ask the readers: have you seen ripple effects from minimum wage increases?

A reader writes:

I was wondering about states and cities that have increased their minimum wage and what the effects have been (both on wages across the board and on budget cuts elsewhere).

I work in a state whose minimum wage is now $8.25, but will be incrementally raised until it hits $15 by 2025. I am all for this, but I had questions on how it plays out in reality. For example: the most entry-level position tier at my job starts at $9/hour. My position tier starts at $17/hour and requires a bachelor’s degree, though many of my colleagues have (or are working towards) master’s degrees. In the past, when the entry-level position wage was raised 25 cents, all the higher tiers got 25 cent raises as well so that the difference in wages remained the same. However, with such a dramatic minimum wage increase coming up, I doubt we could afford to increase all positions by an equal $6 over the next six years. I imagine we’ll get raises, but not a $6 raise, so in effect, the difference in wages between the tiers will decrease, which would not be great for morale since we’re all underpaid to begin with.

I work for a library, and libraries in my state have traditionally low wages and a glut of overqualified applicants. My library actually pays a lot more than others. Libraries also have a fixed operating budget based on the property tax revenue, so we have a lot of constraints! If we all got $6 raises, we would have to dramatically cut our programming and offerings and staff unless we could raise our tax revenue (which our community does not currently support).

In your (and other readers’) experience, how have other organizations changed higher-tier hourly wages? What was morale like afterwards for the higher tiers? How did organizations adjust to the new minimum wage?

I don’t have first-hand experience with this but I bet readers do. Readers who have watched this play out, what have you seen?

{ 686 comments… read them below }

  1. SaffyTaffy*

    Not as far as I can tell. Just avocado effects from, you know, the whole thing. Guacamole ripples.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This is my experience, too. The floor has come up to $15/hr, but it hasn’t resulted in increased wages for folks like OP who are earning just above the new minimum wage.

      I haven’t seen a reduction in hours, though. So many folks are kept underemployed to avoid paying benefits that I haven’t seen folks cutting more time, except in farm work (although let’s be real—there’s a lot of employer shadiness for most food chain workers).

      What I see the most is people justifying under compensation by blaming the new minimum wage, but it’s not like these folks were treating folks better pre-increase.

      1. AnnaBananna*

        “but it’s not like these folks were treating folks better pre-increase.” That is absolute truth.

      1. Not my real name*

        I haven’t googled to check, but guessing this is in reference to Chipotle and the like raising the price of guacamole when wages go up. So prices rise, but other people’s wages don’t.

  2. katherine*

    Fewer hours per week. There are other reasons as well–benefits requirements after 30 hours a week is a big one, hence the glut of “full-time” 29-hour-a-week jobs–but this is also a contributing factor.

    1. Lucette Kensack*

      Have you actually seen this play out in your own experience?

      There’s lots of speculation out there about the effects of minimum wage increases, and some research (some of which is valid, and much of which is funded by pro- and anti- advocacy groups).

      I’m not the OP, but I’m curious about real people’s experience and I’d love to hear about yours!

      1. Midwest Writer*

        I lived in Hawaii for about a decade. Hawaii started requiring employers to provide health insurance for all employees who worked more than 20 hours a week in the 1970s. There were definitely jobs that limited people to 19 hours (lots of waitstaff stuff, some service industries). Here in the Midwest more recently, yes, I’ve heard government agencies talk about limiting employees to 29 hours so they don’t have to provide benefits. It’s not every job everywhere, but I’ve definitely heard it. (And been so, so disappointed and frustrated by some of the employers who do that.)

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I’ve definitely seen employers do this to avoid paying benefits, but I haven’t seen it occur, again, when minimum wage came up. Those employers definitely still argue that they’ll cut hours, but I get the impression that this is just their fave non-materializing threat.

          1. SchueylerSeestra*

            same. I was paid way above minimum wage when I worked in a hotel and was also a full-time employee. For most of my time there I worked a 7am-3pm shift. My final manager decided we were all too expensive and tried to cut back hours. However, we were perpetually understaffed so his plan never worked out. Wage raise had nothing to do with it, he was just a jerk who didn’t know how to manage.

          2. AMT*

            Yes, this is common. I was once hired as an adjunct professor due to a shortage caused by cutting the other adjuncts’ hours when a new state law kicked in that would have required the university to provide benefits. I would love to see a law that prohibited employers from hiring multiple part-timers to fill a role that could be filled by a full-time employee.

            1. thethatcher*

              Devil’s advocate here- That would likely lead to more cases where you have one position that is actually doing the work of 2+ full time positions. The businesses are going to cut costs however they can, and the proposed law would have consequences that are not good for the workers hired in some instances.

              1. JR*

                I totally understand where you’re coming from on that, but as a working parent of young children, I’d like to see more part-time options, not less.

        2. Accounting Otaku*

          I actually saw something similar happen when I worked restaurants. Corporate had to change it to where if an employee worked more than an average of 36 hours each week they were automatically bumped to full-time status which would get them good benefits. Before managers were able to classify an employee as FT or PT on their own. I think this change was meant to encourage them to utilize their full timers more. Only a few people knew about the technicalities involved.
          What happened: Full timers got letters warning them they needed to pick up more hours or lose their status and benefits. Bye bye hard earned vacation. Part timers that worked their asses off had their hours cut to keep them nowhere close to hitting the 36 hour mark even when they could previously work up to 40 hours no problem. No one was happy about this. It was a deciding factor on why I left because I was supposed to be bumped up to full time as a condition of my return. Then was told about the technicality that I would have to get my average hours up to 36. Before I left, I told one of our part timers who was picking up shifts like crazy that the managers no longer had any say on who was full time and that she only needed to keep picking up enough shifts to bump her average up and corporate would make the switch for her. Also, a lot of our full timers had multiple jobs and COULDN’T pick up anymore hours due to overlap.

          1. Valprehension*

            Wait, so if the difference between full-time and part-time wasn’t based on hours generally worked (part-timers could work 40 hours, but full-timers didn’t necessarily?), what was it based on?

            1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

              I just put in an application at a place whose applicant tracking system indicated that 40 hours is full time, and anything below that is part-time. So it might be something like that, you have to be exactly 40 hours to be classed as full time.

            2. Accounting Otaku*

              Before it was based on seniority and how much each store had budgeted for FT employees and benefits for them. FT had set schedules, first dibs at OT, and were never cut early if things were slow. They were the ones that had been there forever. They averaged between 32 and 44 hours a week. It was the ones that were coming in at the lower end that were getting the warning letters, and I think the Powers that Be wanted them to work more hours to “earn” their benefits. Part timers like me had set start times but were cut depending on how busy we were.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          But that’s been going on since the recession; it didn’t start with the talk of increasing minimum wage. At least, that’s when I started seeing it (I live in the Central US).

          1. Former Retail Lifer*

            It’s been going on in retail for at least the past two decades. Definitely not as a result of wage changes.

          2. Working Mom Having It All*

            When I worked retail in college 15 years ago, this was already the norm. It’s nothing new. Also, before this type of nickel and diming, there were no laws about giving benefits at a certain number of hours, so these jobs just didn’t come with benefits at all.

        4. Zephy*

          Florida reporting in. My last job was part-time, scheduled 28 hours/week, and they watched that to the minute. I got my hand smacked on multiple occasions for clocking in/out a few minutes early/late a few times, so at the end of the week my timecard showed 28.xx hours worked. I think I flirted with 29 hours once. Some of my coworkers even had their hours cut back to 27 or 26/week because they did things like come back from lunch a few minutes early to help with a rush.

          1. Gatomon*

            This would happen to me back in 2011/2012. The system prevented you from clocking in more than a minute early, but if you signed out late it would cut your hours the following week. My normal hours were 28 (regular part-time) but I never got out on time because it was retail, so I’d get scheduled for 26 hours the next week. If I hit some threshold it would cut my hours for 2 weeks in a row. But then it was harder to get my work done in those reduced hours, so I’d go over again… it was a vicious cycle.

        5. Overeducated*

          This was super common when I worked in the non-profit sector right after college, but we were paid a couple dollars over minimum wage, I think it was solely related to the cost of benefits.

        6. Larz*

          I’ve been teaching in the same college for five years, always capped at 29 hours/week so they don’t have to give us benefits. I’m not sure that’s truly relevant to the minimum wage thing up top, but I did want to chime in about 29 hrs/week caps being used to deny us benefits. I wonder how many other AAM readers are currently uninsured?

      2. Tathren*

        This is happening in my retail store. Corporate (which isn’t based in our state) is always stingy with our payroll and we struggle to keep the store properly staffed as it is, but we aren’t getting anymore payroll hours to work with as minimum wage increases. There are some weeks where people are only scheduled for 8 hours total and shifts that are supposed to have 6+ people only have 3 people working. The store manager is trying to fight for more payroll but so far she hasn’t been successful.

        1. Syfygeek*

          When I was in Retail, hours would be cut, but “goals” stayed the same. It meant the manager, and anyone else on salary filled those hours, averaging 50+ hours a week.

          Then you had a store with tired cranky managers, cranky employees with less hours than they could live on, and it always ended in people leaving to go to the store that promised more hours, more help, etc..

          1. Dragoning*

            When I was at Dollar Tree, hours were based on ours sales and needs for that week the previous year. One week we had more hours than we needed (I know), and the store manager just had us come in anyway and greet people at the door just because he didn’t want to lose them the next year.

      3. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        100%, I worked in nonprofit fitness in three states, and all three locations kept their staff at .25 hours under full time. Each department had 3-4 “shadow” full timers, who were full time all but that last 15 minutes so they would not qualify for benefits.

        Additionally, for our specialized staff, there was definitely wage compression. In the 15 years I was working in aquatics (four different states), lifeguards went from commanding minimum wage + 80%, to minimum wage + 25%, to minimum wage plus maybe 50 cents or a dollar if they were adults (not students) with experience. This was a region with a $15 minimum wage.

        The state I’m currently in abides by federal minimum wage, and pays lifeguards minimum wage + 30%, or roughly what they were making in 2000 in states that currently have a minimum wage of $10-$15.

      4. Mel*

        At some point that’s what has to happen. A higher minimum wage doesn’t increase the profit margin of a store. They have to make it up somewhere.

    2. Lucy*

      In the UK the minimum wage legislation and increases have coincided with levelling benefits regardless of hours and number of employees (e.g. pension entitlement, PTO, private health insurance, which can be given pro rata but must be available to everyone) though the changes have been staggered.

      I’m too young to have noticed the subtler changes, but my general comment on this topic would be “far more people are paid minimum wage only”. Skills and experience don’t necessarily lift you above minimum wage, if someone thinks you’re only worth $n/h and that’s minimum wage.

    3. Alianora*

      My first employer (fast food in 2013) used to schedule us for 39 hours a week. I’m certain that if there was a 30-hour benefits requirement, they would have switched to 29.

    4. katherine*

      To clarify: I am obviously, unequivocally in favor of a living wage, tracked to inflation and the cost of living. However, time and time again, whenever any kind of law or measure is passed to benefit workers, employers will find a way to bend the rules to punish them.

      1. Goya de la Mancha*

        I’m not sure it’s to “punish” anyone. It’s just that businesses need to make a profit and generally don’t want to cut into their own pockets to do so.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          Almost all businesses can handle the difference and still make a profit. They just won’t make as much of a profit as they did when they were allowed to pay people $8.25. The thing is, they’ve drunk so much of the Kool-Aid about businesses “growing or dying” that the idea that they could still do fine making a profit even if it’s less of a profit than they made last year doesn’t occur to them. They’re hell-bent on making more of a profit every year than they did the last one, and when that stops being realistic (for reasons ranging from a living wage to the need to deal with climate change), they flip out.

          1. Goya de la Mancha*

            You mean all large businesses. People seem to forget that many small business owners are subject to these laws too and they don’t have near the same profit base that large companies do.

            1. Margaret*

              I’ve worked for a lot of small business owners who made sure to tell me so while they underpaid me- and I’ve gotta say, if your business model requires that you rob some minimum wage worker of two hundred bucks a week in order to be profitable, your business model does not yet allow you to employ minimum wage workers and you should be doing the job yourself.

              1. Gatomon*

                I agree. In capitalism, if your business does not earn enough to pay its normal and reasonable expenses, it is not competitive. The appropriate outcome is for the business to fail and a stronger business to provide that good/service and employee those workers, harsh as it is.

          2. Mel*

            My husband runs a restaurant and if he had to pay people $15/hr he wouldn’t be making any money. He would have to fire people and work 70 hour weeks just to keep his job. I guess at a certain point corporate would have to raise the product price to keep up, but the first thing that would happen is firing.

            1. MayLou*

              That’s because capitalism values people as consumers far higher than people as producers, so the idea that customers might be asked to pay slightly more for something (to reflect the actual cost of producing that thing) is anathema, whereas the idea of paying employees less than is necessary for a decent standard of living (thereby obscuring the true cost of production) is seen as good business practice. It’s not the only possible way to operate. It’s not the best way to operate. And it’s not sustainable.

          3. Carol*

            Not all employers are businesses. I work at a small town, rural library and we would have to close if we had to pay $15 an hour. There just isn’t money available in our budget.

        2. profit*

          Businesses do need to make a profit.
          but many of these businesses are pulling larger and larger profits, while employees are not seeing any benefit.

    5. tinyhipsterboy*

      I’m sure it’s a factor, but this has happened to me at jobs before in a state that isn’t raising minimum wage to that degree (and for jobs whose starting pay was above minimum wage). I’m in AZ; our minimum wage just got raised to $11/hr this year, but back when I worked at Starbucks the minimum was $7.35.

      I started at $7.65 and ended up around the $9.50 range after 4 years. Being downtown meant there were a lot of events held right outside our door, but after my first two years or so, hours got cut across the board–less help on those hard event days, fewer workers during the morning rush, and barebones staffing during the slow season. I ended up having to get a second job to make ends meet because of it, and it impacted pretty much all my coworkers.

      I worked at Sprint after, and even then, they’d try to keep full-time employees at 40 hours. The good news is that it meant they tried to keep us *at* 40 hours, but even if we had a big release or event coming up, if you hit 40, you couldn’t work more than that no matter how much the store needed help. Our minimum wage increases didn’t jump until 2017 ($8 and change to $10), and this was before that.

      This got verbose, but my point is that while minimum wage can definitely be a factor, businesses will cut hours whenever they please.

  3. Sloan Kittering*

    Ooh I will be following this! The only parallel I can think of was when it seemed for a while that they were going to change the requirements for exempt vs nonexempt. Those rules didn’t go into effect, but in my nonprofit field where we have a LOT of entry level folks doing professional jobs for 30K or so, I did see that the entry level people were boosted at the expense of midlevel people, at least initially. Now I’m not saying this isn’t the sector of greatest need, I’m just reporting neutrally what I observed. With some entry level folks no longer able to work overtime, the next level up had to absorb all the overtime tasks without raises. Some entry level people were boosted up to the cutoff to avoid this – I don’t think midlevel salaries were adjusted to compensate. Maybe it happened in following years and I lost track of it, having moved on from my job by then?

    1. Jennifer M*

      At my first job after grad school in 2000, I worked at a company (non-profit adjacent, but a for profit) that in the year before I started went through a similar transition. But it actually evened out things. The entry level staff were making in the high 20s or so but were eligible for OT. And that meant that they were taking home more money than the mids who were exempt. And mids were pissed. So they rewrote the job descriptions for the entry levels such that they had a bit of decision making authority for certain aspects of their jobs and starting salary was about $31K. The mids were much happier with this.

      1. Natalie*

        For what it’s worth, “a bit” of decision making authority is not enough to make someone genuinely exempt. They were just breaking the rules, no more than if they had just decided to pay them on an exempt basis without tweaking their job descriptions.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yes. Misclassification is rampant. Folks’ jobs haven’t changed—the employer is just banking on not getting caught for adopting an unlawful “solution.”

        2. Jennifer M*

          The job description fell pretty squarely under “Professionally exempt work means work which is predominantly intellectual, requires specialized education, and involves the exercise of discretion and judgment. Professionally exempt workers must have education beyond high school, and usually beyond college, in fields that are distinguished from (more “academic” than) the mechanical arts or skilled trades. Advanced degrees are the most common measure of this, but are not absolutely necessary if an employee has attained a similar level of advanced education through other means (and perform essentially the same kind of work as similar employees who do have advanced degrees).” Most had master’s degrees, they supervised the temps and (many many) interns, they performed technical assignments on government contracts, once they took the various internal training courses they wrote various sections of proposals in response to government RFPs, etc.

          1. Sloan Kittering*

            Yeah there’s that odd exemption for lawyers and academics – never did understand that.

            1. Pescadero*

              It’s way more than that – law, medicine, theology, accounting, actuarial computation, engineering, architecture, teaching, and physical, chemical, and biological sciences.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              It’s mostly because labor laws were designed to protect the most vulnerable and underpaid workers. Things like overtime, benefits, mandatory days off, etc., were designed to decrease the risk of harm to factory workers, railway workers, service workers, children, and so on.

              It was presumed that people in the “learned professions” (academics, accounting and banking, actuaries and appraisers, architecture, clergy, engineering, lab scientists, law, medicine, planners, public policy folks, researchers, social workers, teachers, etc.) had more bargaining power and control over their work conditions.

              I think there’s an argument to be made that the nature of who counts as exempt has expanded so much that it’s problematic to continue to draw this line, but the system makes more sense in the context of its historical framework.

    2. TechWorker*

      UK example that’s fairly similar – my best friend worked for a major publisher in events. We don’t have the same laws in the U.K. w.r.t exempt/non-exempt, rather it’s just that you can’t make someone work hours that would put them under the minimum wage.

      Her company had ‘bands’ where if you were paid minimum wage you would qualify for overtime but her band was ‘senior’ which mean she instead got ‘time off in lieu’. Except her actual salary was 16k which is really not much above minimum wage, and the amount of evening and weekend hours expected to host events meant that actually taking all of the time in lieu was near impossible. It was pretty rubbish!

  4. mark132*

    My two youngest children are teenagers and both work in restaurants, and they both earn significantly more than minimum wage, and in fact both have recently gotten significant pay increases as well, in my opinion not due to the minimum wage but rather just as an attempt by the restaurant owner to keep them. To get employees, most places have no choice. So here it doesn’t really make much of a difference.

    1. Venus*

      Our state had a substantial increase in the minimum wage, all at once, and I admit that I don’t know how it affects a large number of people who make minimum wage (I haven’t done studies) but I know that unemployment rates are already low so I have the impression that many businesses were having to raise hourly rates just to keep employees.

      When it came into effect, there were companies who decided to get rid of some benefits but they were mentioned in the news and many people avoided going there to shop (the owners didn’t appear to be struggling to make ends meet). Prices went up a bit in some places, but everyone seemed reasonably comfortable to pay an extra $0.05 if it meant that people could survive on their income.

