$10 in 2010

A few excerpts from this RNS article:
A nonpartisan coalition of more than 90 faith, community, labor and business organizations has launched an ambitious "$10 in 2010" campaign to raise the federal minimum wage within two years.
The launch of the new "livable wage" campaign came as the federal minimum wage rose 60 cents to $6.55 on July 24, part of the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007. The hourly minimum will increase again in 2009 to $7.25 per hour.

"As people of faith, we believe there is no better way to urgently address the poverty that afflicts so many low-wage working people and their families than by raising the minimum wage," said the Rev. Dr. Paul Sherry, founding national coordinator of Let Justice Roll.
Opponents argue that an increased minimum wage will lead to more unemployment and layoffs, especially among young and unskilled workers. They also argue businesses will shift excess worker salary costs to consumers.

But Sherry said, "A job should keep you out of poverty, not keep you in it. That conviction is at the very heart of the faith we proclaim."
As I began to read this I started to entrench into my ultra-conservative-don't-increase-the-minimum-wage mindset.. then I read that last statement. I agree that a job should keep one out of poverty.. what do you think?


  1. A low paying job is better than no job at all if you want to stay out of poverty. Isn't the whole idea of the American dream about moving up? You have to start somewhere.

  2. without wanting to critique another country's politics (that's dangerous ground)let me just say that in Australia the minimum wage for an adult (I just checked) is $13.74/hour.

  3. From what I've heard, the cost of living is also higher in Australia, so you'd have to account for that.

  4. I get what you are saying Casey but I do wonder why we deem some jobs to be unworthy of a decent wage.

  5. It's the law of supply and demand. If you're an unskilled worker, you're replaceable. That means there are any number of people out there who can take your place if you're not willing to do the job for minimum wage. On the other hand, if you keep at it and work yourself up to a management position, you make yourself more valuable to the company.

    If unskilled workers get more money, the companies aren't going to take a loss, they're going to charge more for their products. If that happens across the board, then we end up with a higher cost of living. If we have a higher cost of living, that increase in the minimum wage isn't going to mean anything to the unskilled worker anyway.

  6. If I have to pay more for a product or a hotel stay so that a worker can feed her children, so be it. But, that's not the real issue.

    This "we'll fire minimum wage workers if the wage is raised" is a smokescreen by big business to allow them to pocket profit rather than take care of their workers. I'm pretty sure microbusinesses are exempt from minimum wage laws. It's the big guys who protest the minimum wage laws. Pay your CEO's a little less and pay the minimum wage workers enough to buy food, housing and medicine.


  7. I hear what you are saying Casey.

    In this global economy the low cost provider of goods and services is China.. do you think that we should try to emulate their employment practices? It seems to be the logical conclusion to the law of supply and demand.

  8. Very interesting line of comments here. I wouldn't want the minimum wage to be a place where people would ordinarily stay; it should be a basic support and a goad, a push, to make you want to rise in an organization to some place where you are less replaceable (good word, Casey). Where your skills are a real contribution to the product. That could be very high up, as an executive, or more around the middle, as a craftman or support staff, or a representative of the company.

    "Poverty" needs careful definition before it's slung around. Does that mean no food, or no cable TV?

  9. While working ones way up in an organization is a noble goal, not everyone can work their way up, for one reason or another. Now, if we're going to say the minimum wage is not a living wage and not even pretend it is, that is one thing. Let's just face that and say no one should try to support a family on minimum wage.

    But, if we are going to tell people that they should be able to support a family on minimum wage, it needs to be a livable wage. If a business can't afford to pay a decent wage, it can't afford to be in business.

    Sorry Casey, sometimes a low paying job is not better than no job at all. When that low paying job leaves you not making enough to support your family yet disqualifies you for assistance, it it can be worse than no job at all. I just recently watched a friend lose her health insurance for her son because she took a second job and she and her husband got raises. Then, her son required surgery for a congenital defect (that would have been fully covered had she not taken the job and gotten the raise) and they were faced with having to raise almost $9,000 when they are just scraping by as it is.

  10. I think that Brian highlights the heart of the poverty issue for me - the disparity of CEO and average worker compenstion.. it is why I think that it is okay to pay unskilled and skilled workers more.

