You may have heard talk on the news or out and about that minimum wage might increase. While Obama is pushing for a higher Federal minimum wage, it hasn't been submitted as legislation yet, and the Federal minimum is still at $7.25. The other reason you may have heard about it is that some states have increased their minimum wages recently. If you live in a state that has it set at $7.25 (like North Carolina or Virginia) you may not know that each state can set a higher minimum wage if they choose. Curious how we compare to other states? Check out this interactive map from the money desk at CNN.
If you've ever worked full time for minimum wage, then you know how hard it is to live on, let alone have a family or any meaningful amount of discretionary income. For that reason, I don't think any business owner should pay their people minimum wage... but the reality is, hard as it is, there are people who will work for minimum wage and lower. If you're in an industry that relies on keeping payroll costs low, then your competition is in the same boat. If you pay more, and they pay the minimum, they have a cost advantage. That creates downward pressure on wages, so it's understandable why some businesses only pay the minimum. But that is also why having a mandated minimum is so important. It protects individuals who, in an environment where businesses are focused on the bottom line, would otherwise be faced with competing for jobs at less than minimum.
How can you support healthy wages in your area? First, shop local. Keep your money in your area by using local businesses. Second, don't shop based solely on price, because it's low cost competition that drives wages down. Third, get to know the folks you're working with and where the money goes, because paying more doesn't automatically mean that more is going to pay the people more. Insist on transparency. Alternatively, look for certifications of triple bottom line commitment and signs of employee satisfaction such as the B-Corp logo and low turnover (it's usually only large national companies that show up on satisfaction surveys like you see in the news).
Your thoughts on the subject welcome...