    2. MCL*

      I live in a smaller midwestern city with a lot of college-educated workers and a big food scene, so restaurants are really feeling the squeeze when it comes to hiring and retaining staff. The competition is fierce and there’s a sort of “bidding war” for restaurant employees. It’s definitely hard for the restaurants who already operate on thin margins, but it’s good that the workers are able to find relatively high-paying jobs.

    3. Clisby*

      Same here. I live in Charleston, SC and the food & beverage industry is desperate for employees. Not just chefs and sommeliers – dishwashers, too. I would be astounded if anyone in that business is making just minimum wage.

    4. Mel*

      Yes, we live in an area where unemployment has been rock bottom, so people are already making well above minimum wage at fast food restaurants and can often negotiate even more if they’re good. It’s a nightmare for my husband. Corporate won’t let him raise prices, but he can’t get people to stay for as little as he can offer.

  5. Justme, The OG*

    Not yet, but we hopefully will. I work in Higher Ed and the Chancellor would like to proportionally raise everyone’s wages now that those who were paid the least (like ridiculously low) are being paid more. Minimum wage increased to $9.25 this year and will go to $11 in 2021.

    1. CMM*

      When I was working in higher ed as a student in 2014, minimum wage was raised $1.00. Before the increase, my hourly wage was $0.50 above minimum wage. After the increase, I was making minimum wage.

      I didn’t say anything- I assumed the rates weren’t in my supervisor’s control, and compared to other student jobs available, it was during normal weekday working hours in an office. Pretty hard to beat!

  6. Aquawoman*

    It’s going to hurt morale to get a $3 raise because other people aren’t suffering enough to make the staff happy?

    1. Roscoe*

      I think you are making this a bit more malicious than it should be

      I think that, fair or not, there is an idea that you should be making X amount more than someone who just started. I mean, if I was making $50k when I started, then worked my way up to making $65k after 5 years, then my company announced that they are starting people at $60k, and they are giving me a $1k raise, I’m not going to feel great about busting my ass for all that time to now just be making slightly more than they are. As animals, we do tend to judge our own satisfaction based on what others are getting. Read up on the monkey grape experiments to see it in full effect.

      1. cmcinnyc*

        I’m older, so I’ve seen lots of changes. A concrete example: when I went on maternity leave it was 12 weeks of unpaid FMLA leave. Women older than me got 8 weeks short-term disability. My company now offers much more generous leave in both time and pay, and includes paternity leave. I am very glad that these changes have been made, because I truly believe it’s the right thing to do. But it doesn’t personally benefit me at all. My attitude is, them’s the breaks. I have coworkers who are bitter about it. I don’t really get the mindset that younger people should have it as hard as the olds. Why should people get paid poorly and have substandard leave and poor safety regulations just because we did? Yes, we all compare what we get to others, but sometimes it’s worth sucking up your bitterness and pasting a smile on in the name of progress.

        1. Roscoe*

          Again, to me its not about how much they are getting paid, its about how we are getting paid compared to each other. In my example, I’ve mostly likely increase my skillset in the job and value to the company. But now, I’m not being compensated that I’m valued much more than someone who just started

        2. ForTheLoveOfSpreadsheets*

          You are invalidating your own point with your example. Just because you are not having children any more doesn’t mean you don’t have access to the increased benefits. I have no doubt that if you had a different kind of health issue that needed extended leave your organization would give you the same benefits as parental leave.

          This is actually a pretty common issue, especially in places like stores. When you limit that amount of raises you can get, people who are new ended up making more because they are paid the market wage. It causes people to leave in order to get paid a competitive salary, which ultimately costs the organization because they lose institutional knowledge and the investment in the worker. This is why people unionize!

          1. cmcinnyc*

            I don’t understand this post at all. I’m invalidating what point? My point is that I had worse benefits than my younger/newer colleagues get, but that’s progress and I’m OK with it. Your “I have no doubt” sentence makes zero sense in the USA. It may well make perfect sense elsewhere, however.

          2. Massmatt*

            It is really out of touch to say “you have no doubt” maternity benefits would be available for other health issues. I have never heard of an instance where this was the case and I know many people who have been out for illnesses, injuries, surgery etc. I would expect anyone attempting to do this would get major side-eye, to put it mildly.

        3. Rusty Shackelford*

          That’s not really an apt analogy. The issue is the difference between what people are *currently* paid. No one expects you to be given back pay because someone else just got a raise. But if your job was considered $5000 more valuable than a lower level job, and suddenly it’s only $1000 more valuable even though neither job has changed… that’s the issue.

          1. Five after Midnight*

            Ah, but what if your job was always only $1000 more valuable than a lower level job, and the other $4000 difference was because the business could get away with paying below the true value? Or look at it another way: if you think that your job is $5000 more valuable than a lower level job, then you should have no problem asking for a raise (with appropriate justification) or finding a position with a different organization that will recognize this higher value.
            I’m not saying that’s the case in your particular situation, but just looking at it from another perspective and providing a contra-argument.

          2. profit*

            but is your job worth $5000 dollars more?
            or was the lower level job being swindled out of their money?

        4. Mel*

          That’s a bit different though. You don’t earn maternal leave. If you work hard for something and then it’s just handed to someone else, that always feels frustrating – whether it’s money or proving yours capable of heading a project.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        What you’re not seeing here, and what many people who oppose raising the minimum (non-livable) wage is that your experience and accomplishments increase your bargaining power. You STILL have an advantage over the newbie. You can negotiate a higher wage based on it.

        Sure, you may have to leave your company to get paid more, but that’s true already. How many letters have we seen here where people ask for raises and don’t get them because the employers are cheapskates, and they end up finding a new job? That isn’t new.

        1. Former Retail Manager*

          The problem is that one salary is based on market conditions while the other is based on government regulation. Just because the disparity between minimum wage and mid-level jobs has narrowed, doesn’t mean the market rate for the mid-level job will automatically increase. It’s entirely conceivable that a degreed individual could be making only a few dollars more per hour than a non-degreed clerk who is brought in at $15 an hour. It creates a disincentive for people to on the lower end of that disparity gap. Why get a degree become a social worker making $17 or $18 an hour (in my area anyway) when you could get a job making $15 an hour, not spend 4 years in school, not incur student debt, and have a job with much less stress, where is the incentive to pursue a career path that will only yield you slightly more than minimum wage? I think it will be a problem long-term for those positions, like social work and some other non-profit positions, that don’t pay well, but are certainly needed, as the number of folks in those positions will shrink.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Possibly, but people don’t go into non-profit jobs expecting to make big bucks. There are other reasons someone might want to work in that field. Or any field, for that matter.

            1. Mel*

              They’re already underpaid to the point that it might not feel worth that debt. To then make the money they spent on school even more pointless would suck for them.

              They’re doing a good thing, that does mean they don’t care about money at all.

          2. Dragoning*

            Honestly, this post just reads like “But I suffered for my six dollars an hours extra! Now people don’t have to suffer for it?”

            1. Kat in VA*

              Whenever one of the Older Folks (and I’m almost 50, so I get to use that phrase) rails about how low the minimum wage was when they were younger and it’s horrendous to see how “high” it is now, I like to remind them that my parents bought their tract home for $60,000 in 1976.

              I bought a similar tract home (size, layout, property square footage, built near the same year, in the same town) for $185k in 1999.

              I then turned around and sold it for $440k in 2014. Heck, when I was 18, a pack of cigarettes was a dollar and gas was about 99 cents a gallon and how, how we were bitter.

              Everything goes up proportionally, and wages usually lag severely behind inflation.

          3. Ursula*

            You’re assuming “market conditions” before the minimum wage increases were fair. The reality is that employers have way more power than employees in the labor market, and due to that, wages are artificially deflated compared to what the natural rate would be in a perfectly competitive market. Minimum wage laws help fix that market distortion.

        2. Brett*

          The effect is a lot more problematic for careers that are almost solely in the public sector (like the OP as a librarian). The public sector is very bad about not adjusting wages based on changes in the market or in minimum wage (i’ll do a separate post on this).

          In those cases, the ability to leave to get paid more is pretty restricted. You almost always take a pay cut (because of the loss of deferred future income that is so common in the public sector) when you switch jobs rather than a pay raise. You end up having to switch careers instead (like I did) to get a pay raise.

      3. Samwise*

        In addition, presumably your years of experience and additional skills are X times more valuable to the employer than the lesser amounts of experience and skill; when entry level folks get a boost but mid level does not, mid levels’ experience and skills are now X-minus-N times more valuable. If the ratio is still pretty generous, I as a mid-level person may not care, but if it bumps up closer, at some point I do care because it feels like I am not being valued appropriately. And if the new increased expense of paying entry-level folks more means there’s less $ for salaries all around, I also may be unhappy when I don’t get a raise, or when I get less of a raise than I would have gotten otherwise.

        In other words, salary compression. It’s a real problem. especially at places like colleges and universities. My husband got an additional raise a few years ago for just this reason — university had gone through quite a few years of stingy or non-existent raises, then the economy improved and the state legislature shook loose more $, new faculty started at a higher rate than they would have otherwise, they stayed and got raises, and suddenly associate professors were making not much more than assistant professors who’d been at the university for only three years.

        1. Samwise*

          That doesn’t mean I’m against raising the minimum wage, or rather, helping people get closer to a living wage, I’m just explaining how people feel about salary compression.

          Frankly, we need to pay people a *living* wage. Minimum wages have historically, especially recently, been hard to impossible to live on. That’s the real issue, to my mind. If people are doing an honest day’s work, they ought to be paid enough to afford rent and food and everything else one needs to live without fearing hunger or homelessness or bankruptcy.

          (OK, climbing off my soapbox now)

          1. Elizabeth West*

            It’s not just wages, either. The whole thing needs a massive overhaul. Funding social programs, etc. Uncoupling healthcare from employment. Making high-income people and corporations pay their fair share of taxes. Making housing more affordable and not letting developers come in, buy up a neighborhood, and charge egregious rents while pushing lower-income people out.

            Neighborhoods exist in big cities where nobody lives; it’s all property owned by investors, many of them foreign oligarchs. A good number of them just sit there empty. Google “Billionaires’ Row rotting” in London.

            1. Works in IT*

              I’m actually happy that a company came in, bought up land, and opened rental properties, because my area has a notoriously bad renter’s market. Landlords get more money offering short term rentals to tourists than they would by offering yearly rentals to people who live here.

              But “investment” in properties is a huge problem. Why can’t there be a huge tax on residential/farm properties owned by people/corporations from other countries? Who don’t actually live there full time, don’t want to hurt anyone here on a visa who owns their own home.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                Landlords get more money offering short term rentals to tourists than they would by offering yearly rentals to people who live here.

                This is exactly why some cities are cracking down on Airbnb.

            2. Boop*

              I love everything you’re saying here, but when I think about the probability of any of that actually happening it’s just depressing. There are WAY too many special interests that would lobby hard against any of these changes because it would cost them money. The idea of Medicare for all, for example, is awesome, but you know every for-profit insurance company would start shrieking and descending on Washington to throw money and gifts and influence at politicians until any attempt at a reform is diluted to absolute ineffectiveness that will only result in causing problems and costing money for the individuals who are least able to manage it.

              I think we’re screwed, honestly.

              /end rant

              1. Elizabeth West*

                NOT IF I CAN HELP IT
                *rises from the sea with red eyes and a giant trident; summons the kraken*

                Actually, I think it will get worse before it gets better, but if we give up, it will never get better.

                1. Working Hypothesis*

                  Thank you for your optimism, and for pushing people to stay involved. I see a lot of change starting, as more and more people realize that politics are not simply a career path for bad lawyers, but the way decisions are made which dramatically impact our lives, and if we don’t push hard for a voice in those decisions, someone who doesn’t care about our welfare will. I do think it’s getting better, but it’ll be a fight all the way. That can’t stop us.

                2. Linguist*

                  “as more and more people realize that politics are not simply a career path for bad lawyers”
                  That’s such a depressing (and I’m sure apt) way of putting it.
                  Sending some European optimism. Nothing lasts forever!

          2. New Normal*

            No, I get it. I have a PT retail job with great benefits and, over the years of working there and “generous” twenty-cent yearly merit raises, i clawed my way up to $9.70/hour. Then corporate set a minimum wage of $10/hour. Those over stayed the same, those of us under got raised up, and new hires started at $10. That made for some complex feelings – on the one hand, yay, more money for me. But on the other, it was strange to have all my merit raises (tiny as they were) effectively erased. And a petty part of me was a bit resentful that the new hires and I were paid the same.

            Of course, a couple years later and it’s all worked out. I’m now up to a whole $10.40/hour , our new hires are a little better off, and it’s all good. We just needed to get through the transition.

          3. Still Here*

            Unfortunately not every job provides enough value to the employer that they can provide a “living wage”. Not enough value = job won’t exist. When the choice is between $10 an hour plus the chance to build skills & abilities, or no pay at all, I have to think there are many people who would prefer $10 per hour.

            Please don’t take that to mean we should be okay with people going hungry or living in squalor. I just think minimum wages don’t actually solve the problem, but make it worse.

            1. Scion*

              If a company can’t figure out how to pay its employees enough to live on, that’s a failure of the company, and it should go out of business and make way for better companies.

            2. LQ*

              I’m kind of on the if you can’t afford the business expenses then you don’t have a business you have a hobby train here. You could put $1 an hour instead of 10 and have the same argument and you say you don’t think people should go hungry but …

              Run a business. A business has expenses. Don’t put the expenses of your business onto your employees or your government or you are a failure of a business. Cheating and using human beings who are sucking up your failure and covering it with substandard wages is still failing. Yes, running a business is hard. But you don’t have to do it. And if you are a failure as a business then you should fail. Paying people $1 an hour and then going, “well that’s all the market will bear” when the business is being propped up is a lie.

              1. Alice*

                Well said, “Don’t put the expenses of your business onto your employees or your government.” Companies which rely on their employees’ using Medicaid, EITC, et cetera should raise those wages.

              2. pentamom*

                The only reason to hire an employee in the first place is for the value they generate, though.

                1. Magda*

                  Yes, but the value the employee brings does not directly translate to their wages. There is no magic spell forcing the employer to compensate an employee in direct proportion to the value they created. Restaurants get away with paying their waitstaff pennies because, by law, they can. Not because the waitstaff generates too little value. Human labor in general is undervalued.

            3. Swiper*

              If your margins are so thin or your business is so slow that you can’t afford to pay employees a livable wage, you need to do something different with your career. We opened a business and pay our serving staff $13/hour (plus tips, of course) in a place where minimum wage is $11, and manage to provide two weeks’ paid vacation plus two weeks of sick leave. Other businesses laughed at us and said we wouldn’t last the year. Well, we are getting by just fine, and have a great reputation because we got the best staff available in the area. We also have hilariously low turnover – all because we committed before opening to treating our people the best we can.
              The money we have saved in replacing staff and gotten from happy customers returning more than makes up for the investment. Trying to get away with doing the bare minimum is setting yourself up to be minimally successful; it’s bad business on top of treating people poorly. If you need something done you can pay someone a decent wage to do it, or go without. It’s like eating out at a restaurant when you can’t afford to tip – that’s part of the cost and you know it, skipping it may be illegal but it’s still an asshole thing to do and unlikely to get you good treatment in the future.

            4. emmelemm*

              If you can’t afford to pay people a decent wage, you don’t have a viable business.

              1. Mel*

                Or you just run the business yourself. That’s what my old boss did for years. When it became viable to hire people he did. But if he’d had to start me at $15/hr it wouldn’t have been viable.

                That’s not a moral or business failing on his part. He would have kept running it on his own. And that’s fine.

                But it does mean fewer jobs.

                1. Idran*

                  How long ago was this? Are you accounting for inflation in your comparison? Because $15/hr today is equivalent to $11.50/hr in 2005, $9/hr in 1995, $6.50/hr in 1985, and $3.15/hr in 1975.

                2. Sarah Biffy*

                  You are one of the most reasonable commenters on this thread. Clearly you either have experience in running a small business or simply the ability to look at this from the other side. You are right: not being able to pay someone $15/hour is not a moral or business failure. People act like business owners are greedy jerks who would rather cut hours than give their employees huge raises. (Which in many places, $15/hour is nearly twice the current rate.) The reality is, along with the increase in payroll, comes an increase in payroll tax paid by the employer. For a small business, this is a huge expense that has to come from somewhere. And especially in retail and the food industry, profit margins are very low–the average profit of a restaurant is 3-5%. If you have to double salaries, you have to cut hours and/or raise prices or go out of business. It’s already happening.

            5. tinyhipsterboy*

              The entire point of the minimum wage, upon its institution, was to provide everyone with a living wage. That was said point-blank by FDR. For what it’s worth, most major countries do have minimum wages; those who don’t have systems that advocate a lot harder for better wages than we have here in the States.

      4. RUKiddingMe*

        Unlike the monkeys or apes (I am familiar with the grape experiment) humans have a higher level thought process. We have an ability to think it through and realize that despite out initial feelings and our internal five year old crying “not faaaiiirrr…” that it is not in fact innately unfair to us. Monkeys looking at who has more/less grapes don’t really think that deeply.

        1. Moray*

          This is unnecessarily judgmental. People feeling like something is unfair ≠ people thinking that it’s inherently bad.

          Nobody reasonable is campaigning to not raise the minimum wage, but plenty of reasonable people are feeling burned that an income gap based on education and tenure is being narrowed or undone, or that their future raises are jeopardized.

          Calling those feelings whiny or childish is patronizing and unjustified. Don’t be a jerk.

      5. mcr-red*

        Yeah I live in a economically depressed area, have been at my job for 20+ years with a college degree, and do not make near $15 an hour. So if the federal minimum wage raised to $15 an hour, yeah, I’m going to mad that I am now making minimum wage (because the chances of my company paying more is slim and none.)

        1. Ra94*

          I understand the frustration with your company, but why does it ultimately matter if you’re making minimum wage or 2x minimum wage? Emotionally, there’s a difference, but practically, the fact that other people are earning less isn’t paying your rent or buying your groceries.

          1. mcr-red*

            I guess it just ultimately matters to me that at that point, I have wasted years of my life. I haven’t achieved anything in the workforce. I’ve worked there for 20+ years, incurred college debt, and now make the exact same amount as someone who just graduated from high school. I think the college debt is the most grating to be honest. We were sold this story of, “Oh you don’t want to make minimum wage, you need to go to college and earn a degree and you’ll get paid so much more and it will be worth it to go into thousands and sometimes hundreds of thousands in debt.”

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              So you’d rather make LESS than $15/hour, because that way you’re still considered somewhere above the minimum? I don’t get it.

              1. Adric*

                25 years ago, when I worked fast food and made $4.25/hr (minimum wage at the time), a combo meal cost ~$4-5. Nowadays, minimum wage is $8.25/hr and a fast food combo meal costs ~$8-10. In other words prices have stayed essentially constant with regards to the minimum wage.

                Changing the minimum wage doesn’t seem to increase the actual purchasing power, it just makes the numbers bigger. Which means that going from (minimum wage + 50%) to minimum wage will actually decrease someone’s standard of living even if the raw numbers are bigger.