    Casey, what is the minimum wage in Japan (in equivalent US dollars). I have heard that the disparity of CEO comensation is much less in Japan.. is that true Caaey?

    I am also interested in what you all think of the uneven playing field of our global economy.

    Thanks all for the great feedback.

  11. Bob, the global playing field is s problem we need to address sooner rather than later. When I was young a person could expect to take a factory job doing relatively unskilled labor and make enough money to be middle class, have great benefits and a pension. My father had a college degree and we lived right next door to a guy who worked on the line in the Budweiser plant. Now blue collar workers have to compete with labor in India, China, etc. where the worker might be being paid 1/10th of what the American worker demands. We get cheaper products, but at what price to our overall economic health? How long can we afford to keep exporting middle-class jobs overseas?(ever see the Box Box Mart video on JibJab?)

    While doing a little reading on this minimum wage issue, I ran across an interesting article that promotes a global minimum wage. Hardly doable anytime in the foreseeable future. But, we have to figure out how we're going to maintain our standard of living in a global economy and I'm not sure there are any easy answers.

  12. The minimum wage in Japan is 739 yen an hour which translates to $6.87 in dollars. Most part-time jobs, though, pay around $9.29 or so, including McDonald's. The cost of living here is much higher, though, so I don't see a difference.

    Okay, Brian. I don't want to be harsh here, but your friend has a child with a congenital defect, and yet she saw no need to take out insurance when she no longer qualified for the freebie? There's more of a problem there than minimum wage.

    People need to do better with their financial planning. Raising the minimum wage and giving irresponsible people more money is not going to solve their problems. They're just going to blow it anyway. I supported my family just fine at below the official poverty level. I never felt like we were poor and never went without meals or shelter. I may have had to do without cable TV, but you live within your means.

    And Bob, why would emulating China's practices be the logical conclusion? There's no way up the ladder in China. If you want to stick people in dead-end jobs with no opportunity for finding employment elsewhere, heavy regulation is definitely the way to go, but I don't see how China's practices beat ours in any way whatsoever.

  13. Let's also note that people aren't supporting families on minimum wage.

    The notion that many Americans must support a family while earning minimum wage is a myth. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics less than 2 percent of hourly workers age 25 and older are minimum wage earners. And of minimum wage earners in general, over 95% are teenagers, workers in training, college students, interns and part-time workers–the very people who can best use a low-paying job as a bridge to a legitimate career.

  14. I think it is fair for minimum wage to keep up with cost of living increases. I do agree with the general sentiment here though. Your average minimum wage earner isn't supporting a family. Those type of jobs are meant for high school students, etc.

    Should your job keep you out of poverty? Well, you should keep you out of poverty. What about personal responsiblity? We tend to have an epidemic in this country of living beyond our means. Also, this type of job is meant to be a stepping stone. Work hard, learn skills, educate yourself or get a formal education.

  15. Good push back on the minimum wage not being for people supporting a family.. even so, people who support a family sometimes have to work minimum wage jobs.

    I guess my point in bringing China into the discussion was to speak to the idea that the global playing field is not a level one.. I would not advocate their employment practices.. but in this global economy we have to recognize that just because we can pay people low wages (like China) it doesn't make it right.

    How do you all feel about the disparity of CEO and average worker compensation? Using your logic (loosely speaking) executives who have worked their way up the food chain should get whatever their cronies on the board think that they should get.. like minimum wage it is just a part of the system.. of course the compensation disparity is not so wide in Japan.. among other countries.

    One last comment about the poor.. aaah.. maybe I try it in another post :)

    Still enjoying the conversation..

  16. The disparity between CEO and rank-and-file compensation is pretty startling in places, and there are companies (I think Ben and Jerry's, for one) who set a cap on CEO compensation to be a multiple (10x or 7x) a skilled wage-earner in their company. That's very nice.

    But nanny-stating it, telling companies what they can and cannot pay the top people? Nuh uh for me. Me not like socialism.

  17. An interesting thought TZ.. we have a limit on bottom salaries.. maybe we need to Ben and Jerry top salaries for publicly held corporations?

