do you think outlets like In and Out Burger, Starbucks Coffee, and Costco have better employee retention rates, yet are harder for entry-level workers to get into? You need to perform well to earn more in the marketplace economy.
Filling up our trains, buses, and HOV lanes with a robust and productive marketplace labor workforce depends on you.