                1. John Thurman*

                  Unfortunately other things like housing, healthcare and education have gone up 5x faster than wages

            2. Close Bracket*

              Getting a raise means you have wasted years of your life? I think you need to reframe how you think about wages.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          Yes, but can someone with minimum-wage qualifications do your job? If not, doesn’t that mean they’d eventually have to raise your pay, when everyone who does your job realizes they can skip college and take a minimum wage job instead?

          1. mcr-red*

            They currently require everyone to have a degree. I’d say at some point that will have to change.

            My visualization for what happens: Minimum wage raises. Everyone gets raised to minimum wage (I just asked my boss when it happens will they raise our salaries anymore than that and she seriously laughed.) People will get disgruntled and will get tired of the toxicity and look for other jobs – in our area there isn’t a lot of jobs period, so this may be slow going. When people leave, they won’t be replaced, so more responsibility will be shuffled on to people. Eventually they will get to the point where they have to hire someone else, and will quickly discover that no one with college degrees wants to work for minimum wage when they have thousands in student loans. So they will either quit requiring the degree (likely) or very quietly try to hire someone for $16 an hour and slowly the $15 workers will find out and eventually find other jobs. One is honestly as likely as the other.

      6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I guess it depends on the field. I started in the US 22 years ago (with a degree and 3-4 years experience in the field from my home country) at 20K/year for an entry-level position. Took me several years of hard work and long hours, and several job changes, to work my way up to 50-60. Now we are starting our entry-levels at 50-60 and I’m like… good for them? This isn’t 1997 anymore, 20K wasn’t even enough then and it is certainly not now. Besides, if my employer were to suddenly change their entry-level pay to what I was getting way back when, we’d either get no applicants or we’d only get applications from the people that we really should not be hiring; who cannot find any work in the field anywhere else because they are *that* bad.

      7. SchueylerSeestra*

        I literally would not care if the wage for starters went up. It doesn’t matter if I “worked harder” than them. We need to support each other rather than insist others not get paid properly due to “fairness”.

        1. DaffyDuck*

          Yeah, dragging others down doesn’t raise you up, it just means more people are down.

    2. Lucette Kensack*

      Yeah, this bugs me.

      If the minimum wage increase results in a changed cost of living (not at all a given), then it makes sense for folks to be unhappy if their wages don’t increase. But otherwise — how is other people having more income harmful to you?

      1. JamieS*

        Where do you think employers are going to get the money to pay the increased wages if not by upping the price of their product/service?

        Either prices will eventually rise more than they otherwise would have or employers just aren’t going to hire unskilled labor at the same rate. Skilled labor hiring may also be reduced depending on how mandated increases impact the skilled labor cost.

        1. Pescadero*

          Numerous studies have shown that outside goods with really inelastic demand and minimal replacement goods – most of the increased cost is eaten by owners/investors.

          1. JamieS*

            We’re talking doubling the cost of labor in some cases. Employers are not going to just eat that significant cost increase especially when the labor is easily replaced.

            1. Curlz*

              Imagine you’re a grocery stocker and expected to stock about 40 cases per hour at minimum wage ($7.25/hour). Each case has an average of 12 items in it, so you’re getting paid approximately $0.015 per item. Even if your company went nuts and raised your pay tenfold to $72.50/hour, they would only have to raise the price of every item in the store by fifteen cents to cover it.

              Now, granted, that doesn’t include paid vacation or taxes, and it doesn’t apply to all forms of labor, but I don’t think most businesses are in as much danger as they claim.

            2. Curlz*

              Forgot to mention: It’s true that there are more people involved in production than just the employees who put the product on the shelf. However, there are large scales involved there as well. Truck drivers carry thousands of cases per truck, warehouse workers move pallets loaded with hundreds of cases, factory workers monitor machines that process hundreds of pounds of product per hour, etc. While a tenfold increase on all those jobs’ wages would likely create a serious impact, a doubling or even tripling probably wouldn’t.

              Also, people who make more money tend to buy more things. The price of a product may go up by 10%, but that doesn’t matter if your wage gets doubled. More customers = more sales = more profit.

      2. Goya de la Mancha*

        “If the minimum wage increase results in a changed cost of living (not at all a given), then it makes sense for folks to be unhappy if their wages don’t increase. …”

        But that’s exactly what’s happening.

        1. Lady Russell's Turban*

          I am not able to cite stats pegging wage increase to cost of living increases, but I am familiar with what happens every time the public assistance housing allowance goes up: rents rise the exact same amount. So those who are already living in the worst conditions are not able to move into better housing. The landlords simply collect more rent. Some, perhaps, put some of that money into improving their properties, but I have not actually seen it for myself or know anyone who has.

          1. JamieS*

            Yeah that’s the inherent issue with employers being forced to pay everyone what’s calculated as being a living wage. Living wage isn’t static. Wages go up to $15/hr and the living wage goes from $15/hr to let’s say $20/hr

            1. Goya de la Mancha*

              On top of the fact that a “living wage” in LA is different then a “living wage” in rural Iowa.

    3. Alice*

      I can see how I would be unhappy at this.
      But even if my heart feels “what, they don’t think my contribution is more valuable than that of someone without my qualifications and experience,” my head realizes that everyone should be paid a living wage, and that’s more important than maintaining a relative advantage.
      Of course, nothing is stopping a company from spending a little less on stock buybacks and executive compensation and a little more raising low-but-not-below-the-new-minimum-wage salaries. That doesn’t apply to public employees like LW in the same way, though.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s really not that. It’s that people partly measure their compensation by seeing what jobs that contribute at higher and lower levels* (relative to theirs) pay. We live in a society where you’re told you get paid more or less based on what you’re bringing, so if you’re being paid the same as someone with half the experience/skill level as you, that will rankle. And I’d hope we we wouldn’t chastise someone here who was concerned that they were being paid the same as a brand new colleague who was doing much easier work at a lower skill level and with much less experience.

      * or take more skill, more training, etc.

      1. The Original K.*

        I can’t remember the name of the company, but there was a story a few years ago about a company that bumped up its starting salary to $70K and there was some turnover among higher-level staff for this reason.

        1. Goya de la Mancha*

          Yeah I was thinking of this example too. There were some other issues with it too I think, like the “board” didn’t approve the raises or something like that.

        2. Anonymous Educator*

          Basecamp recently raised its lowest-paid position to be $70K, but they’re paying SF-level (and higher) salaries for their highest-paid employees, so I doubt anyone “higher” up is complaining or leaving.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yeah—I think the morale hit comes from people feeling like they’re not earning the return on their experience/ed that they felt was acknowledged in the prior pay scale. That doesn’t mean they don’t want others to see wages increase—they want the scale to shift so everyone retains the same relative return and feels fairly compensated. Unfortunately, this sometimes becomes a fighting over the pie instead of growing the pie dynamic.

        1. Yikes*

          “Unfortunately, this sometimes becomes a fighting over the pie instead of growing the pie dynamic.”

          Literally: welcome to human history.

        2. SchueylerSeestra*

          The education element has always bugged me. I didn’t finish college. Life got in the way and its hard to go back as an adult. However, I am a top performer with multiple certifications in my industry. Why shouldn’t I get paid as well as someone who got a degree? It feels like they want to be rewarded for finishing school, and not on actually contributing to the workforce. Earning a bachelor degree is no small feat. Education is important. But not everyone has the opportunity to attend college or even a four-year college. Is someone with associates degree less worthy?

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I agree with you.

            I think it stems from the conventional wisdom that a bachelors degree guarantees upward mobility, especially after the demise of manufacturing in the U.S. As a result, lots of Gen X, Xennials and Millennials took out significant educational debt with the promise/expectation that they’d secure higher paying jobs and be able to finance that debt. But most Xennials and Millennials cannot afford housing, let alone debt service. They were sold a bill of goods that will never materialize, and they’ll pay for it their entire lifetimes.

            I think that’s partially why folks with degrees feel upset / betrayed and demoralized when they believe their pay isn’t sufficiently higher than if they’d never graduated from college. And of course, there are also folks who are just classist or elitist, and who measure their worth by their degrees.

            1. mcr-red*

              “I think that’s partially why folks with degrees feel upset / betrayed and demoralized when they believe their pay isn’t sufficiently higher than if they’d never graduated from college.”

              YES, this exactly. And as you said, the experience too.

            2. SchueylerSeestra*

              yeah. There are definitely folks who think their degrees give them clout over those who don’t. I had a friend who posted something on how they made the effort to get a degree, they deserve to be rewarded for it over those who didn’t. There is this myopic mindset that people who didn’t attend/finish college are lazy. I was dealing with major mental health issues and financial problems at the time. I left so that I could take on a full-time job. Some people just can’t afford to take out a loan. I hate that this country basically forces students to get a degree to succeed, yet punishes those who might not have that opportunity. Not all jobs should require a bachelors degree. I’ve been a recruiter for 4 years with plenty of success. I’ve come across job postings for roles I’d be perfect for but require a bachelors. Recruiting majors don’t even exist! You can major in HR which is not the same as recruiting. I am happy to see most companies will take experience over a degree. Google, Amazon, Microsoft, IBM and Apple are flexible. Other smaller companies need to follow suit.

          2. nonymous*

            My understanding is that employees can fall in four categories (1) no higher ed, no experience/certs (2) higher ed, no experience/certs (3) no higher ed, experience/certs (4) higher ed, experience certs. Personally I would rank 1 < 2 ~3 < 4 assuming people have the same experience, but if the #3 person had a lot of specialized experience, they would be stronger than #2 and possibly #4. It used to be for some civil service positions 2 yrs experience == 1 yr education.

            But when min wage goes up, many employers don't take the opportunity to do a overhaul of their pay scale, so someone coming into the company with no ed/cert/experience (group 1) will be paid at parity with someone who grew into that pay rate via promotions/raises (group 3).

          3. Amethystmoon*

            The real problem is that even for entry-level office jobs that really only require computer skills like Excel, being able to answer phones politely, perhaps being able to compose a letter in Word, being able to file things properly if they still have paper files, often Bachelor degrees are required. Often, they also have proprietary software that you only need to be computer literate to use. I did a lot of those kinds of jobs when I was younger, and 99.9% of everything I needed to know, I learned on the job. In no way did I really need an actual 4-year degree to perform those job duties, but having one was the reason why I got the job. By (mostly, not all the time but mostly) requiring the pieces of paper over actual skills and experience, and also choosing to pay those people more, companies are essentially stating they value the pieces of paper more. Hence, workers are also valuing the pieces of paper more because that’s what they’re being led to believe by employers. It’s kind of sad.

      3. Adric*


        Not a minimum wage story, but relevant anyway:

        After a few years at my current job I had managed to get some merit raises and was making $13/hr. At that point corporate decided to raise the starting pay to $13/hr and increase everyone to that level. But since I was already there I got nothing. That rankled, especially a couple months later when I found out that merit raises had been cancelled so I wouldn’t get one that year.

        I basically felt like I’d been told that everything I had thought made me a valuable employee was actually worthless.

        1. SQL Coder Cat*

          We’re dealing with something similar at my work. Oregon passed an ‘Equal Pay Act’ which requires employers to demonstrate that pay differences are based on factors such as education and experience as opposed to protected classes. The law also specifies that addressing these pay differences must be done by raising salaries, not by lowering them. As a result, my employer is currently negotiating with our union to eliminate our cost of living raises for the next two years so they can use that money to address any discrepencies they find. Everyone wants to see us all paid fairly, but being asked to give up our cost of living adjustments is not going over well.

          1. JaneB*

            If you don’t get a raise, no CoI means you get an effective pay cut. Of course you’ll mind that!

        2. Yorick*

          In addition to my full time job, I work as an adjunct. The starting salary for one class was about $1600 (yes that’s low, but it’s supposed to be 9 hours a week and it’s a low COL area). A few years ago, I was up to something like $2200, as I had a PhD and several years of teaching experience, while most of the department’s adjuncts did not. The university decided to raise the starting salary up. I don’t remember the amount but maybe it was like $2000. I thought it was great! Those other adjuncts deserve more money. But then they recalculated all adjunct pay to make things more equal and I got $100 less the following semester. That was pretty lame.

        3. CocoB*

          As a manager, I’m struggling with this dilemma now. I have a department that has a very low starting wage and need to raise the starting wage for those positions for recruitment purposes, but how to raise all existing employees in a commensurate manner is the sticking point. I don’t have the budget to do an equal % for all the existing employees over the new starting wage. And honestly, the higher paid long-timers likely could not get a job of this type for a higher wage than what they currently make. So… “Fair” vs. Market…

      4. Smithy*

        As someone in the nonprofit industry – I think these issues are particularly difficult. No one seeks out such a job to make oodles of money – but then other features at work are more important. Do I strongly connect to the organization’s mission and do I feel valued by the organization. If one of of those wane – it really does matter.

        Not at all connected to minimum wage, but my team recently had a situation where a group of junior staff had that lost connection to feeling valued by the organization. Part of that was certainly pay, but it was far more symbolic in regards to feeling their expertise and value add had become diminished. All of the most unhappy staff did ultimately leave for other jobs.

        For others it really did mean finding pathways for professional growth and acknowledgment. While sometimes it came with salary growth, it really required a lot of investment to change the overall culture.

      5. Engineer*

        My company is going through something similar, although not brought on by the increase in min wage. The economy was different 5-6 years ago, and engineering jobs were a lot harder to come by, so starting salaries were lower. Fast forward to today, some entry level engineers are being offered same or more starting salary than the current salary of those with several years of experience and graduate degrees. In turn, people started leaving the company, since engineering jobs are now in high demand. Our company just recently started to offer salary adjustments to try and slow the attrition. It’s sorta working.

        1. NACSACJACK*

          +1 Let us hope that trend continues, as a person with a dying skillset, that is still in great demand, I have reached my maximum hourly payrate according to the salary sites.

          1. Mr. Tyzik*

            I knew a whole slew of COBOL programmers who quit salaried jobs to become consultants and contractors. That happened around the time CA fired all its COBOL people, then had to change their government systems and hire a bunch of contractors at huge rates.

            If you’re at the maximum salary, contracting might be something to consider.

      6. Susan in Maine*

        This is exactly the problem. I manage a small convenience store in Maine, where minimum wage is $11/Hr due to go to $12/hr on 12/31. We’re part of a small start-up company, only three years old. The raising minimum wage people thought that companies would increase the wages of more experienced workers, but that’s not what happened. So a 21 YO with no experience gets paid the same as my people with 10+ years experience. And there is no money to give them raises because of what we have to pay the newbies. The experienced folks really resent the new people.

    5. CatCat*

      I don’t get it either…

      “…which would not be great for morale since we’re all underpaid to begin with.”

      Being underpaid is the problem here, not making other people less underpaid.

    6. CmdrShepard4ever*

      I don’t think that is what OP is saying.

      If the minimum wage is $9 an hour, and I started at $9 an hour and have worked at a place for 4 years and worked my way up to $17 an hour a $8 pay differential between an entry level employee and someone with 4 years of experience. But then the minimum wage gets bumped up to $15 an hour for the entry level employee with 0 years experience with the company, and my pay stayed the same at $17 it would be demoralizing. Similarly if I got a $3 raise so I am at $20 and the entry level is $15 it is now only a pay differential of $5.

      Think of it this way if you have been at a company for 4 or 6 years. The boss goes to you and said I am giving you a $3 an hour or $30k salary raise, and then the boss goes to a person who just started with 0 experience and tells them I am going to give you a $6 an hour or $60k salary raise would that not hurt your morale. It is not about other people suffering enough, about feeling that you are adequately compensated, for your skills and experience.

      1. Anon for this*

        I am actually a mid-level manager who is currently fighting for my junior reports to get bigger raises than I’m asking for myself, because I think they’re underpaid but I don’t think I am. An equity adjustment doesn’t carry the same message as a merit raise – it’s not “this is a reward for your performance,” it’s, “whoops, you should have been making more than this all along.” It doesn’t matter that they have less skills and experience than me – they are not currently being paid what they’re worth and that needs to be addressed.

        In our HR handbook, it’s actually a matter of written policy to prioritize allocating raises to staff whose pay is below market rate before staff whose pay is already at or above market. I’ve never heard anyone complain about that.

        1. Pollyanna Supreme*

          I think “equity adjustment” is a great way to think about this issue! This is a great use of shifting language to mean what you say.

        2. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I get that and I agree with it. I should have been more clear, my argument wasn’t to imply that the minimum wage shouldn’t be raised I think it should, but to explain that its not about seeing other people suffer but about feeling that you are properly compensated. When something like a minimum wage increase happens all wages on the lower end of the pay/hierarchy spectrum should be raised as well to maintain appropriate pay differentials, especially if as OP said their position is already being under paid.

          I believe in fair/living wages, and do think that current massive pay disparities between upper and lower ends of the spectrum are way out of proportion. But I also do think that there should pay differentials between positions, an entry level data entry position should be paid less then a manager or director.

        3. CupcakeCounter*

          I feel like that is a different animal than what the LW and CmdrShepard4ever are saying though…
          Your people are underpaid and you are appropriately paid so bringing them in line with market rate is the right thing to do. What would your thoughts be though if your junior reports were given raises to where they were nearly the same pay as what you were making with 5+ more years experience and significantly higher responsibilities and more difficult work? Would you still feel your pay was acceptable for the level of work you do?

          1. Anon for this*

            If it was nearly the same, I’d be on board with this line of thinking. But LW does say she expects to get a raise – just not one that preserves the entire $9/hour pay disparity. Maybe it would go from $9 vs $17 to $15 vs $21 – that would still be reasonable to me. I would expect a rising tide to lift all boats and that pay disparity between ranks might be compressed as a result, but the scale wouldn’t be nearly flattened. Any company that doesn’t get the mid-level compensation right from the start will begin losing employees to the ones that do.

          2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

            This actually happened at a job I worked, and it caused turnover in the mid-ranks.

            Basically, a part-time llama shepherd got paid $12.50 an hour. But a full-time llama shepherd got paid $18.75 an hour, plus benefits and PTO. Meanwhile, a shepherd supervisor got $15 and the Director of Shepherding was salaried/exempt at 40 X $18.50 an hour but expected to work a 60 hour week, which lowered that hourly rate to $12.30/hour, or lower than all of their subordinates.

            A lot of people at the Director level turned over, fairly rapidly,leaving the field altogether, because they couldn’t afford to work that hard at such a low pay rate.

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              Alison has mentioned this before there are certainly some industries/positions where the “lower level” people doing the work might earn more than the manager/supervisor routinely earn more than the person in charge of them. But usually most people expect and should be paid more as they move up the ladder.

        4. Also a Librarian*

          It is hard when eve one is underpaid. I have a master degree, and I would be getting paid $18, where someone who is still in High School would be getting $15. It is hard when I paid over $100,000 and invested 6 years of my life to get my two degrees, to only get paid $3 more an hour.

    7. Emily K*

      Yeah…whether you’re fairly compensated shouldn’t be primarily about how much more you make than the lowest-paid person at the company.