  18. Casey,

    My friend can barely afford food and to pay rent for her children and her husband. She works two jobs and her husband works full time. She does have insurance through her employer. The almost $9,000 she had come up with was her share of the medical expenses, lost wages, renting a car and other miscellaneous expenses. She could not just "take out insurance". This was not a matter of financial planning, it's a matter of not making enough money to cover the deductibles and personal contributions for the insurance policy provided by her employer and the state completely dropping people from the state sponsored insurance (instead of phasing it out) once the people make too much money. And, you cannot just take out health insurance in America, it's expensive and downright impossible for many people to get if they are not covered through group plans.

  19. My husband and I supported our family for 4 years at minimum wage while he attended school. It worked out fairly well until the third child was born. Don't be mistaken, many people in Texas can and do support families on minimum wage. There are still a few places in America where it works. Not here in New England, though.

    In my experience, rising minimum wage creates a rise in the cost of living and creates poverty for semi-skilled workers who are paid somewhere between minimum wage and well-compensated professionals. Minimum wage does not effect the very poor - their spending power remains about the same as costs rise.

  20. Hey Missy,

    I'm curious as to how one experiences minimum wage increasing the cost of living. You mention that has been your experience. Could you elaborate?

    My wild guess would be that most workers aren't paid minimum wage anyway only in a very few labor intensive industries where the majority of the workers are paid minimum wage would a rise in the minimum wage make a real impact on overall costs. But, having said that, if it impacted say migrant workers or people working in food processing plants, I guess I could see how that could directly impact food prices.

  21. Brian, you are right - grocery stores, farming, food processing, and the food service industry IS the minimum wage employment staple in the USA. I worked in the grocery, packing and food processing industries for a total of about 14 years and most of that time I only got raises when min wage increased. Ironicaly, I actually got better raises when minimum wage was not increasing. 1) because higher paid new hires required budget adjustments, 2) they would not give me both my higher anniversary/merit raise AND increase my wage, so I got the 15 to 35-cent required by law each year - my anniversary wage increase would have been at least 50 cents.

    So on one level, what I had anticipated earning was less and my debt got paid off more slowly and my personal budget got adjusted. He couldn't afford to take that semester of classes, because we didn't qualify for financial aid with both of us working minimum wage - only more loans. So we do this a little longer...

    Then, these affected industries, which also account for a far greater percentage of my expenses than higher earning individuals, pass on their operating increases through food prices. So my budget is pinched even tighter.

    Wealthy business owners and corporations don't "eat" expenses - they pass them on. We all pay - but at this point in my life groceries are approximately 8% of my budget - while back then groceries accounted for almost 35% of my budget. Back then I had to make more money to afford it all - got a second job. Because I was intelligent and hardworking - desiring a better life for my family I easily got a second job displacing someone just as capable. But the boss wanted someone that would be a better "bang" for his buck. This is how I witnessed the truly poor - hardworking, but not very bright or promotable for various reasons - go homeless.

    I personally think that if the government were to let true business economy work and spend more money caring for those unable to care for themselves it would work fairly well. Texas has had an incredible economy for many years with the majority of it's citizens working at or near minimum wage. It's changed rather dramatically there over the last year. Maybe that is due to the anticipated increase in wages?

  22. Thinking about % of income to expeneses.. I was talking to my son about this and he pointed out that at $10/hour one would have to work a whole day to fill up their (20 gallon gas tank) car.. hmmm..

  23. I'm torn because while a job should certainly keep one out of poverty, not all jobs are meant to support a family. Also, the difference in the cost of living between the city and the country (at least before gas prices went through the roof) made the cost of living between such locales very different and a uniform minimum wage not enough in some areas while excessive in others. The ideal solution would be for businesses to live by the golden rule and consumers to only by from business that paid their workers a living wage. Sadly, I don't think our society is moral enough for that to work.


  24. Increasing the minimum wage does nothing to battle poverty. It does everything to add to inflation.

  25. Missy,

    Interesting insights. I agree that government should interfere as little as possible, as long as they are providing a safety net in one way or another.

  26. So are you saying a job like mowing lawns should keep someone out of poverty?


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