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Who wants to make 8 bucks an hour?


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Arizona Daily Wildcat

Dan Cassino

By Dan Cassino
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
February 9, 2000
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Monday, the Pima County Board of Supervisors introduced a "living wage" bill, modeled after that adopted by the City of Tucson last September. The proposed legislation would raise the minimum wage of some workers to $8 per hour. What this proposal ignores, of course, is the fact that raising any minimum wage is a bad idea.

Of course, the living wage increase proposed by the county would only affect those businesses that have contracts with Pima County. It is unclear exactly how many people or how much money we are talking about, but a similar proposal adopted by the City of Tucson affected a grand total of about 200 security guards and landscapers. However, it is the principle behind the issue that we should be concerned about. Adopting this proposal would be a tacit acknowledgment that increasing the minimum wage is desirable, and this is far from the truth.

Higher minimum wages do more harm than good. First off, minimum wage workers are expendable, and thus have little or no influence on their employers. Second, a raise in minimum wage means that a large number of workers will lose their jobs entirely, leaving them worse off than they were before.

People making minimum wages are, by their nature, expendable. That's why they make minimum wage. If they were valuable workers, workers that management wanted to hold on to, they would be making more than the absolute minimum the government says that they have to be.

Because workers earning minimum wage are expendable, employers don't think anything of getting rid of them to save money. As far as they are concerned, minimum wage workers are there to be used as much as possible. They can fire one and double the work load of another without losing any ground. How can the workers protest? They can quit all they want, but they aren't unionized; so there's no way to organize. Moreover, there will always be a pool of workers ready to come in and take the positions. They can't very well strike with an infinite number of "scabs" at the gate.

No matter how bad the jobs get, there will always be a pool of workers looking for jobs that don't require any experience or job skills. If nothing else, there are high school students and some college students who don't have the experience yet to command better positions and wages. They are a captive audience, and we need to take this into consideration.

Whenever debates of this nature come up, we hear about the dilemma of the working poor, people who have jobs, and are working hard to support families, but cannot get ahead because of their low wages and benefits. These families do exist, and they do have problems, most of them resulting from the fact that you can't support a family on a minimum wage job. However, while across the board minimum wage increases would help some of them, there would be an equal number who would lose their jobs entirely. That certainly wouldn't help anyone out.

Today, in the midst of a booming economy, it is difficult to imagine that there would ever be a lack of jobs, but it is hardly beyond comprehension. Just last week, Amazon.com laid off workers. If the hottest company in the new economy is handing people the pink slip, none of us should feel safe.

To be sure, most of us make minimum wage at our current jobs. We like the idea of making more money, more money means more of whatever we spend our money on, be it Gap clothes, South Park merchandise or crack cocaine. However, a raise can't help us if it costs us our jobs, and a broad minimum wage increase results in inflation. Not only will that wage increase possibly cost you your job, inflation will make sure that we don't gain any benefit from the extra money.

Minimum wage, living wage, whatever they want to call it, it means a raw deal for students and everyone in unskilled labor.

Dan Cassino is a political science junior. He can be reached at editor@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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