      It should be looking at things like how much less you make than the highest-paid person at the company, how much you make in comparison to similar roles in other companies, how much value you can point to your performance contributing to the company, and what is considered a living wage in your area.

      I’m uneasy with saying mid-level staff are underpaid solely because they’re only paid 50% more than junior staff instead of 100% more. Another company with more equitable pay might have already been paying junior staff more than other companies in their area but paying their mid-level staff comparable to other companies in the area – would a mid-level person making a horizontal move for similar pay suddenly feel as though they were underpaid at the new company when they find out the junior staff make 2/3 of what they make instead of only half?

    8. Happy Pineapple*

      Bingo. Companies that intentionally massively underpay their employees are the one’s responsible for crushing morale, not the mandates that all people should make a living wage.

      My personal experience: I moved from a place with an under $8 minimum wage to a place with a $15 minimum. When I expressed relief and gratitude on social media that people in my city could actually afford basic necessities while working full time, some people from my old place of residence were enraged. The typical argument, “How dare people in less skilled rolls than I make as much as I do; they don’t deserve it!” When really, I think they should have been focusing that anger on their employer for thinking it’s acceptable for paying them as little as they do (such as one person making $12/hour as a full time paramedic).

      1. AKchic*


        Trying to get my ex-husband to understand that he is angry at the wrong people when he isn’t making over $15/hr for his skills and expertise and that wanting to punish minimum wage workers for *their* skills and expertise in food, customer service and janitorial services is not only morally repugnant, but petty. He needs to be angry at the entire system, and specifically his employers for prioritizing their profits over the employees that ensure their company’s successes, rather than pitting poorly paid people against each other.
        He’s very much entrenched in a specific ideology, and I don’t think he wants to understand.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I had this argument with my bestie. She was upset at public unions for engineers because their compensation was comparatively fantastic. Turns out she doesn’t hate the union—she wishes she were in one.

        But it’s easier to pit people against each other than to help them see that the system is stacked and broken.

      3. Engineer*

        My sister would go off the rails about this. She was an EMT getting paid around the $15/hr mark, and was PISSED when her state raised the min wage to $15/hr. She would state how unfair it was for a burger-flipper to get paid same as she did. I had to explain to her that she should be made more than min wage, but also all people deserve to make a living wage no matter what their job duties are. I’m not so sure she bought it.

        Needless to say being a part of emergency services (and other industries) is a super stressful job that requires lots of training, and has lots of risk involved. I would be hard pressed to stay in those fields if I could make the same money in a safe and less stressful environment. I think eventually there will be a correction to wages when companies can’t find employees to work in jobs with less desirable working conditions.

        1. mcr-red*

          I can completely understand her though. She’s an EMT, has a hard job and had to go to school for that. And she gets paid $15, the same as someone working at a fast food restaurant who isn’t required to have a college degree so doesn’t have to take on college debt or near the amount of stress as her job. And while absolutely she should get paid more than minimum wage, it doesn’t mean she WILL. And knowing a lot of companies, even if they do pay her more they might pay her like $16 an hour. And that stings.

          1. kc89*

            it’s just such backwards thinking to get mad about the fact that minimum wage is increasing, get mad at the fact that someone working a dangerous job is only making $15 an hour

            1. mcr-red*

              OK, I’m mad that the EMT is only getting paid minimum wage for a dangerous job. And??? How did that help her situation? At the end of the day she’s still only getting paid minimum wage for a dangerous job.

              People are getting mad because they know good and well that their employers and a whole lot of other employers out there, are not going to increase their wages much more than minimum wage and the result is going to be that there are going to be a lot of jobs, like for example the EMT, which require a lot of training and debt and danger, that are going to be minimum wage jobs.

              1. Close Bracket*

                See, you are stuck on the “minimum wage” thing. Were you mad that she made $15/hr before the minimum wage increase? Or was $15 enough bc it was more than minimum wage?

          2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

            Oh yes, I actually worked with someone who was transitioning careers to EMT. He went to an intensive EMT training course, and then when he finished, there was a 12-16 month wait list for hiring (which is why we worked together) and when he got off the wait list, he would be classified as part-time, minimum wage, and expected to work swing shifts, no benefits and no PTO. And when he finally got hired, the majority of his ambulance calls involved dealing with complex and challenging patients who were aggressive and violent towards the responding ambulance team.

            So yes, I can see being quite angry about minimum wage pay for such a job.

          3. Pescadero*

            My response to that is the same thing I say to folks who rail about how teachers are overpaid and get summers off..

            If it is such good money for such easy work – why aren’t you doing it?

            If fast food is so much easier work for $15 than being an EMT – then go get a fast food job.

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              I like that one, too. Sometimes I get responses such as, “I wouldn’t be able to handle the disrespect from Kids These Days,” or something like that. My return is “Oh, so teaching does require a skill set that not everyone has, and thus should command decent pay.”

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          So, theoretically, if min wage increase does happen, a lot of EMTs will say, ‘the stress is not worth it’ and leave that career and go flip burgers. Those who remain would be in demand, bidding war ensues, wages rise until there’s enough differential to make the stress worth it and people rejoin.

          Theory, entirely, with lots of assumptions about ease of moving between jobs, but your sister should look into switching companies every couple of years (or whatever makes sense for the local EMT market) to capture those gains. And she should never never never sign an agreement with a non-compete clause, which is the latest tool employers are using to get around paying more for their labor.

        3. Donkey Hotey*

          Everybody asks why an EMT should make the same as a burger flipper, but nobody asks why an EMT makes $15/hour when a 15-minute ambulance ride costs $5000.

      4. MarsJenkar*

        Ugh, the “crab bucket” mentality. Basically, people stuck in a bad situation trying to pull someone down for getting out of it. It’s ugly, it’s destructive, and it helps exactly *no one* in the bucket (or trying to escape the bucket).

      5. OP*

        OP here–
        I didn’t mean for it to come across as that we were upset at the mandate or at the entry level workers. We are extremely happy that the minimum wage is increasing. They deserve that money. Our frustrations *are* aimed at the organizations that aren’t valuing our relative skill and experience appropriately. No one is saying “why should THEY get $15”– they deserve that $15. But also, shouldn’t ten years and increasing skill and responsibility in an organization be rewarded?

        I guess to put it in other words, and to put it in more corporate terms, wouldn’t it be demoralizing if all the people junior to you–with less experience and training and skill– got $15,000 raises, but your team– who has worked really really hard, and also aren’t paid what your value is– didn’t get any? You wouldn’t be mad at the junior people, but you would be frustrated with the administration.

        It’s also frustrating because librarianship is an expensive field to get into, and many people work 2-3 part time jobs after getting their master’s degrees. But it’s not like there’s a CEO who could change things– it’s things like government funding, property taxes across the board, that make it seem futile. My boss doesn’t get paid that much, and neither does the boss’s boss. There aren’t other jobs at other libraries out there. We had over 50 very overqualified people apply to our last $17 position.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Yes, it’s demoralizing, and you’ve got significant barriers to job mobility / price mobility. Unlike the EMT example above, you’re unlikely to see gains simply from moving to a competitor in your local area.

          In an ideal world, the case for govt job / salary increases goes like: you’ll see significant increases in local tax revenues because when people with low incomes get more money, they usually have to spend it – start handling deferred expenses like repairs, clothes or medical needs, for example, or move into their own houses. Much of the increased spending has taxes involved.

          Increased tax revenues can be spent on increased salaries, among other things. This could actually be something you could bring up to the local govt that manages your pay. Ask them to put aside x% of tax revenue increases for people whose pay was Y% higher than the new minimum wage.

          Librarian is such a weird field economically that it may not work, but could it hurt to ask?
          (librarian is weird because there’s a very high cost of entry, relatively low monetary reward, and no shortage of people going into the field. Non-profits usually have low cost of entry; doctors have relatively high monetary reward *and* a shortage GPs, the lower-paid end of the field. Those are fields that are closer to standard economic models…)

      6. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        Trust me. Life ain’t fair.

        A few years after I left one company – where I was the “bad boy” – and left for a substantial increase a half step ahead of getting fired …. man, did they have that same reaction!

    9. KeepIt*

      yeah I don’t get the attitude there – The letter states they were all underpaid to begin with, but it’s when the people below them start making a living wage that the morale goes down??

      1. boo bot*

        Well, it means they’re now making just a little above minimum wage, which is depressing if you’ve been thinking of yourself as making almost double the minimum wage. I think that’s often expressed in practice as feeling resentful that new people started at the same level you worked for years to get to.

        Of course, the reality is that the $17/hour people were always making just a little above a *living* wage. Raising the minimum wage to an actual living wage just kind of clarifies how poorly the company is actually paying even its more senior people, and I think that is legitimately pretty demoralizing.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Or a concrete example: my goddaughter started at minimum wage, and with time got 5 and 10 cent raises. Then she’s 25 cents above minimum, and the minimum wage went up. And then, she was back at minimum wage, with everyone just starting.

          It’s not that she wished less for others, but it was discouraging. She’d been running the race and they moved the starting point and she was back at the beginning.

      2. Ariaflame*

        Some of it may the very human (though not good) attitude of ‘we had to suffer, so should you’

        1. fposte*

          Nobody’s saying that people need to suffer, though. They’re saying that their pay is supposed to represent a certain value on the salary scale that it no longer represents. Unless somebody got overpaid to begin with, salary compression means the “underpaid” bulge moves higher up the pay scale.

          Now the bottom end is absolutely the place to start correcting it because that’s the front line of survival, but it’s still okay for other people to be unhappy about being underpaid.

      3. Zillah*

        I think that when you’re underpaid, you often have to find some way to feel good enough about the dynamic to get into work every day. One way people can do that is “well, at least it’s not minimum wage” or “well, I’m making $5 more than minimum wage, so at least that $80k debt is worth something.” When you stop even being able to say that, it’s demoralizing – not because you want to keep other people down, but because a lot of your coping mechanisms to tell yourself that things for you aren’t that bad stop working.

    10. nonymous*

      Back when I worked retail, what would happen is that someone with experience would be making approx the new minimum wage and have additional duties/expectations proportionate to that extra pay (e.g. training team members in addition to meeting sales quotas). So when the junior staff got bumped up due to min wage increase but weren’t assigned additional duties (because how can the newb train someone else?), that’s what rankled.

    11. Iris Eyes*

      +1 Why does it have to be a contest? If you wanna play that game then you would want the same percentage increase, not flat dollar amount. If you were twice as valuable say, then you would want not a $6 raise (assuming now is $9 and $15 is target) but a $12 raise. Or say you wanted a 60% raise to keep things equitable that way then my quick math says you get about an $11 raise.

      At what point is it too much, what with income inequality and all? Should only the people in the line above get the raise? Should everyone up to the CEO get the raise?

      *math disclaimer

  7. Mimi Me*

    I live in Massachusetts. The minimum wage here is $12 an hour. I make about $10 more an hour than the minimum wage. My husband, who does a lot of back breaking work, gets paid only $4 more than minimum wage. What I’ve noticed is that as the minimum wage goes up so does the cost of housing in our area. I’m currently paying $1400 for rent for a 2BR/1BA in Central MA (about 60 minutes from Boston and surrounding areas). The nice part is my 14 year old is about to get a job and we have a 2/3 agreement on her pay – 2/3 goes into savings and the rest is hers to spend, so even with it being a minimum wage job with up to 15 hours a week she can still have enough to build a bit of savings. Still not enough to live on though.

    1. Mimi Me*

      Oh – and as an FYI – I didn’t actually know what the exact minimum wage was in MA until my daughter started looking for a job. My husband was not happy to know that he’d only be making $4 more per hour than his daughter. Luckily his boss does a lot to keep his staff happy and there’s a lot of overtime built in so he will actually make more than me at the end of the year.

      1. stuff*

        I disagree that minimum wage going up is the **cause** of COL/ housing costs going up, but I do agree there is a **correlation**. I live in Denver, and when I moved here 7 years ago, COL was was actually fairly reasonable. More people moved (a few, presumably because of reasonable COL) and then a ripple effect came about, increasing housing prices. A lot of initiatives came through for min wage increases because wages just weren’t keeping up.

        1. Lobsterman*

          COL is basically rent, and rent swings are due to macroeconomic policy changes surrounding finance and real estate over the last 30 years.

          It’s reasonably complicated, but the essence is that land prices go up and down much faster than they used to in the new system, so places can become more expensive much more quickly than they used to.

        2. WellRed*

          yeah, if its an area people are moving too, prices are going to go up as supply goes down. We are now at, I think, $10 an hour minimum wage with a lot of places offering more and they are going begging for workers.

        3. nyc dweller*

          yes, agreed – i live in NYC and we have a major real estate bubble that is expected to pop in the next few years that has been artificially driving up COL and housing prices. and that has been happening for years & years, before the recent push for min wage increases.

          1. Bee*

            Yeah, the push for minimum wage increases here in NYC is more a *result* of the high rent costs.

        4. Bostonian*

          Yep. Central Mass rent is always going up, particularly in proximity to Worcester. Lots of people are moving there (especially farther east in the “MetroWest” area), and there are tons of “luxury” apartments going up along Rt. 9/ Rt. 20 that charge 1500+/month for a 1 bedroom.

        5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Agreed. Rent out here is skyrocketing, and it’s not because of minimum wage increasing. COL is climbing so fast that the new minimum wage isn’t going to be a living wage.

          It’s also important to remember that in real dollars, federal minimum wage is worth less, today, than when it was first created. COL has increased for decades while minimum wage has not kept pace.

        6. pcake*

          Here in Los Angeles, my daughter pays over $1800 per month for a 2 bedroom 1 bath, and has done so for a few years. At least here, the cost of housing, whether you rent or buy, is crazy even without a minimum wage. The house I grew up in increased from the $32,300 my folks paid for it in 1967 to $1.6 million – that’s almost a 5000% increase while wages have maybe gone up 400%, so I think there are other things driving the housing market.

          1. Winry Rockbell*

            My siblings are paying $1700 for a 2bed 1bath in Anaheim. My brother works full-time as a grocery stocker and my sister has multiple part-time gigs in order to afford chasing her dreams. Thankfully these dreams do not involve acting, but amusement parks. They’re scraping by on the skin of their teeth.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I’m sorry your husband feels this way.

        The day I made more than my dad capped out on, also doing back breaking work, pulling timber, he celebrated.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            It wouldn’t have mattered. He worked 40 years and capped out at $16 an hour. So when his 20 year old daughter was making $20+ he was happy AF that things had changed.

            I make more than my brother who’s been working a decade longer than I have and my mother as well. They don’t act like it’s spitting in their face.

            1. Zillah*

              This seems pretty uncharitable. I don’t see anything saying that Mini Me’s husband resents their daughter at all, let alone acts like she’s spitting in his face. It’s really, really understandable to be frustrated that you’ve ended up making not that much more than minimum wage after years of work. It’s not necessarily about faulting people for earning more – it’s about feeling like years of hard work haven’t gotten you anywhere.

          2. Pescadero*

            Eh… I’ve made a higher hourly wage than both my parents at every job I’ve had since I started college… even my part time college jobs.

    2. kadidi*

      I live in MA also, but right on the NH border. My daughter is looking for a high school job, so minimum wage for sure – if she gets a job in MA she’ll make $12/hour min.wage, but if she gets a job in NH she’ll make $7.25/hour min wage. NO ONE in our area of NH is actually paying $7.25. At a minimum they are offering $10 for entry level. I think it’s the competition to Massachusetts’ minimum wage that causes that. It’s a good thing.

    3. ABC*

      “Still not enough to live on though.” Which is fine, because a 14-year-old doesn’t need to make a living wage. That’s (one of) the problem with minimum wage…it’s raising the cost of employing people (teenagers) who don’t need a living wage and maybe just want to get work experience. That leads to fewer job opportunities, for them and for everyone else. Let the market adjust wages.

      1. Ariaflame*

        So people who are not teenagers but with limited job opportunities should just starve then?

      2. KeepIt*

        have you…never met a struggling family before?? I have many many friends from high school that got their workers permits at 14 because their family needed the extra income, and that’s not rare. There are ABSOLUTELY 14 year olds that need to make a living wage. And beyond even that, the idea that someone shouldn’t make a fair wage because of their age is a very very troubling attitude to have.

        1. NACSACJACK*

          Was the trend at one time. The push to raise the minimum wage is because more and more people are working minimum wage jobs and supporting families. Back in the 70s and 80s, that was the arguement against raising the minimum wage, that it should be for entry level jobs and people would get higher wages as they gained more experience and education. The last two, possibly three, recessions have wiped that concept right out the window.

        2. DaffyDuck*

          In my area traditionally minimum wage jobs (fast food, etc.) seem to be staffed 75% folks in the 40-60 year range and about 25% teenagers.

          1. Perse's Mom*

            Which isn’t surprising, given teenagers are usually in school and depending on their age may also have laws limiting how many/which hours they can work.

      3. stuff*

        Is the 14-yo a human being? Do you KNOW that they don’t need to make a living wage? Maybe they have abusive/ neglectful parents and need to get out of a bad situation. This type of thinking makes me sick. The cost of employing people is paying them a wage that they can live on so that they aren’t relying on taxpayers to subsidize them. Anything less than that is indentured servitude and corporate welfare.

      4. Harper the Other One*

        Two key problems with this, though, are:

        1) the minimum wage is SUPPOSED to be a minimum living wage. It was never intended to be a wage for teenagers, but a wage for anyone performing entry level work.

        2) the market cannot fully adjust wages because employees do not have the option to walk away from the transaction. Free market economics is based on the idea that both parties can refuse a transaction if it’s not to their benefit. Without a social safety net that’s a lot more robust than what most countries have currently, choosing not to be employed simply isn’t an option. And that means employers can artificially lower the “market” wage for this work.

      5. Elizabeth West*

        Those jobs aren’t being filled by teenagers looking to get experience or make fun money anymore. You used to go into a fast food joint and it was all bored teenagers manning the registers. Now it’s adults trying to support themselves and maybe a family. All the good jobs (manufacturing, etc.) on which you could make an adult life went away.

      6. Sneaky Ninja for this one*

        I agree that sometimes the 14 year old needs to contribute to the family. While they shouldn’t need to make a living wage, realistically they sometimes do.

        I’m in IL, and we have a split minimum wage. It’s increasing by roughly $1 a year until 2025, when it’ll be $15. Currently, though over 18 is $8.25 and under 18 is $7.75. The first 90 days can also be $7.75 if the employer elects to do so. Tipped employees are at 60% of minimum. I don’t think those rules are changing with the increases.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          St. Louis decided the minimum there would go up to $11 an hour but then the state legislature completely gutted that, preempting all cities from enacting their own minimum wage. State minimum currently is $8.60. That’s what I was making when I bought my house—in 2002!

      7. Valprehension*

        This isn’t an argument against raising the minimum wage, it’s an argument for having a seperate minimum for people under a certain age. That said though, some teenagers absolutely do need a living wage – not everyone has parents who are willing or able to support them. Teenagers get kicked out for many reasons, and others are actively helping to support their families as soon as they are able. Still others may be desperately trying to put money away so they can have the option of going to university.

