by Joseph Branco
March 29, 2005
You are absolutely correct in stating that unplanned hardships happen in our country. Like every economy on Earth, rebounding is a challenge, especially for those deemed as unskilled labor, or those whose skills are too narrow to adjust to another position easily. While that may be something that is not fun and certainly not wished upon anyone, it is not justification for raising the minimum wage and requiring all businesses large and small to pay more for unskilled positions. Your solution to hardship for a few is to make the hardship more broad based, to make it negatively impact other businesses. I will have to disagree with your solution of raising the minimum wage to counteract economic hardship or industry collapse. It is not fair to look at a falling out of an industry and decide since those laborers need to make more money - that we simply force all businesses to pay more for these unskilled positions.
Just because people "need money" does not give the government authority to force businesses to pick up the tab. I dare to say it, but America truly is the land of opportunity and if you have a will, there is a way. If you but look for opportunities to add new work skills, gain education, or apprentice for certain jobs, they are all around us. Nobody has ever promised that the path to success is easy. Expect difficult times and many many late nights. Programs like your very own Sea Link Mr. Mirsky give people that opportunity to better their lives and gain skills that they will have for the rest of their lives. I would think you of all people would see the importance of community investment and the value in individuals taking responsibility for their own futures. You cannot pin your entire life on one skill. What do you think happened to the people who manufactured 8-track players for a living? When the industry ends, you move on and you learn more skills. You do not sulk around in a dead-end job waiting for the government to pay you more money for no proven excellence in your work.
My final argument deals with your definition of minimum wage workers. I honestly do not know of one person in this town, other than students, who earn minimum wage and try and make a living from it. It does not happen often. I think in your example you were referring to ex-mill employees who are now making considerably less than they were during the glory days. That may be true, but I seriously doubt they are at the minimum wage level. And if they are - what is the problem? It has been years since the closing of the mill. If you have not worked hard enough for a raise or gained another skill to offer a potential employer at this point, the fault is in your own hands, not mine, and not the governments. It is an insult to the rest of working America to have the minimum wage raised all the time and have the inflation impacted by that raise and the extra pressure on businesses to pay more for unskilled labor. Workers who have earned raises have now had their efforts reduced through legislation intended to be fair . I do not remember the minimum wage rising and my boss coming to me and saying Hey the minimum wage has risen and although you make $16.50 an hour, you will be getting a raise too to make your original raises relevant and to match the rising inflation just around the corner No - that does not happen. The only people that "appear" to benefit are kids who get after school jobs that now pay more. Nobody is trying to live off a single minimum wage position.
Ralph, I'm sure that we will most likely not see eye to eye on this issue. But I want to say how important programs like yours are to our national and statewide economic and social situation. Sea Link gives people a wonderful opportunity to better their own lives through hard work, dedication, and the will to succeed. Despite where we fail to connect on the economics of the minimum wage, your program is important and is exactly the type of thing our government should focus more of its energy supporting. Good Luck helping others to help themselves.
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