On minimum wage and minimum effort

Published 8:52 pm Thursday, January 31, 2013

By Steven S. Kirkpatrick

The federal minimum wage has been $7.25 per hour since 2009, but states and cities have the authority to establish a higher or lower minimum wage if they want to do so.

Thus, the minimum wage in Georgia is $5.15 per hour. San Francisco, on the other hand, has a minimum of $10.55 per hour — the highest in the country. Most states, including Virginia, follow federal law, instead of establishing their own minimums.

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City and state minimum wages can apply to all jobs, or only for contracts with government agencies. For example, if you have a window-cleaning contract with the City of Denver, you must pay your employees a minimum “living wage” of about $11.25 per hour.

At a recent “Fight for 15” protest rally in Chicago, a man named Ty Johnson waved a sign demanding the minimum wage be raised to $15 per hour. He complained that after working for McDonald’s for 20 years, he’s still making the minimum wage and living paycheck to paycheck.

Here’s something for Mr. Johnson to think about: Maybe he’s not making more than the minimum wage, because he’s not worth it. If you want to earn more money, make yourself a more valuable employee — if you believe in yourself and work hard, you can do it.

Instead of demanding the government force his employer to pay him more, why doesn’t Ty Johnson pick up a book on managing a fast food restaurant and actually read it?

If you want to take more out of your job, try putting more into it first.

In commenting about the benefits of increasing the minimum wage, an aide for California Rep. George Miller said: “When working people have more money, they spend more money. It helps the economy.”

Some of you might actually think this is a good idea. If so, here’s a suggestion: Why don’t we just make the minimum wage $30 an hour and be done with it? Think of all the benefits. All those “working poor” will be lifted out of poverty and have lots of money to spend. That extra spending will be a tremendous boost to the economy.

Of course, the only problem is that employers will actually have to pay those wages, and that would put quite a few of them out of business. Many people would lose their jobs altogether and would be unable to find work due to the higher costs of meeting a payroll.

Rep. Miller apparently believes that money can be created out of a combination of thin air and legislation. But what does he know? He doesn’t own a business and has never met a payroll. All he really wants is to get reelected and stay in power. His effort to raise the minimum wage is a way to buy votes using someone else’s money.

But for the rest of us, trying to make a living and meet a payroll, we must get our money’s worth out of our employees in order to earn the profits necessary to stay in business. In my case, I love to pay employees high wages — my company’s minimum wage is $10 per hour — and I’m willing to pay a whole lot more. There’s only one catch: You have to earn it.

You may be unhappy with your paycheck, but if you’re not willing to work hard and learn how to become a more valuable employee, you have no one to blame but yourself.

Steven S. Kirkpatrick lives in Chuckatuck. He is president of Squeegee Squad Window Cleaning and also works as a consultant and advisor to entrepreneurs and other small business owners.  Email him at steven@SqueegeeSquad.com.