        You don’t get to decide who “needs a living wage”.

        1. Curlz*

          If you’re going to pay teens less based on their age, then you should pay elderly people less, too. After all, the assumption that they have the support of social security and medicare is just as well-founded as the assumption that teens are living in houses where all their needs are covered.

      8. stepinwhite*

        I’m going to chime in here and say I understand what ABC is saying, as I came from a poor family (I was raised on welfare and food stamps). When I was in high school, my parents had no real extra money, so I got myself an after-school job. It was to pay for normal teenage things — like new shoes, some clothes, spending money to go to the movies with friends. I did not need a living wage. I had no real marketable skills, so I found myself in very entry level jobs. I wasn’t paid a living wage, and I was okay with that. I was cheap labor and I was unskilled and young, and that was my first introduction to working. I made lots of mistakes. In some ways, I was probably more of a hinderance than a benefit to my employer, but the experience definitely helped me. I think there should be some place in this world for that type of employment arrangement, and when it’s based on demanding a living wage for everyone, that might make it more difficult for people like my 15-year-old self. Not many people were competing for those paltry wages, but they really helped me have a few things my parents otherwise wouldn’t have been able to provide (they were small business owners – so can’t even make the argument that if some employer paid them a living wage, my circumstances would be different).

        1. KeepIt*

          dividing out what “minimum” wage should be mandated for someone based on age (or any other factor!) is a dangerous rabbit hole to go down, in my opinion. If someone is doing the work, then they deserve to be compensated for it fairly regardless. This excuse that some people don’t need to be making the “minimum” is how we have a gender gap in pay that still persists to this day (women didn’t “need” to make the same minimum wage as men if they’ve got a husband providing for the family *eye roll*) and how states justify allowing employers to pay disabled workers sub-minimum wage. If it’s the -minimum- required than its the minimum for all.

        2. stuff*

          While I appreciate this sentiment, I still don’t agree with it. The primary purpose of a job is to pay for basic necessities first (food/clothing/shelter) anything extra is secondary. The teenager is the exception, not the rule and it isn’t your employer’s business how much you as an individual need – it’s their job to provide you with a job that supports your primary needs. If they cannot pay that much, they are not a successful business and are contributing to a welfare crisis.

          The government’s job (in my “socialist” opinion) is to ensure that companies are paying a living wage, so everyone who is actively working can provide for their basic necessities first and not become a burden on society and taxpayers…

        3. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          Yes, and most states have pretty significant work restrictions for minors. They can’t work more than a certain number of hours a week. They can’t work more than a few hours on a school night, and they can’t work past a certain hour on a school night. They often can’t work solo shifts (an adult needs to be there with them), and they often can’t legally work with chemicals, machinery, fryers, sell cigarettes/alcohol, etc. On top of this, they’re intrinsically not available to work from 7 am – 3 pm, because they are in school. Then you often have to deal with teaching them (and their parents) workplace norms because they are just clueless.

          Which is why a lot of employers just aren’t bothering to hire teens at all.

        4. Zillah*

          Parsing who really deserves (or needs) something based on assumptions about their living conditions is never a great thing to get into. Legislation shouldn’t be written for the best case scenario.

      9. RecoveringSWO*

        This brings up one of the big nuances that gets lost in the minimum wage debate–minimum wage currently does not cover everyone. Depending on your state, there are cut outs to lower the wage for people who might not “need” a living wage. I’ve seen exceptions for teenagers working part time in different age groups (14yr old min wage, 15-16 yr old min wage), exceptions for retirees working part time (Walmart’s old favorite loophole for greeters), and exceptions to industries that are generally employed by students–bowling alleys, theaters, etc.

        I think that there’s definitely some issues with these exceptions, but they do prevent your concern.

        1. Susie*

          Is this true? I can’t find anything online about a lower minimum wage for retired people or workers at bowling alleys and theaters. I’ve worked at a few theaters as a student (in two states) and hadn’t heard of that. Just curious to know more!

      10. Gladiolus*

        I’m obviously in the minority, but I agree with you and especially when we’re talking about nonprofits providing a service to the community. If you’re allowed to volunteer for a nonprofit, I don’t see why you’re not allowed to be paid a small wage as recognition of your efforts. You wouldn’t outlaw volunteering because some people need to work for money.

        At our nonprofit in the education field, we had to stop paying our teen classroom aides when minimum wage went up too much. Now they can volunteer or leave the program (and the associated classes, and the training and involvement). I guess we could convert it to an honorarium, but we’d be in hot water if it seemed like we were trying to get around employment laws.

        P.S. I am on the border of not being able to afford to work, anymore, at my low non-profit salary, because childcare has gotten too expensive. There are two-year wait lists at all the daycare centers, so we and our friends are hiring and sharing nannies for $$$. Day care centers have a hard time staying in business and the high minimum wage is only one factor (the others are regulations, high rents, high student loan payments, high cost of health care).

        1. Stepinwhite*

          This is an excellent point, as well. I, too, volunteer for a nonprofit. And there are many times the nonprofit would LOVE to give volunteers for particularly grueling assignments a bit of money as a “thank you” or even a “stipend” but doesn’t because we’re in California and the nonprofit is worried about labor laws. It does seem counterintuitive to say: you can work for free or you can work for minimum wage (and all those labor laws entail, such as work comp and overtime) but that’s it. Nothing more than zero or less than minimum wage.

      11. Grapey*

        The minimum wage was intended to be a living wage at a full time position. Teenagers can work part time.

      12. Jules the 3rd*

        Work hour loss as a result of min wage increase is one *theory*. There’s good and valid competing theories that say new work hours are created as people spend their new earnings, handling deferred costs like repairs or clothes, or moving into separate housing and buying furnishings.

        The data coming out of real world studies is inconclusive. 2017 UWash says a drop in hours worked, 2018 UC-Berkeley says not. Whatever is really happening, it’s not so large and sudden that we’ve got good proof either way.

        All that aside: Most minimum wage workers are adults, doing these jobs to survive, not teenagers. Using ‘teenagers will lose job opportunities’ to argue against it only shows you’re buying into someone’s story, not looking at the real situation.

    4. Iris Eyes*

      Can I just applaud you for awesome parenting?? 2/3 rule is great (my parents had a 50/50 rule)

      If you haven’t yet you might look into putting half of that savings (or more) into a RothIRA, as long as she is earning income she can contribute and it up to the amount she earns. Some of the worst horror stories here could be alleviated with a nice nest egg, there is great freedom in being able to walk out the door.

  8. KEG*

    I live in a part of Canada where the minimum wage is already $15/hr. Some places, like restaurants or casinos have taken to providing managers a cut from the tip pool to make up for the reduced difference in wages. There’s been a lot of push back on this. Food prices went up a bit in some restaurants. Other shady places have tried to reduce hours or reduce benefits to make up the difference.

    1. lost academic*

      In the US it’s illegal to compensate management that way. Fairly sure there was a big class action lawsuit won against Starbucks for this.

      1. Venus*

        It likely depends on how minimum wage is set for ‘alcohol servers’ where gratuities are expected. If the wage is the same for all staff, including servers and managers, then I’m guessing it might not be a legal concern.

    2. CmdrShepard4ever*

      I am in the US so the following experience is not the norm. But I was recently at a bar that pays their employees a fair/living wage (according to the restaurant) I do not know what the employees were paid. The prices were a bit higher than other places but not ridiculously so, when I paid my tab I still tipped a bit not as much as I would have at another bar. But even with the increased drink prices and “small extra” tip my total bill was about what my total bill would be at a full tipping bar when you add everything up.

      I think in the US this type of hybrid model could work. Employees are paid a fair/living wage, but people are still encouraged to leave a small extra tip to reward good service. That way if server A want to just do the minimum for the hourly wage they can, but if server B wants to provide really good service to earn extra tips about the hourly rate they can do that also. If I get bad service I don’t have to feel bad about not tipping, I currently still leave about 10/15% tip for bad to mediocre service.

      1. Shoes On My Cat*

        Um, I will say this on behalf of my US bar/waitstaff compatriots as many people are honestly not aware of this – when a US restaurant states their servers *earn* a living wage, it’s because the food/beverage prices are inflated so that guests’ tips are commensurately inflated. THAT is what restaurants mean when they state that their servers *earn* a living wage-it’s based on the expectation of 15-20% tips based on a higher bill, not on the restaurant actually paying their servers more themselves. In rare instances, restaurants will explain-usually on the menu-that the restaurant itself *pays* a living wage and tips are thus not required/encouraged (It’s usually stated on the menu to explain the comparatively high cost of consumables in relation to other restaurants.) If that notice is absent, the servers are relying on the inflated (or higher quality) food prices to be the basis for a percentage-based tip of 15-20%. For those of us working in higher end establishments, we pride ourselves on offering higher levels of service and reliability in order to be qualified to be hired/work at such a place with the expectation that tips/wages will be based on the price of the food/beverage costs. Sorry for the rant, but the games hospitality managers play tend to get the staff burned by people who honestly are not realizing what’s going on between the lines & under the marketing semantics.

        1. Shoes On My Cat*

          Sorry Cmdr, you wrote above that the bar “paid” and thus you reduced tip and still were at a final bill near your usual, making my point exactly!! So my rant is more for other readers who might not know the semantics games or realize that it would be far more ideal for waitstaff and guests alike for restaurants to pay living wages and charge accordingly!!

          1. CmdrShepard4ever*

            Yes the place I went to did have the explanation you mentioned about prices were higher to pay everyone a “fair/living hourly wage” and that tipping was absolutely not necessary, but still nice. I did ask the bartender about the “fair/living wage” and they said it was true, although they could be told to tow the company line or face being fired. But my sense from the bartender was that it was actually true. Having worked for tips before and for places that normally tipped but went the “no tipping” route, I know even a small tip is always appreciated.

    3. Middle School Teacher*

      Yes, me too. Often minimum wage for servers in bars is lower because of tips. Recently our new govt reduced minimum wage for kids under 18 to $13/hr. As someone who worked three jobs to put myself through school, that makes me absolutely crazy. It’s so insulting.

    4. tinyhipsterboy*

      I’m sure for some small businesses–even ones that are doing reasonably well–an increased minimum wage might be a burden, and though I’m typically of the mind that businesses that can’t pay a living wage shouldn’t be operating as anything other than volunteer/hobbies, the situation is a lot more nuanced than just that.

      Here in the USA, though, management cannot take tips from employees; I’m fairly certain that it’s nationwide. You can’t be docked for dine-and-dashes or breaking something, and if you split tips, it goes toward all front-of-house (in restaurants) or everyone that’s not management (fast food), depending on hours worked or revenue brought in. Companies are also supposed to make up the difference between what the employee earns and minimum wage, if it’s less than minimum wage. These don’t always happen in practice, though.

      For a lot of larger companies, I feel like it would be pretty simple: cut a little bit of the pay off the CEOs, and/or raise prices on a few items. I want to say that I read somewhere that at McDonald’s, an increase of just a few cents on some of their most popular food items could essentially bring employees’ wages up by a great margin, though I don’t have a source for that. As for CEOs, I’m sure the wealthiest ones could easily take less money without actually feeling the hit, given the exponential difference between $1k, $1mil, and $1bil, but that’s a bit more of an argument considering many people believe the richest of the rich are entitled to every cent of their money no matter how they treat employees.

  9. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    In Ontario, before our new premier stopped the hike, minimum wage was scheduled to go up to $15. In anticipation of the hike, meaning, it hadn’t even happened yet, a restaurant we were dining at (for an Xmas party) told me that, yes, their prices were a bit high and they had just increased them – in anticipation of the hike.

    The hike never happened. But I’m also betting the prices for the food didn’t decrease.

    The hike was part of a multi-year roll out of slowly increasing minimum wage. As it approached the $15, small business owners were the ones to complain the most.

    And I get it: I have to pay more so I have to increase my prices and risk losing customers. I feel that’s a short view.

    The long view would be: if people can earn a living wage, they will spend the money and the small dip in revenue that will happen at each level of the hike will in the long run be offset by people spending because they have the money to do so.

    1. Amber Rose*

      It did go up in here in Alberta. Restaurants are a tiny bit more expensive. So are groceries. Big whoop. Small business owners who complain, they are terrible at business. If you can’t afford to pay your staff appropriately, you can’t afford to be in business, PERIOD. You don’t get to drop the burden of running a business on other people. That’s BS.

      What will be interesting to see is what effect our idiot premier’s “income drop for kids” thing is gonna have. Watch it not lower prices or increase jobs at all, and instead cost us a fortune in taxes when this whole thing gets taken to court for ageism.

      I’m so disappointed in my province. -_-

        1. Elizabeth*


          I should add I’m shocked that a librarian with a degree makes $17/hour. I don’t have any degree (I work in accounting) and I make $21/hour.

          1. Hope*

            Librarians are generally very low-paid, especially public library librarians . I took a pretty big pay cut when I went from teaching (where I wasn’t exactly making a ton of money) to working in a library. It’s been almost a decade, and I’m only now getting paid what I was making as a beginning teacher.

            1. Julia*

              I looked on my city public library site and the library assistant positions (not the librarian) that were posted start at $28/hr.

            2. paperpusher*

              It really depends on the place. I rarely see jobs in Canada asking for librarians with master’s degrees for less than $30/hour (Canadian – that’s less in USD) but small library systems often have only one director with an MLIS. We use technicians with two-year college diplomas a lot more widely.

      1. LCS*

        I am in Ontario, and while day to day I’m corporately employed, my husband and I also own a small business. Last year minimum wage went up from $11.60 to $14.00 which is a pretty significant hike. It was supposed to go to $15 this year but due to a change in government, that has been cancelled/delayed. We have always paid the small business staff a couple bucks above minimum wage and when the increase came through, gave them all a decent bump to stay appropriately ahead. That said, their bump wasn’t quite a 20% raise (which is basically the 11.60 to $14 difference).

        I agree that people need to earn a living wage, and that what classifies as a “living wage” is increasing, and generally don’t have a huge issue with this being raised. But I do take issue with “You don’t get to drop the burden of running a business on other people. That’s BS” though. It’s pretty basic business that when operating costs go up significantly, prices need to go up. Otherwise margins drop or disappear and operating the business becomes untenable which isn’t good for anyone. In our case we
        (a) Raised salaries to keep staff reasonably ahead of the minimum wage increase,
        (b) Raised prices to offset some of the difference, although not the full impact as this would have been too much sticker shock for customers to absorb all at once, and
        (c) Took a significant personal hit in terms of reduced income, to properly fund (a) and (b) above

        Big picture, I think that’s a fair approach. Personally however it definitely set us back and had both of us been only employed at the small business (vs. having my stable corporate income to supplement) it would have been a much harder pill to swallow. So I’ve got a little more sympathy than most for truly small businesses operating on already thin margins who are required in a single year to accept a 20% increase to one of their most significant costs.

        1. Kenneth*

          Which a LOT of small business owners (SBOs) don’t have a separate income to supplement the business. A lot of people forget that SBOs live off the business profit. And yet act like they’re not allowed to try to earn a decent living from their business.

          Here in the United States, most SBO income is taxed as if it’s personal income and reported by the business owner(s) on a 1040. This only changes if they incorporate (as opposed to an LLC). A lot of the upper 10% in the United States are small business owners who are reporting the net income of their business. That isn’t what they’re living on. Because not all business expenses are deductible for tax purposes. So the business owner looks a lot more well off than they actually are due to their reported income versus what they can take home from the business.

          Employees also have to be paid first. There is no getting around that. And as you’ve demonstrated, that cuts into what the business owner can take home for themselves.

          1. Jess*

            I’m not sure what you’re saying here. “A lot of people forget that SBOs live off the business profit. And yet act like they’re not allowed to try to earn a decent living from their business. A lot of the upper 10% in the United States are small business owners who are reporting the net income of their business. That isn’t what they’re living on.”

            They could if they want to? Net income means all of their profit minus their expenses and which business expenses are not deductible for tax purposes? I’m an accountant and the only ones I see are things like half the cost of meals & entertainment and political contributions.

            1. Kenneth*

              They could if they’re willing to sacrifice the longevity of their business.

              As an accountant, then, you’re aware that net income on the income statement isn’t “all of their profit minus their expenses”. Especially since profit is all revenue minus all expenses. And there are plenty of business expenses that are not tax deductible. Look at the instructions for the 1040 Schedule C form. Reinvestments into the business typically must be capitalized, such as replacements to existing machinery, acquiring additional assets, or repairs that add value. Again, the Schedule C instructions have the details. But all of that also makes the tax reported income of the business look higher than if the all of that could be a straight-line expense deduction.

              Which is why, in my opinion, the cash flow statement is a more accurate assessment of how well a business is actually doing. Since that tells you where *all* the money is actually going compared to what’s reported on the income statement, and whether a business overspent their cash compared to their cash revenue for the year.

              1. Jess*

                Things that are capitalized are still deducted, just generally over a longer time frame through depreciation. I do understand what you’re saying now, you’re talking about the liquidity of the income. That is a misconception that a lot of people have about business profits.

              2. DKMA*

                All those capitalized expenses still count as expenses eventually, they just show up on the income statement as depreciation over the next few years. So it’s not a “taxed on more than they earn” issue, it could be a cash flow timing issue though.

                Businesses making significant investments will usual have access to financing to mitigate the impact on operations / personal income flow.

        2. Ella*

          I think the idea of “you don’t get to drop the burden of running a business on other people” isn’t referring to raising prices, which is a logical response to increased prices. Businesses should charge enough for their product to cover their expenses, and if they can’t do that, they might not have a viable product. Rather, it means businesses shouldn’t be allowed to pay their workers so little that said workers cannot afford basic living expenses, and have to rely on taxpayer funded subsidies like food stamps or subsidized housing to make rent or keep food on the table. At that point, a business is essentially using taxpayer money to pay their workers’ salary.

          1. Amber Rose*

            Yes, thank you. You explained it much better than I did. :D
            Remember when Walmart was asking for donations so their employees could have Christmas dinner? That’s what I was thinking of, mostly.

              1. Mr. Tyzik*


                Wal-Mart used to include public assistance forms with their new hire paperwork.

      2. Harper the Other One*

        Thank you! Labour is rarely a business’ largest cost and if labour rate increases are going to be that disastrous, there are bigger problems with your business plan.

        1. Kenneth*

          That’s very dismissive of the reality of running a small business. Labor is a significant cost to a business. Depending on the industry or business it may not be the “largest” cost, but that doesn’t mean it can be forced up by law without the business being affected.

          Especially since it’s also non-negotiable. You can negotiate different payment details with suppliers, creditors, and landlords, and to an extent the government with regard to taxes, but you can’t do that with employees. They have to be paid. On time. Without fail. By law.

        2. Gumby*

          Really? Labor is our highest expense by far. Like 3 times higher than nearest other cost (rent). To be fair, no one here is earning minimum wage. But I suspect labor being a significant, if not the largest, contributor to the cost of business is more common than you think.

