Minimum wage is the debate

Minimum wage is the debate. Let’s talk maximum.

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It’s an important distinction. The difference between the minimum wage and the maximum wage is significant because I’ve personally heard some things that left me stunned and disappointed.

Let me explain. When you work in certain positions there is a level that you may attain where your employer decides that if they gave you more that it would be more advantageous to replace you for someone willing to do your job for less. You have reached your maximum wage. It is more real than you may have ever considered.

So I’m going to tell you some anecdotal stories that might make you cringe.

I know a guy that worked as a fabricator for a company that made custom industrial parts. When the minimum wage was $4.75 he was being paid $6.90. The owners of this business had an employee meeting to discuss starting a second shift. Apparently business was good. When a fabricator asked if there was incentive to volunteer for the later shift he was asked “what do you think would be fair?” This employee suggested 10% for the later shift. 69 cents. The owner’s response was that it couldn’t happen because “you wouldn’t know what to do with the money.” How about buy food and fuel so that he could get to work.

I read that a man had been working on the cook line at McDonald’s for 25 years. The corporation definitely wanted to reward his contribution to the long term success of the company so they gave him a $25.00 bonus. The imbeciles at Fox News say that these jobs are for temporary purposes only, yet it’s painfully obvious that this man has made a career out of it. I’m certain his efforts have reaped boatloads of profits that he will never share in.

The most interesting disappointment was a guy I knew named Daniel. Daniel came to the USA from one of our territories and although he was born a citizen he didn’t mind being seen as an immigrant. He went to work as a cook for one of the national restaurant chains and tried hard to be a valuable employee. This particular company refused to allow any overtime but let their real good people know that if they picked up extra hours at one of the franchise outlets they wouldn’t mind. They would fire you for getting hours at the competition.

So, Daniel worked hard in a high volume kitchen doing a great job selling good food prepared well in a company store 40 hours a week. Then he went and did the same thing in a franchise outlet between 16 and 32 hours a week. For 44 years. A career if you could ever define one. When Daniel started there were no 401K accounts and when he was finally offered one he joined immediately. They told him that for every dollar he saved they would contribute a dollar. He signed right up. When he retired he had $61,ooo.oo.

Daniel didn’t think it sounded right so he asked me to look at it. Well, they may have told him that they would contribute dollar for dollar but, the prospectus documents that he signed were clear and unambiguous. There was a commitment, by the company, for nothing. There was vague language that they would try to contribute up to a dollar for each dollar an employee saved but, in no uncertain terms they were obligated to nothing. In 44 years this corporation had contributed $1300.00 for Daniels retirement. Daniel had made this company millions. They gave him an insult. Daniel died 2 years later.

There is absolutely no economic reason or corporate argument or ideological position that can justify this type of corporate behavior. It is unforgivable and unjustifiable. The person that decides to be loyal to his employer throughout his life and to make a career of what others consider beneath them are the people that this country depends on most. They are the cogs in the gears of our entire economy.  To reward the masters of business administration that have identified the maximum wage level and use it to continually impoverish loyal employees is disingenuous. Yet this is how it’s done.

So let’s talk about minimum wage and income disparity. We need to have these discussions. But, don’t ever forget the grinding poverty that arises from the disrespect shown to good employees when they reach the maximum wage.

I am

Max Oebulet

Social Philosopher

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