The city of SeaTac, Washington, is the home of the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. It is also home to the highest minimum wage in the country. SeaTac’s minimum wage of $15 an hour took effect on January 1, 2014, the result of a ballot initiative. The minimum wage in the cities of San Francisco and Seattle is scheduled to gradually rise to $15 over the next few years.
The federal minimum wage has been $7.25 an hour since July 24, 2009. However, because states are allowed to set their own minimum wages, twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum. And because most states allow cities to set their own minimum wages, some cities have their own minimum wages that are higher than the minimum wages of their states.
Last month, thousands of fast-food workers from coast to coast — who typically make the minimum wage or just a little more — took to the streets in more than 200 cities to protest their low pay, with most demanding an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. They were joined by labor activists, retail workers, home-care aides, adjunct professors, construction workers, child-care aides, and airport workers. They were even joined in Oakland by UC Berkeley Professor and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, who, in his impromptu speech, said, “It’s not just a fight about higher wages,” “it’s a fight about morality, it’s a fight about decency, it’s a fight about dignity.”
Workers in New York City started demonstrating at 6 a.m. “We demand the right to earn a living wage. We have a right to take care of our families just like the Trumps,” said a local union president at a rally just outside the Trump Hotel. “I hope the workers get what they need to survive because the cost of everything keeps going up but the wages stay down,” said a single mother who works a construction job. “I feel that corporations and institutions are taking in huge profits at the expense of low-wage workers,” said a laid-off adjunct professor.
The demonstrations were organized by a group called Fight for $15. “We are winning,” says the group, “but there’s still a long way to go before every worker gets $15 an hour and union rights.”
Strikes and demonstrations for a $15-an-hour wage have been going on for more than two years now after hundreds of fast-food workers walked off their jobs in New York City on November 29, 2012. In May 2014, more than 1,000 workers and supporters protested outside the McDonald’s corporate headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois, resulting in more than 100 arrests.
These strikes and demonstrations in support of a $15 an hour wage will only continue. McDonald’s recent announcement that it will increase hourly wages for workers at company-owned stores (franchises account for 90 percent of McDonald’s restaurants) has not placated the protests. “This is too little to make a real difference, and covers only a fraction of workers,” said a McDonald’s worker from Charlotte, North Carolina. “We’re going to keep fighting until we win $15 and union rights for all fast-food workers and our families,” she added.
The hard truth, of course, is that workers at McDonalds, who have the quintessential McJob, aren’t worth $15 an hour to their employers. If they quit their job today, they can be replaced before they clean out their locker or make it out the front door.
The elements that go into setting an employee’s salary are much more numerous than most people realize: local, state, and federal laws; union contracts; competition for workers; the market; labor budgets; employee seniority; employee education; employee experience; employee value to employer; the employer portion of Social Security and Medicare taxes; unemployment taxes (which are borne completely by the employer); and benefits offered.
There are a number of things an employee could do to try and increase his pay: get more education, be more productive, stay with a company to build up seniority, work his way up the ladder, get into management, contribute to business growth, provide good customer service, have a good attitude, ask for a raise.
There are also some things an employee should not do if he wants to try and increase his pay: publicly complain about his pay rate; bad-mouth the company; go on strike; damage company property or reputation; run off business; anger customers; and participate in demonstrations, marches, and protests for a $15 an hour wage.
There are a number of things that could be said about employment in a free society.
In a free society, no one deserves a job, even if he is fully qualified for it.
In a free society, no one is entitled to a particular rate of pay.
In a free society, there is no local, state, or federal minimum wage.
In a free society, there is no such thing as a “living wage.”
In a free society, there may not be a 40-hour work week.
In a free society, the availability and rate of overtime pay are set entirely by agreement between employers and employees.
In a free society, no one is “worth” a certain rate of pay.
In a free society, there are no government-mandated employee benefits.
In a free society, employees freely decide to take a job on the basis of the wage rate offered.
In a free society, socialistic-minded people can voluntarily pay a portion of their wages into an account to be distributed to workers who they think earn less money than they need to live on.
In a free society, union membership is voluntary.
In a free society, collective bargaining is voluntary.
In a free society, it is perfectly legal to fire Jews who refuse to work on Saturday and Christians who refuse to work on Sunday.
In a free society, it is entirely up to employers if they want to provide employees with a religious accommodation.
In a free society, employers have full control over the dress code of their employees.
In a free society, it is perfectly legal to fire workers who strike or otherwise refuse to work.
In a free society, it is perfectly legal for employers to fire employees at any time and for any reason.
In a free society, there are no government regulations to stifle businesses.
In a free society, employers can hire anyone they choose from any country without having to check his “papers.”
In a free society, there is neither an employer nor employee share of payroll taxes.
In a free society, there are no unemployment taxes.
In a free society, unemployment insurance is private and voluntary.
In a free society, there is no income tax withheld from employee paychecks.
In a free society, employer discrimination against employees on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation, sex, sexual identity, national origin, marital status, dress, tattoos, scars, facial hair, appearance, disability, age, height, weight, political affiliation, or anything else is perfectly legal.
In a free society, there is no Department of Labor.
In a free society, there is no National Labor Relations Board.
In a free society, there is no Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
In a free society, there is no Family and Medical Leave Act.
In a free society, there is no government Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In a free society, no employee is entitled to pay equal to that of any other employee.
In a free society, employees may quit any job they don’t like before or after they find another one.
In a free society, government would not interfere in any way with the employer-employee relationship.
It is a free society that Americans should be clamoring for.