        3. Am*

          Where I am from, labor is one of the higher bills for employees.
          Staffing and fringe costs can easily be 30% or more of a budget, but there are a lot of other associated costs tied to giving a paycheck. For example, a business with more than 20 staff will more than likely take into consideration for Wages 2. Payroll fees if they use ADP or any other checking system 3. Tax fees 4. Workers comp fees. 5. Unemployment insurance 6. Other Misc fees from state and local taxes. 7. Benefits 8. Check fees from the bank (my office pays like 3 bucks to print a check) not sure what direct deposit charges.
          Also, think about the other costs from the administration side of things like time keeping, payroll record, taxes, audits (depends on the business), benefits, all that adds up to in either fees by profession services or the direct business owners time which takes away from the other parts of the job.

          I am all for livable wages but if we don’t figure out a way that helps small business. Nobody will win because only the corporations will survive and they are the ones messing this up in the first place.

    2. Kenneth*

      Yeah I see the “it’ll be offset by spending later” argument all. the. time. There are a few flaws in that argument though.

      For one, small business owners rely on the profit from their business to cover their own living expenses. The employees have to be paid. They have NO choice on that. Force the cost of labor up, and you cut into a small business owner’s ability to cover their own living expenses. Since the business owner must pay the employees and cover the other costs of his business, including regulatory compliance costs, before he pays himself.

      This also means the revenue must exist first. Without the revenue, or another means of covering the labor cost, the business cannot afford to pay employees more without, again, cutting into what the business owner takes home and/or reinvests in their business to keep it going. Again force the labor cost up, and a lot of businesses will be forced to raise prices to cover that cost since, depending on how much the labor cost is forced up, they may not be able to just absorb it outright without suffering setbacks elsewhere.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        And also, the new spending may not be in the same categories as existing spending. If people decide they’re going to spend 100% of that increase on knitting supplies, then fast food restaurants are in trouble.

        So any individual small business is very much at risk for losing with a min wage increase.

        However, if a business’s goods and services aren’t valued enough to pay its an employees a living wage, maybe it shouldn’t be operating. If it can’t compete for valuable employees when everyone is making a livable wage, maybe it shouldn’t be operating.

        Which is a truly painful thought for a struggling SB owner, who so often pour their hearts and souls into it, but one that really needs to be part of their calculations.

        1. Pommette!*

          This is a good point. Also, a lot of small businesses that employ people at minimum wage salaries aren’t getting much, or any, business from people living on the minimum wage, and never will.

          I live in an area where the minimum wage was, until recently, absolutely not enough to live on. Unless they have outside support, people making the minimum wage had to live in very crowded or unsafe apartments, rely on cheap and donated (ie often unhealthy) food, forego medication, etc. The minimum wage has been increased. It’s now still not enough to live on, but it’s less insufficient. This is a good start.

          The extra money is mostly going to go towards paying for necessities of life, and towards paying off debts incurred to pay for the necessities of life, with a bit going to small luxuries that make life more livable. It’s going to go towards renting a place that doesn’t have mold, towards getting that tooth fixed, towards getting those breaks fixed, and towards making sure that the kids get fresh vegetables that they actually want to eat. It’s largely not going to get spent in pricy stores and restaurants, on landscaping services, on expensive private tutoring, on custom renovations, or whatever. If you run one of those businesses and employ people at the minimum wage, you’re going to take a hit that won’t be made up for by increased spending.

          That’s absolutely not an argument against raising the minimum wage. We should keep raising it! But people who earn little and people who earn a lot don’t (can’t!) spend money on the same things. If we change the share of money going to different income groups, we’re going to change the share of money going to different types of businesses. It will hurt some businesses and benefit others.

          If we’re worried about the impact of the raise on small business owners, there are things we can do – like providing subsidies – to offset the effects of minimum wage hikes.

        2. Zillah*

          Yes. I have a lot of sympathy for small businesses, but however much it sucks, your dreams can’t come at other people’s expense. I don’t know what the solution is, but it can’t be “not paying a living wage.”

  10. Rudy*

    Re: “However, with such a dramatic minimum wage increase coming up, I doubt we could afford to increase all positions by an equal $6 over the next six years. I imagine we’ll get raises, but not a $6 raise, so in effect, the difference in wages between the tiers will decrease, which would not be great for morale since we’re all underpaid to begin with.”

    You are so right. I actually have firsthand experience with this kind of unfairness. See, I’m a laborer, and early one morning a landowner paid me and some other guys a penny to work in his vineyard all day. Great, right? But then he went out again late in the afternoon and hired some other laborers, saying, “Go ye also into the vineyard,” and he gave them a penny, too, even though they only worked for an hour! How unfair is that? I murmured against him, saying, “These last have wrought just one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have born the heat and burden of the day. I’m going to complain to HR.” In reply, he said something about the last being first and the first last, but by then my morale was so low that I just didn’t care to listen.

    1. Middle Manager*

      I don’t really think that’s what the letter writer is doing. I’m assuming positive intent on their part and that they are supportive of low wage workings getting a living wage. And I don’t think everyone, particularly people at the very top, need to get a proportional raise, because there is clearly income inequality.

      BUT if you leave out the middle folks, you won’t get anyone looking for promotion. Who wants to take on more worker, harder work, work that requires a degree, more stress, for your current salary or barely above it? You are going to drastically damage your promotion capability. We had that situation in my state for several year. They froze pay for management, but union workers kept getting raises. To the point that there were people making more than their bosses were. Not a lot of people were applying for management jobs then and in fact, some people took demotions to get more pay.

      1. nyc dweller*

        sounds like the company shouldn’t have frozen pay for management. it’s never on individual mid or low tier workers to care about that stuff. workers need to do what’s best for them.

        1. Middle Manager*

          I’m in state government, so the state legislature, not a company froze the pay. But, yeah, they definetly shouldn’t have. It was frozen for like 7 years and towards the end it was pretty bad. Literally no one would apply for entry level management positions.

          1. doreen*

            I’d ask if you were in NY, but I don’t think we were frozen for 7 years. But the same thing happened until finally in 2015 or so we got raises that had been withheld as far back as 2009 – people would not take promotions to management jobs with more responsibility that paid less.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              I think this has been pretty common across the US since 2009. I know my (US Southern) state had all state salaries frozen for several years, then COLAs for several years… They’re making a huge deal about ‘State Employee Raises!’ in this year’s budget.

              1. doreen*

                The issue in NY ( and Middel Manager’s state) was that only managers didn’t get raises- the union represented employees still did and that’s what lead to the salary compression and lack of interest in promotions.

      2. CupcakeCounter*

        I’m going to be dealing with that over the next few years. We just signed a new union contract (I’m non-union) that is costing the company a lot of money right now but “should” provide more long term benefits and labor stability for the company. Non-union staff were told almost immediately that there would be no merit increases this year and we were informed yesterday that there would also be no COL increases.
        Meanwhile we are doing all of the accounting entries for the union workers (who are the backbone of the company and truly generate the revenue so I’m not knocking their contribution in any way) who are all getting anywhere from $1-2.50 more per hour plus an additional week of vacation and reimbursements for all heath care costs from 2019 since it is not fully paid for by the company. I can be happy for the union workers while also thinking about all of the extra work I will have to do to account for this with no increase for at least another 18 months.

          1. Valprehension*

            HR and management are typically non-union, I think? If OP is doing accounting/payroll it makes sense they’d be non-union.

            1. Working Mom Having It All*

              Someday people are going to all realize at the same time that it’s stupid that we have entire categories of labor that aren’t union just because… no particular reason.

              And then, hopefully, they’re going to unionize.

              1. doreen*

                There are all different reasons why some jobs are non- union even in a company that has unions. Sometimes it’s because the unions that represent the truck drivers and the warehouse workers isn’t interested in representing the clerks and receptionists in the office , sometimes it’s because those clerks and receptionists aren’t interested in belonging to a union and sometimes it’s because union membership poses a conflict for certain jobs. Although it’s not all usually all HR jobs and in many places accounting/payroll is not even part of HR – but surely you can see why the people negotiating and enforcing the union contracts from the management side shouldn’t be members.

                1. Koala dreams*

                  Surely HR/accounting would have their own union, in that hypotetichal case, and not the same union as the blue collar workers? Although I see your point about management.

                2. doreen*

                  Some HR jobs would have a conflict , because those jobs are involved with negotiating contracts and managing various processes covered by the contract ( for example, a disciplinary process) The other HR and accounting jobs could be represented by the same union as another group of employees ( unions are not as strict about about trades as they used to be- I know lawyers who are members of United Auto Workers) , a different union or they might choose not to be represented by any union at all. Which is not terribly uncommon in the US

              2. Koala dreams*

                Well, I read some time ago that in Sweden, there is a higher percentage of white collar workers that are union members compared to the percentage of blue collar workers. So it isn’t impossible! (Of course, the US job market and the Sweden job market is very different.)

    2. KayEss*

      I appreciate the clever reference, but it still comes across as a bit sanctimoniously petty since that’s meant as a metaphor for spiritual salvation and not literal business advice.

          1. VLookupsAreMyLife*

            That might be the funniest thing I’ve ever read on the interwebs, boo bot!

  11. Amber Rose*

    I’ve gone through this twice! Once as a kid when we went from $5.90 to $6 to $7 and then $9 in a pretty short time, and then just a year or two ago when we went from $11 to $15 overnight.

    My purchasing power this last time went “down.” Since I was already higher and did not get a raise. Hardly anyone who was higher than min got a raise. But remember that payment isn’t judged by “amount above minimum wage.” It’s judged by what you’re worth. The minimum wage increase is only the government saying everyone is worth a slightly higher baseline. Your raises are based on your worth. It’s not comparable at all, and if it’s affecting your morale then you need a perspective shift. If you’re underpaid, that’s nothing to do with where minimum wage is set.

    1. Alice*

      Wait, how did your purchasing power go down? You still had the same amount of money. Are you suggesting that minimum wage increases cause inflation? I don’t know, I think rising health care costs and rising housing costs are much bigger factors.

      1. Amber Rose*

        If I make the same amount of money, but the cost of everything around me goes up because of the minimum wage increase, my purchasing power is lower. What I have available doesn’t change, but I can do less with it.

        1. NerdyLibraryClerk*

          This is why I think minimum wage should be tied to the cost of living. That might keep companies from raising prices to “compensate” for paying people decently – since it wouldn’t be effective. The more everything costs, the more you have to pay your employees, therefore…

          But I’m a firm believer that minimum wage should be a living wage. And that everyone on up should also be paid fairly. (Though I realize that’s a hard thing to judge and even harder to require.)

          1. Amber Rose*

            Totally agreed. It’s about time people actually got paid properly. If you put in 40 hours a week (or whatever it is) even if you’re unskilled labor you are still creating value for your employer and that should be worth enough to meet your basic needs of food, clothing and shelter.

            1. NerdyLibraryClerk*

              And I know from my own workplace that economic insecurity is both really bad for morale and leads to a lot more eyeing of what other people are making. I can only imagine it’s the same in other workplaces.

        2. Alice*

          Minimum wage increases aren’t a major factor in inflation. There is inflation even in states which haven’t increased minimum wage recently, and there was inflation when the federal minimum wage was stagnant.

          1. Amber Rose*

            I wasn’t talking about inflation. I was talking about myself. I end up with less money at the end of every payday when the cost of stuff goes up, and the cost of stuff DOES go up when minimum does.

            It’s not the end of the world though. This is why COL adjustments are a thing.

    2. Sleepytime Tea*

      This is what I’ve seen. Everyone below the new minimum gets a bump, anyone at or above the new minimum stays the same.

      It can be tough though, when minimum wage increases by $6 overnight (as I’ve seen) and you get no raise and the market rate for your position hasn’t changed, but all of a sudden people with jobs junior to you are making the same or close to what you are. Not talking about people in the same position, but lower level positions.

    3. JamieS*

      If you’re presuming everyone is paid what they’re worth then minimum wage increases put someone above their actual market worth.

  12. NothingIsLittle*

    I was in college when my state raised the minimum wage. My roommate was working for them at the time and they drastically reduced the number of student jobs to prevent the budget from increasing. Lower level staff that were paid close to the minimum had nominal raises, but for the most part, there was no change.

    1. Goya de la Mancha*

      Yeah, a lot of typical teen jobs are being hired out to older adults now because they have “more availability” then teens. The hours worked aren’t increasing, but an adult has the option to work a 8am – 12pm shift when a teen is typically in school.

    2. Alison Read*

      The University of Washington did a study after Seattle raised wages and found the lowest paid workers ended up making less money due to employers scaling back hours, increasing automation, etc. I have not seen mid wage employees’ pay increase relative to the minimum wage increase. I am seeing a definite cost increase (COL % [businesses’ self created tax] added to restaurant tabs. The law was amended here to allow employers to take portions of servers’ tips to distribute to the back of the house. It was easy to see the increased costs when SeaTac (small city where the airport is) was the only area with a $15/hr minimum wage.

      These are all things I predicted years ago in the midst of the Great Recession, at this very forum, and was excoriated for. Now that the economy is booming even employers outside of the minimum wage mandate areas are offering higher wages out of need for employees… but in the midst of the recession the increased minimum wages hurt the lowest paid workers.

  13. Lindsay Gee*

    In Ontario, when minimum wage was increased to $14/hr I was working retail at the time. Management’s shifts got shorter, so less overlapping time between opener and closer, so you were on your own longer. PT staff’s hours essentially went down to nothing. The start and end time for employees to prepare the store for opening/closing got shorter. Instead of having 30 mins to do opening/closing duties they cut it in half, so same amount of stuff to do in half the time. Overall more pressure/freakouts to meet our sales goals etc. It was a nightmare and I left very shortly after. It was a nightmare for them to basically put the pressure on the employees to make up the difference our own wages were costing the company in higher sales, less support to cover the floor and stress to finish mandatory duties in half the time-frame.

    1. Yamikuronue*

      I saw all the same things happen at my husband’s job back in 2010 or so, and there wasn’t a minimum wage hike — just bad management. We ended up moving.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        Avarice on the part of TPTB. It’s not about the minimum wage increasing making things less economically feasible for companies. It’s corporate/stockholder greed, full stop.

  14. goducks*

    Our minimum wage is $12, until Monday, when it goes to $12.50. We’re on a path to nearly $15.
    I fully support moving to a living wage as the minimum. However, in the workplace (generally, not just any specific company), workers are conditioned to compare their job to the minimum. That the value of their work is in the difference between minimum wage and their wage. So there is this feeling that to raise the minimum without also increasing their wage is to devalue them.
    I personally have worked hard on trying to reframe it for people when it’s come up. They were happy with their wage, and felt it was fair, until someone who made less than them got more. So it’s not about how much they’re paid, it’s about being better than someone else. Mostly, when people bemoan this, it’s people who are not terribly highly paid themselves. I will often muse out loud that it’s fascinating that people compare their personal worth by looking downward at those who have less than them, not upward to ask why is CEO pay on average more than 300x the average worker? People get so upset that someone gets a statutory raise to a number that’s still barely enough to keep food on the table, and feel dimished when that person standard of living starts to approach their own, but they don’t ask, “hey, what’s so different between me and the guy at the top? Is he really that much smarter? Does he really work that much harder?”

    1. lost academic*

      THIS SO MUCH. People keep thinking that these things somehow are about them when they aren’t! At my firm, we did a big study and found there were swaths of our junior staff that were being compensated well below market value. We adjusted their salaries at the next period of adjustment and also our incoming staff. That didn’t affect my salary at all as a more senior level manager and it shouldn’t: I am compensated fairly and that doesn’t change because now the juniors are compensated much better.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Yeah I think the issue comes up when people already feel they are not compensated fairly. If you are, it doesn’t matter what anybody else is making.

    2. KeepIt*

      This times 1000000. If you’re upset at a minimum wage worker earning more and not the C-suite continuing to earn so MUCH more, than your focus is on the wrong thing.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Sure but I think it’s also legitimate to realize that you are now making what society considers the minimum livable wage in your area, and to re-examine your work and your role in response – are you truly valued in your company? The error is to take it out on the people below you, but to do your own soul searching is not inappropriate in my opinion. Those grape pickers were working for somebody, and that guy has to squeeze through the eye of the needle.

        1. KeepIt*

          I’m…….not saying that “soul searching” here is inappropriate. I’m saying that framing it in comparison to what people “below” you are making rather than people well “above” you is focusing the ire in the absolute wrong direction

          1. Sloan Kittering*

            Also yikes I thought I was replying to the comment that already invoked the parable of the grape pickers, now I just sound totally whackadoo sorry all

    3. AndersonDarling*

      When I was making $19/hr, it was really hard to think that someone coming right into the workforce would be making $15 when I had to invest 10 years of poverty just to get to $19. It wasn’t about comparing the value of a person, it just wasn’t fair that I had to spend so much of my life suffering and struggling, and crying at the grocery store because I couldn’t afford food.
      Of course it isn’t the right way to think about it. If the adjustment had been made 10 years ago, then I wouldn’t have had to suffer through those years. And now that I am making professional wages, the talk about raising min wage doesn’t seem as personal. We just need to remember that min wage should have been rising at a steady pace for the last 30 years, and because it didn’t, we have to make a big adjustment to set things right.

        1. goducks*

          Exactly. Me too. “Hey, I had to pay off my loans, why should THEY have their loans forgiven????” That attitude is so rooted in the American psyche.

        2. Applesauced*

          I’m for some kind of student loan forgiveness, but there is a little “what about me” in there – I paid my loans off (which is great). but during that time I couldn’t save much.

          So while I’m happy for people who would benefit, I’m salty because I missed out on 8-10 years of savings.

          1. goducks*

            Oh sure, I feel the same way whenever mandatory paid maternity leave comes up. I didn’t get that, why should someone else? And then I check myself, and remember that just because I didn’t benefit doesn’t mean that I should resent those who can. I would have loved to have that benefit. If it comes to fruition, my daughter will have that benefit. It’s not about me and what I got. Because frankly, I benefited from FMLA, something that people who came before me didn’t have. Should I not have had my job protected during my leave because someone who came before didn’t? What kind of thinking is that?

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah, I think people really need to get it in their heads that for positive change to happen, it has to start sometime. You can’t just always keep the status quo lest someone feels it’s unfair that they had to go through troubles others after them haven’t gone through. I sympathise with the thought process in paragraph 1 but also 100% agree with paragraph 2 in that instead of feeling harmed by others’ not crying at the grocery store, we should carry our own experiences of crying with us and actively strive for others’ not crying!

        I’m not in the US but can offer another perspective regardless: Tuition fees for universities where I am started in 2007 and were abolished again in 2013. I started uni in 2010 and finished in 2016, meaning that for half of my university life, I had to pay a fee which was very small compared to other countries (especially the US!) but was extraordinarily much for me and very hard to obtain, especially regarding the socio-economic shift my family went through during exactly that time.
        And honestly? I was never bitter that I had to pay whereas someone who started three years after me didn’t have to. I was sad and bitter that I of course had to attend uni during exactly the six years where tuition was A Thing, fullstop. And also, those feelings lasted while it was happening, but today, I’m not really thinking about it anymore at all. I’m just really glad they got rid of tuitions again, whether I could enjoy that to its full extent or not.
        (N.B., I realise this example is not exactly the same thing as a workplace situation because with tuition, it’s not about how much value someone brings to the table compared to someone else, but I feel like it’s comparable on an emotional level.)

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          Yeah I think there’s a way to honor the feelings without letting them drive policy. It’s the same as the NIMBY stuff in my field.

    4. kc89*

      I totally agree

      people bawwwwing because the lowest paid workers in their office suddenly make closer to them is just pathetic

  15. Natalie*

    My NFP covers five states, and the minimum wage is steadily increasing in our two core cities to get to $15 in a few years. We’ve raised our org-wide minimum wage to $15, although I think it’s more in response to the overall progressive push for $15 that also ushered in the minimum wage increases. It doesn’t directly affect that many employees since we don’t employ a ton of entry level workers, and I haven’t heard anyone grumbling because the gap between their pay and Sally’s pay is smaller. But, I don’t think people here generally feel underpaid.

  16. Canada - Alberta*

    Specifically in my city (where minimum wage is now $15) the main thing I noticed is that a lot more qualified people are working lower level jobs (turnover is higher, because why put up with crap if you can get paid as much to do less), as well as a huge surge in 2nd jobs for adults.

    Lots of wages were not adjusted, which is an ongoing public argument about how the value of people’s work is lowered now. I’ve noticed that other things are now costing more so it really feels like we took a pay cut when the wage got bumped up and no adjustments to other wages. Rents have gone up, groceries has gone up, with the servers wage being removed restaurant prices have gone up significantly. I personally don’t care too much about it, but I know a lot of people that this just kind of killed their will to do anything above what’s expected of them at work because they feel under valued now.

    I’m also middle level for non-management salary. So the effects are felt on this level a lot more then higher level for sure.

    1. Canada - Alberta*

      I should mention, here it was 2 years and a nearly $5 increase in a downturn for our economy with high unemployment levels so it was a lot tougher then it should have been

    2. Amber Rose*

      I also live in Alberta. Rents have gone up because of the terrible housing market, and increased taxes. That was happening even before the hike. As early as 2010 I was seeing my rent go up by leaps and bounds. It’s one of the driving reasons I bought a house.

      Groceries are ever so slightly more expensive. Maybe a few cents per item, unless it’s meat, but I think that’s caused by something else. Restaurants are definitely more expensive, but they’re also a luxury not a necessity. The “Servers Wage” thing was ALWAYS bullshit and should have never existed to begin with.

      And the people whose morale is gone, maybe instead of trying to drag others lower, they ought to push for higher wages for themselves. Alison has some great advice about this.

      1. Canada - Alberta*

        I never said that the rise is bad nor my personal opinion on what people perceive. The question was what have you seen on morale and this is what I’ve seen.

        And in my area my groceries have gone up pretty high, not just a ‘few cents’ the exact same grocery list I’ve bought for years has gone up about $20 a week.

      2. CyborgScholar*

        Yes. I’m also wondering why people *should* do *more* than what’s expected of them at work.

        1. KeepIt*

          yeah this ingrained attitude that workers should always be looking to “exceed expectations” is exactly how employers end up exploiting people. If you’ve met the expectations of the job than you’ve…done the job.

        2. Canada - Alberta*

          I meant more along the lines of people refusing to stay for 5 minutes past ‘quitting time’ to finish something now, vs taking on additional tasks.

    3. Cass M*

      I live in a smaller city in Alberta. Rents dropped by $400/mo (according to friends) when oil went down which felt more like a raise for people than getting a wage increase. Restaurant prices went up a bit but we still tip (their jobs are still challenging even without the “server wage”). I was in a negotiation for a security firm service. They were raising their rates to reflect the increase minimum wage but it was still more cost effective to contract than hire.

      I haven’t noticed better or worse service – people are how they are at jobs; they just justify their quality of work.

  17. Awlbiste*

    I don’t understand why it will hurt morale if your minimum wage staff is finally going to get paid closer (but still not) a living wage, slowly over the next 6 years. Why does everyone else also need to be paid more to keep that wage gap in place? I’m a librarian as well, and I wish our front line staff were paid better wages, it would be much easier to both keep them here and keep them a little happier. I don’t need to be paid more (I am already paid the medium bucks) just because they might be.

    1. RUKiddingMe*

      And after it rises to that level after six years, that wage will be no better than the current minimum wage is. They need to just bite the bullet and implement it in full with no years long time frame. It’s been done before (Harry Truman’s “Fair Deal”), somehow the economy survived. Seriously if it hadn’t been stuck at $3.35/hour for 20+ years it would be way more than $15/hour now.

    2. KeepIt*

      Well, and according to the OP, they’re all underpaid to begin with. So it sounds like the problem goes way deeper than but they’re only seeing “these people are now earning almost the same as me”!

    3. Manon*

      > (but still not) a living wage

      Thank you for saying this. $15 is great, but I wish people would acknowledge that in many places it’s still well under a living wage right now and certainly will be in 6 years.

  18. Ghost of a Ghost*

    My husband noticed that when the minimum wage went up in Colorado, a lot of his security guards actually quit in order to work at the retail stores they had been providing security for. So they had to bump up the pay a few cents above the retail stores just to keep their guards, but management didn’t get any raises. In fact, several of the site leads ended up making more than the operations managers.

  19. AndersonDarling*

    I was working for a huge hospital conglomerate when Amazon Warehouses came into the area. There were many discussions on how the company could keep their low wage employees when they could just go over to Amazon and make $5 more an hour. The hospital needed people with good personalities and excellent prioritization skills and they paid them around $10/hr to work their a$$es off. Frankly, picking tickets for $15 and hour looked really good to them.
    In the end, the company decided to just let the good employees leave and see what would happen. So I can tell you that there wouldn’t be any kind of adjustments for the $15+/hr staff. Anyone earning $16/hr would keep making $16/hr.

  20. HS Teacher*

    There was a push in Arizona to lower the minimum wage for workers under age 22 who are full-time students from our current $11 an hour to a lower amount I can’t remember now. There was a lot of outrage about it. I teach high school in a Title 1 district, and many of my students work part-time to supplement their family’s wages. I believe the bill finally died, but it’s an example of people trying to circumvent legislation designed to increase minimum wage.

    1. lost academic*

      It’s this insulting idea that based on who you are, you should or shouldn’t get more money because we deem that you don’t need it as much (people STILL justify paying certain kinds of men more this way because “they have a family to support” whereas women in the same roles aren’t viewed as needing it.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        Well a full time student under 22 is obviously still a child, and obviously still living with their parents, and obviously being supported by them and just working for “fun” money. Unless they are female, then they work only for “pin” money.


          1. Freckles McGee*

            It’s a fairly old fashioned thing – it’s a small sum of money that a husband would give his wife for non-essentials outside of a household budget. Sort of like her personal “fun money” as she wasn’t earning herself.

    2. Canada - Alberta*

      There’s the same push here in Alberta. When I was in high school I lived on my own and worked full time to support myself and went to school full time, the rise in minimum wage would have been a godsend that they are now taking away from people in a similar situations.

    3. Artemesia*

      And yet people constantly whine about how ‘they’ worked their way through school and why can’t today’s lazy youth get by without student loans. So yeah, let’s reduce the wages for students who just use it to buy pot anyway.

    4. min*

      This is how the minimum wage laws work in the UK and was appalled when I moved here. There are multiple cut off points based on age.

      Now the government is talking about cutting the wages of teenagers even lower than they already are. It’s truly disgusting.

      1. Liza*

        Yup! For all our comments about how awful our American cousins have it in relation to labour laws and legal protections for employees, the table is turned in this regard. The minimum wage for under-25s is lower than the national minimum here in the UK! Their (ie the government’s) argument being that all those young people who already can’t afford housing can just live with their parents for another 7 years or something and don’t need to earn a full wage. As we always say in my household, “there’s no such thing as ‘under 25s discount rent'”. It’s a terrible policy.

    5. Winry Rockbell*

      It’s an outrage. I’ve been trying to work my way through school since I was 16, and it’s damn hard already! I’m 23 now and I’ve spent 7 years working toward a 4-year degree because I have to pay for it myself. If I was only making $8.25 this whole time, I wouldn’t be graduating next semester, I can tell you that right now. I went to high school at a Title I as well, and a lot of my classmates had to work to support their families too. Sometimes I’m just baffled by what gets discussed in our legislature!

  21. RUKiddingMe*

    I think minimum wage here is $15/hour. I’m not sure because my own minimum starts at more than that.

    I do know that several years ago the minimum wage in the city of Sea Tac went to $15/hour….not incrementally, just like as of the first of the year. Despite all of the dire warnings of imminent apocalypse if people are paid anything hovering near a living wage (note, $15/hour in the Seattle metro area is actually poverty level) I haven’t seen it.

    Minimum wage increases from time to time with all kinds of dire warnings…less hours, more cost for goods/services, etc. Historically the economy has never imploded. I can’t quote numbers but I have skimmed things written by economists and other numbers people and the actual increase in costs are negligible (like about 1% maybe…) if I recall remotely correctly.

    Do some employers cut full time hours? Yup. But they were the type to pull a dick move like that …among other dick-ish management/money decisions… anyway and the increase in minimum wage just gives them a convenient excuse.

    1. Manon*

      It feels like all the negative consequences from increased minimum wage (hours/benefits being cut, for example) are just corporations doing what they always do and taking any opportunity to exploit their workers.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        BANG! You hit it.

        Or for small AF businesses who were scrapping by and didn’t build in the right margins. If you’re teetering on the edge, it’s your fault that you’re tanking, it’s not the fact you have an increased payroll.

        It also reminds me of the soda tax and how it was supposed to kill things and nobody would ever buy another soda in the city of Seattle again. No, it’s fine, guys.

        1. Manon*

          >Or for small AF businesses who were scrapping by and didn’t build in the right margins. If you’re teetering on the edge, it’s your fault that you’re tanking, it’s not the fact you have an increased payroll.

          I’ve heard it phrased that if you can’t afford to pay your workers a living wage, you can’t afford to run a business. And maybe that sucks for you but you don’t have a right to pay people poverty wages.

          1. L.S. Cooper*

            Yup. Running a business is not a human right. If you don’t have the money to pay your employees, then you don’t get to run a business. Same as if you don’t have the money to buy the chocolate for your chocolate teapots, you don’t get to make the chocolate teapots.

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*


              Oh no, you have to follow laws and treat people decently, pay them properly and all that crazy nonsense….

              You can thank the timber, oil and mine barons from yesteryear for DESTROYING! your dream of a business without regulations. Also if they hadn’t been crushed, you wouldn’t be operating a business either. So there’s that too.

          2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            I’m a champion for small businesses, most have probably seen me kind of flip my lid on people who love to drag them through the mud around here for being awful and dysfunctional.

            And yes, this is a million times over and over again RIGHT. I have seen people create businesses and break themselves to build their tiny empires, they have never ever paid minimum wage to their workers once they can afford to hire someone. They are too grateful for the fact they have 1. grown that big and 2. have someone to relieve their burden. Their employees are not necessarily “family” since that’s a toxic word in these parts. But they are well respected and appreciated. Maybe they can’t afford to get the bells and whistles benefits package so it’s made up in take home pay.

            I think I’m set off because I haven’t been paid minimum wage since I was a teenager, starting out as a part time file clerk. All for small business owners who took just a livable wage home in return.

            My boss set up a Profit Sharing Plan years ago. One of the guys asked him “Boss man, why do you do this? You could take this profit home…” and he said “You guys are the reason I can keep doing this. Also it’s going to be taxed and I sure the sh*t want to give it to YOU and not the government right now.” Of course the Gov. gets their part regardless but the idea is “Why take this 100k home and just lop off the government chunk? Then just spread it out to my 15 employees [he took a share of course but it was a lot less than the whole pie].

        2. goducks*

          Yep. I live in a place where servers get the standard minimum wage, but you see this in the arguments in other places about eliminating tipped minimum wage. The notion that if a restaurant has to pay it’s servers minimum wage it will fail tells me that the business is inherently flawed. It’s built itself on a model where it relies on customers to pay staff directly.
          People from places that pay tipped minimum wage are always amazed that dining prices on the west coast are not remarkably different, even though in CA, OR, WA all require servers to get standard minimum wage with no tip credit (and have high minimum wages). Yes, some businesses would fail, but they probably were propped up by unfair practices to begin with.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Yeah and years ago some of the “big” guys in Oregon wanted to try to get a lowered, tipped-workers minimum wage. It didn’t work and guess what, those jackholes are still in business, they just wanted to slash costs like the lowlives they are. So glad it didn’t work out.

            It’s up there with how everyone said if we pay McDonald’s workers $15 an hour, the burgers are going to be $10 each. No, they’re not, they went up a dollar maybe. Oh no, a luxury item went up a dollar, hold me.

            1. Ali G*

              I would rather pay more upfront for my meal and know that my server, the buser, cooke, etc. are all making a living wage, rather than tip well and hope all the money goes to the right people. I think a lot of people agree with that method and that’s why the sky didn’t fall.

              1. goducks*

                Honestly, tipping norms here where servers make $12 an hour are the exact same as the places where they make $2.13 an hour. People still tip 20%.

                I mean, how cool is it that a person can live on their wages plus tips here? Why do we as a society feel like our servers need to be scraping by?

                1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

                  And they never go home on a shift that they made zero or negative amounts.

                  I’ve known people to tell me stories about working 8 hours in a diner in Tip Wage Land and having 3 customers, one just ordering coffee and leaving a quarter. Yay, a $18, 8 hour day. Yet you were still rolling silverware and deep cleaning the place. Then people wonder why places are ran down and gross AF.

              2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

                It’s because you’re a decent person who understands that people are working to give you a luxury item. You aren’t ‘owed’ the ‘affordability’ to go out and skimp on a tip for whatever reason may be in your mind [general you of course!]

                Tips are an ugly world that I saw first hand when I worked in the office for a restaurant for a hot minute. Despite knowing they were a strange beast, they broke my soul a bit. This place was a “high end” place who did tip share [great,I have a cook brother, tips are fantastic to spread around.] However they were tipped out depending on their receipts. Just their receipts. So I had some people run shifts that they got zero dollars in tips or a couple bucks, whatever, you know? And they still had to tip out the kitchen and bar. The bar got tips even if they didn’t even have a hand in the order! Since they had a servers station for soda fountain drinks and water, so the bar was there for just the mixed drinks aspect. They still got their chunk though.

                So I saw servers put on lunch lose money hand over fist. Then they were always struggling to fill that shift. Shocking. Shocking. I even asked when I saw it go into the negatives in the spreadsheet they used what we do about that, assuming innocently enough that it just means that there was zero tips and everyone lost out. Nope. Negative towards the server, take it out of their pay. I didn’t stick around or do the math to make sure they weren’t going down below minimum wage because I was done with that sh*thole before I started doing the deep math.

                Needless to say, it’s one of the only places I ever walked out of and quit on the spot. They were paying me $12 an hour for part time gig because I was bored. I am happy to get a few extra bucks working for cheap when it’s for anywhere else but that nonsense.

            2. Double A*

              Years ago the CEO of one of the Papa pizza companies complained that he couldn’t provide health care to his employees because if he did he’d have to charge like 13 cents more per pizza and I was like…YOU HAVEN’T BEEN JUST CHARGING 13 CENTS MORE AND PROVIDING HEALTH CARE? It was sick.

              1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

                He got his in the end. With how he was dethroned last year from the CEO position because they found out he’s a racist POS.

                He also is known to have a mote around his private property. Like this mofo has a castle and doesn’t want to give insurance because 13c extra a pie. Yeah, I know that story and that frigging guy.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      You know why it doesn’t implode the economy? Because consumer spending is over 70% of the economy. When people have more money, THEY SPEND IT.

      Who wails loudest over these increases? The greedmonsters who run corporations and already have buckets of money parked outside the economy, because they got all the tax breaks. God forbid anyone else should get even a small bucket. :P

    3. emmelemm*

      Yeah, I can’t see that the economy of Seattle, SeaTac, and Tacoma have collapsed under that $15/hr weight yet. And $15/hr is like, barely in the target of a living wage around here.

  22. Hotel GM*

    Am in Florida – We’ve done a percentage-based system for employees above minimum wage. I don’t have any employees at minimum, but we raise it to start competitive. Florida’s last increase was ~2%, so we raised all of our employees (including me) by 2%.

    There’s a ballot initiative next year to raise it up to $15/hour over 6 years, which is a 75% increase from where it’s at, which honestly I think would crash Florida’s tourism. Flights to the Caribbean are cheap enough that people will stop coming and just do the international travel thing, since the cost of labor is the highest operating expense.

    I’ve got no qualms about raising minimum wage, but going so far beyond inflation and the cost of living (which is cheap here compared to Northern and Pacific cities pushing the national $15 debate) is foolish.

    1. Natalie*

      Minimum wages have *not* generally been adjusted for inflation, that’s precisely the problem that leads to large increases at once. The last federal increase was only 10 years ago and if it was inflation adjusted it would be $8.50 today.

      1. Hotel GM*

        Right, although Florida’s actually is pegged to inflation, and currently sits at $8.45. I have a lot of folks working in the $12-$16 range, which I doubt will get a full matching raise if the initiative passes.

        Hell, my wife and I clear $105k a year combined, and our rent is only $730. There’s no reason for a 75% increase here, tbh

    2. Dankar*

      Depends on where you are in Florida. Family and friends that still live there (I moved out around 5 years ago) tell me all the time how shocked they are that rent/home prices have skyrocketed as much as they have in the last two years.

      That has a lot more to do with retirees buying up all the affordable housing when they downsize and the restrictive zoning that prevents rental properties from being built than it does the minimum wage.

    3. Winry Rockbell*

      I lived in Florida in 2015 and made $8/hr and that was by far the worst year I’ve had as a working adult. I made barely enough for rent, electricity/water, and transportation costs, and went hungry a lot. There were other reasons I had a miserable time of it, but not having enough money definitely was the worst part.

  23. Kate*

    I work for a state university in Illinois and I think they are going to have to really figure out what they are going to do when Target is paying $15 per hour for a low skill job. Currently my university is paying less than $15 per hour for clerical jobs as well as many many other positions. The university needs to pay employees more, they are currently bleeding qualified people, but they get so little money from the state and their student population are mostly middle or low income students on aid. Where are they going to get the money?

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Yep. Target’s internal minimum wage is already $12, or it was when I last knew someone working there two years ago – it may even be higher now. And I think the internal minimum wage is becoming more and more common, at least among big nationwide chains.

      1. Jubilance*

        It’s still $12 but its continuing to move. And depending on location, starting wage may actually be higher due to demand for workers.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      The thing is that Target isn’t going to hire thousands of people at any given store, so it’s going to be a job people will want, just like those who have a desire to work at Costco due to their wages/benefits all these years.

      A lower skilled job paying more isn’t necessarily going to matter because there are still a set number of jobs in the corporation.

      It’s not like I can just say “Screw this, I’m just gonna go work at Target!” Target still gets to choose to hire the person and it’s harder to work there than people want to think when retail is involved.

      1. amianai*

        A single Target can employ 200+ people and there are plenty of small and midsized cities where it’s not unusual to have half a dozen Targets within commuting distance of one another. Target still gets to pick who they hire, but they have a huge capacity for staff, so it makes sense that a state university or other employer would be worried about it.

      2. Kate*

        Target was just an example of a large employer in town, particularly large in this college town due to a major distribution center. With the minimum wage increasing there will be many $15 options aside from Target. The university will have a harder time retaining valuable staff at their current pay rates.

    3. nyc dweller*

      president, board members, higher-ups in administration need to take pay cuts or bonus cuts. some bonuses can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. for example, i went to NYU and from google the president gets paid 1.5million per year, which is absolutely ridiculous. we could halve that to give to the workers and he’d still have a great quality of life with everything he wants.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        They won’t ever take these bonuses away from the executives. It will always come from the middle or lowest positions. People need to just accept this, unless they bring in regulations for business that’s not feasible. They won’t start deeply regulating high salaries because those high salaries have all the politicians bought. Even the ones that say they’re not bought.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Sports is what makes money for most schools though, so let’s always remember that they get paid crazy high because their teams are bringing in all that cash money. Cuz sportsball.

          1. amianai*

            Unfortunately, coaches and athletics get a ton of money even if they generate no revenue for the school. I went to a small college where 75% of the scholarship funds were in athletic scholarships. The school wasn’t even in the NCAA and I doubt ticket sales at games even covered the wages of the ticket-takers.

          2. Kate*

            I think sports actually bring in very little profit for most schools. There are exceptions out there, but mostly sports are money pits.

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              Then you haven’t seen the numbers involved with sports in universities with teams. I’m from a college town and it’s what keeps the entire city alive at times, not just the university.

              Granted by sports, I mean football. The others support themselves and their coaches aren’t making that much.

      2. Kate*

        Yes! This is so true at many universities. But not at the university I work at. The salaries are not inflated and are pretty commensurate with the size of the job the higher ups are doing. Our president makes a bit under 500k which I think is reasonable for the job. A small hand full of other folks make more than 250k, but not too many (less than 10). But let’s not get started on the football coach…

      3. Gumby*

        Half of 1.5 million is 750,000. NYU has a staff of about 19,000 according to the internet. Which works out to less than $40/person.

        It would probably also lead to your current president leaving to go to one of the other 50+ colleges that pay their presidents over $1 million / yr.

        I’m not saying it is reasonable or fair (I don’t know enough about the skill set, hours, connections, etc. required) but it might be necessary.

  24. Anne with an E*

    I live in WA state, our minimum wage as of January 2016 was $9.47. It is currently $12.00 and will increase to $13.50 starting in 2020. The majority of jobs in my area have not increased wages across the board (or at all in most cases). There have been several instances where higher paid employees were given pay cuts in order for the businesses to afford the added payroll costs. For the majority of businesses in my area hours have been cut, or positions have been eliminated entirely. Some businesses have left the state or shut down because the added payroll costs depleted their profit margin– this has mostly been in the restaurant industry. Some have lost or cut their benefits. To compare, our library requires a bachelor’s degree and pays $16.32-$17.58 an hour. There have been no increases in those wages in the last 6-7 years.

  25. In the same boat*

    Im so glad you brought this up, I work in an a similar field (archives) at a non profit with a limited operating budget and was also wondering about this. My state is increasing minimum wage to 15.00 and is currently at 13.50. While I am also very much in support of a living wage for all, I have to admit I was concerned about the fact that I had to get (and pay for ) a masters to enter my field and now my investment in further education yields a smaller return.

    So far, my institution has not raise salaries to match the minimum wage increases of their own volition, but I did receive a government mandated raise to meet the a new minimum pay for exempt administrative staff working at organizations over 11 people. This increase does not restore the old wage structure though, and my institution definitely does not plan on engaging with this potential morale problem unless they have to.

    1. nyc dweller*

      it sounds like it possibly bothers you that folks who graduated after you will have a higher standard of living than you did? if so why?

      1. In the same boat*

        I wouldn’t say that it bothers me that folks who graduated after me might have a higher standard of living per se. Its more that I might not have chosen to spend a ton of time, effort and money on entering this particular field in a professional capacity, if I knew I could work in a paraprofessional capacity for a similar wage.

        I know these feelings are at least somewhat irrational, you never know what will happen after you make your choices and I’m still very happy in my role. I think its just that its hard to wrap your head around the idea that my work used to be say 25 percent more valuable that paraprofessional work and its now say only 10 percent more valuable. It seems like a devaluing of my work, though I understand that its more like the minimum wage jobs were undervalued from the start.

        1. Moray*

          This is a really good way to put it. IMO your feelings are completely justified. (And, coming from a very flat organization, I don’t really have a horse in this race.)

    2. kc89*

      ” yields a smaller return.”

      I don’t see how, you’re not going to be making less money because of this

      1. In the same boat*

        You’re right maybe that was the wrong phrasing. I think I mean percentage wise, like taking the time to enter the field in a professional capacity used to mean that you could earn a certain percentage more than if you hadn’t pursued the required degrees, but now, that percentage is much smaller, as this is not a high paying field.

      2. Sloan Kittering*

        Although some commenters are saying that the cost of living rises in areas where average salaries are rising. I have yet to actually see really solid data on this and I’m no economist. But if it were true than that might literally affect this writer’s bottom line.

      3. rando*

        It yields a smaller return because the comparison is:

        With degree, I could make X/year.
        Without degree, I could make [min wage]/year.

        So the return on investment (in the degree) might be considered, in a very simplified form:
        (X – min wage)*number hours – cost of degree.

        As you can see, if you change the “min wage” variable, the return on investment changes.

        1. rando*

          And college was sold to me, and many others, as “This is how much more you’ll make a year than a person without a degree”. Over and over and over again.

          So it does make sense to measure the return on investment compared to what you might make without a degree.

          On the other hand, there are non-money things to consider as well. How much you prefer the work, how much respect/prestige you get for it, the flexibility and better working conditions in terms of having a regular schedule and a regular paycheck, etc etc.

  26. blink14*

    Years ago, I worked for a local town summer camp that was ultimately funded by the state. Minimum wage went up just before camp began, and my pay, which was at a higher level, also went up in adjustment.

    When I left my last job, about 5 years ago, minimum wage had gone up I think the year prior in my state. I was salaried, but I believe the home office calculated salary off of that minimum wage amount. My former boss asked if I thought I certain salary figure would be appropriate for my replacement, and I nearly fell of my chair – the number was what my current salary was and I had been there like 7 years, with very minimal raises each year. Frankly with the amount of BS at that job, no realistic salary was worth it, but it was interesting and shocking to see how the base salary for that position had changed since I accepted the job.

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      I found something similar to this at my old job. I was promoted (but really had to apply and interview) within my group and was given a 7% increase.
      Happened upon the external job posting and the BOTTOM of the advertised range was $10k above what my new rate was. Showed it to my boss who said, well yeah…outside people always get more. So I left.

      1. mcr-red*

        Yep, happened to me too. I had a summer worker (back when we still hired them) complaining about how much she made, and she made the same as me, who had been there for 5 YEARS at the time!

        The biggest raise I ever got ($2) was because I got another job offer that I wasn’t too excited about, but it made that much more money and was like, “I’m going, you’ll pay my replacement that much, might as well try my luck over there.” So they paid me that amount, and then I didn’t get another raise for like 3 years. Touche?

  27. nyc dweller*

    i want to make the point that if execs, ceos, and other big bosses took pay cuts or took less bonuses in most big companies, there would be no need to eliminate jobs in order to comply with the new min wage laws. so for example a university that eliminates student jobs due to a min wage increase – they’re doing it so, so wrong. instead of having, say, their uni president who makes over 500k-1mil a year take somewhat less than that.

    1. Forkeater*

      Or the football coach, who is often paid much more than the president.

      I 100% agree with this sentiment when it comes to big organizations, but what about small businesses?

      1. nyc dweller*

        small businesses not being able to cut it (assuming workers are paid fairly w/ benefits, owners aren’t overpaid and all that stuff) is a symptom of the larger economic disparity in the US. wealth redistribution from the top down could help with some of that. big companies pay taxes, small companies receive fed & state gov grants to help out while they find their footing.

      2. KeepIt*

        most minimum wage increase laws I’ve seen include a form of tax break for businesses that employ under a certain number of people to help them to adjust/pay for the increase in wages

      3. Samwise*

        For schools with big time sports programs, pay for head coaches may be supplemented by private organizations or foundations that exist for the purpose of throwing money at X school’s big time sports.

      4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Then you’d have to dismantle the entire sports culture and structure. Those coaches aren’t there for the warm fuzzies.

      5. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        Give it 20 years, when the current crop of college football players are all in their 40s and 50s and have CTE and decide to sue the school for negligent workplace practices. Then the schools will be paying out even more than the coach’s salary in settlements.

    2. Manon*

      Exactly. Corporations are sure to throw up their hands and go on about how an increased minimum wage forced them to make cuts without acknowledging that their execs could still be fabulously wealthy with a 50% pay cut.

    3. Mazzy*

      No, I’ve seen numbers online that disprove this concept. This has already been studied and debunked. Now one could make that argument about stock buybacks, but CEO pay was a drop in the bucket at all of the large companies. It may make sense in a tiny company where there are a few employees, but not a fortune 500

      1. nyc dweller*

        really… so several decades ago when the CEO to worker pay was closer to 40-50:1 instead of on average 361:1 (per forbes), and min wage was in line with average COL, whereas today it is not… i know correlation doesn’t imply causation but come on… it’s also an ethics issue. no ceo *deserves* to be paid millions per year. it’s simply unnecessary. so while i accept it is not a cure-all, i completely fail to see how it would *not* be useful at all.

        1. Mazzy*

          Those are all different issues. But your original comment was about shifting “overpaid” executive pay to cover the wage increase, and most execs are actually not paid enough where those few extra million at best make a large difference when spread over thousands of employees, it’s a mathematical problem

      2. ah 1 and ah 2*

        I’ve seen this, too. And at my own company, the CEO makes $240,000/yr, which is a lot higher than min wage employees, of course, but doesn’t amount to much if spread out over all min wage employees. We have 60,000+ total employees and about 1/3 are min wage, however let’s say I remember that wrong it’s half that, so 1/6 are min wage – so $240,000 spread out over 10,000 employees amounts to a whopping $12 a year per person.

        1. ah 1 and ah 2*

          $12 a year more if going with 20% of employees being min wage. $24 a year if 10,000 are min wage.

        2. Mazzy*

          That’s how much your CEO makes? I wouldn’t manage a company of more than 50 people for that, not 60K, that is nuts!

    4. Lilysparrow*

      But there’s also the fact that C-Suite executives in all industries, head coaches at universities, etc, have far more choice about where to work than minimum wage employees do, including relocating cross-country or sometimes internationally.

      Cutting wages by 50 % would have a huge impact on recruitment and retention at that level. To use the sports coach example, the coach with the best record in the league isn’t going to stick around for a pay cut when she knows she can get snapped up by a competing school.

    5. mcr-red*

      I mean, you’re right. AND???

      We can scream about it until we’re blue in the face, these execs, ceos and other big bosses ARE NOT going to take pay cuts or less bonuses. They’re not going to just swallow those extra wage costs. They’re just not. We’d love them to suddenly be like the Grinch and grow hearts three sizes that day, but the likelihood is so small. They are just going to do what they’ve always done, pass the cost onto the consumer or eliminate jobs.

  28. Master Bean Counter*

    I work in AZ, in agriculture. Our minimum wage has risen from $8.63/hr and will be $12.00/hr January 1st.
    Here’s what’s been affected:
    -Workers are no longer getting overtime–it just costs way too much.
    -Wages are going up across the board for unskilled and semi-skilled work. Highly skilled work is seeing stagnant wages.
    -Given our proximity to Mexico and the fact that their labor cost is roughly 1/3 of what it is here, the price difference involved in crossing product back and forth over the border is getting close to negligible. In couple more years it will be cheaper to move some operations across the border.
    -Interestingly enough it is estimated that we will retain 50% of our seasonal workforce as many of them cross the border every morning to come to work.

    1. stuff*

      The problem with moving jobs to Mexico is going to be the same as moving jobs to China… It’s not a long term solution. So much production went overseas, countries like China are seeing there economies thrive and now it’s getting too expensive to actually keep producing there because their wages have gone up. It may happen for a few years, but I **think** some companies will hesitate knowing they will end up moving jobs back.

      1. Master Bean Counter*

        Actually we’ve already seen wages down there double since minimum wage has been going up here. They are actually having a hard time keeping workers on that side of the border. It’s an interesting dynamic to be sure.

    2. Winry Rockbell*

      I’m interested to know, since I mostly only know other people who work in service industry positions — how much does a strong government vs weak government play into decisions about whether to have a given position be located in Arizona or Sonora? I know Sonora isn’t exactly Guanajuato, but it’s hardly Mexico DF either, whereas in AZ we’ve got a very strong government and all the regulations and security that come with that.

      1. Master Bean Counter*

        The governments are both strong and weak in their own ways. Mexico has VAT, which has made dealing with importing and exporting financially challenging for operations south of the border. Mexico has created a program that makes it easier to remove the VAT when the goods come back across the border. One of the reasons for the wages in Sonora going up is because the government has stepped in with new employment taxes and benefit requirements.

        What I don’t know about is if you have to have legal status in Mexico to work. This might be the primary driver that does keep wages lower over there. The flood of Hondurans and Guatemalans along the border waiting for asylum has brought quite a workforce to the area.

        The really weird part of all of this is that we can get better rates from APS in Sonora, than on the AZ side.

  29. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Seattle’s minimum wage is now $16 for any company over 500 people and 15 for those under it.

    It depends on the business, some industries have slashed hours and positions. However many others are thriving, without any noticeable issues. For us, it hasn’t done anything to harm the bottom line or made us reevaluate positions.

    It does make it harder for small businesses to find workers that’s for sure. You can get paid the same doing fast-food than working in a warehouse or working on a production line, whereas before warehouse and production work used to be a step up in pay from fast food.

    The city itself has a low unemployment rate and there’s always people hiring.

    If a company is already struggling, these kinds of changes will always hurt them but if you’re already flourishing with healthy margins, it’s less of a blow. Which is the same with all employment changes.

    It makes me nauseous seeing how little people make in other states for jobs that require degrees.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      My bestie is a college professor, has been with the same institution for almost a decade, and we were just discussing this morning that she’s up for a promotion that would POTENTIALLY bring her salary up… to about half of what I currently make. I’m in management, but not six-figures management, and it’s just gross.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Growing up my dream was to be a teacher. Then I found out that they’re paid less than peanuts for a lot of education, lot of heartache and lots of hoops to jump through. So I went another direction.

        I also carry zero student loans. So not only do I make more than a lot of my heavily educated friends and colleagues along the way, I am not paying back for the four or six or eight or whatever years of loans that is basically can shake out to 40k a year for an education in some fields.

        So yeah, little me never go to be Anne Shirley but Big Me gets to plan a trip to visit PEI, whereas if I had went the other direction, i would never have afforded such a luxurious vacation. So yeah…academia, man. I cannot.

        1. Samwise*

          Academia can provide other benefits however. Faculty jobs (tenure/tenure track, not adjuncting, that’s a whole other unethical horror show), even for faculty at the higher end of the pay scale, generally pay less than what a position with comparable years of experience / education requirements/ category of job duties would pay in industry BUT they also are jobs with a huge amount of autonomy and independence, fairly light oversight from management, very flexible hours, nice work environment, generally decent health insurance and retirement benefits, and meaningful work that’s often in line with the employee’s life-values.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*


            That’s also why people work garbage government jobs too, I’m told. Yet you have to deal with red tape and having possible psychopathic coworkers who cannot be fired because of those same perks that protect your jobs.

            I have all those benefits working in a for profit world. Yeah I could be fired. I don’t need a contract, I just need to work for the right people. I have been handed businesses and independence since I was 22 years old. And again, no debt involved.

              1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

                Business management, financial and operations more specifically. I’m more into consulting these days because I’m tired and still have a good portions of my 30’s left.

          2. LDN Layabout*

            Yeah, but the level of fighting you have to do to get there is…horrific. And that’s even in STEM fields which, compared to other departments, are swimming in grant money.

            (I have a parent in academia and he’d leverage a job offer from elsewhere on a semi-regular basis throughout his career. Each time he did, alongside a pay increase, he’d also get permanent headcount increases. So those post docs working their arses off had to rely on the goodwill of their boss to get lectureships, when their projects were bringing in MILLIONS and prestige the university was eager to boast about)

        2. Freckles McGee*

          “…little me never go to be Anne Shirley but Big Me gets to plan a trip to visit PEI…”

          Bucket list right there, although I am the other side of the world, so it may take me a bit longer to get there :(

  30. Andy*

    The company my wife works for is in a city that’s going to $15. They start at $17/hour and require a bachelor’s degree. Some of her co-workers have done the math and figure it would be better to skip college and start at $15 somewhere instead of taking on student loans for an extra $2/hour.

    1. Lilysparrow*

      The long-term benefit of that type of thinking might be easing of the upward pressure on tuition. Part of the reason college has become so ridiculously unaffordable is the long-touted (and incorrect) notion that a degree is the only path – and a guaranteed path – to a good-paying job, which encouraged the student loan bubble and all the consequences we’re currently dealing with.

      When high school graduates are in a position to make rational decisions about college based on cost and demonstrable benefit, tuition rates are more likely to stabilize.

      1. Ali G*

        Yes! I’ve been saying forever that this idea that everyone needs to go to college is BS. Look, I am glad my parents did it and committed to sending each of their 3 kids to college (grad school was all me), but I know some people who have loans from getting undergrad degrees and they can’t find jobs. They would have been so much better off going into a vocation or something that they could have been productive in much sooner. They probably would have been happier too.
        It’s a big shame that we put so much emphasis on degrees, while the programs like auto shop, cosmetology, etc. are stripped from high school curriculums because we only care about college enrollment numbers. The less academically oriented people suffer big time.

      2. DJ*

        This. Plus if you have fewer people going to college, then eventually companies that *actually* need workers with a college degree have to pay more (and companies that don’t will be forced to drop that ridiculous requirement). So the line of thinking that it’s better to skip the college degree because you’ll only make $2 more per hour is not necessarily reflective of where things will eventually settle.

        1. DJ*

          And I realized I didn’t really say this, but I think part of the reason that jobs that require college degrees can pay so little right now is that college degrees have become so common.

  31. Daisy*

    I work part time retail in DC where minimum wage is set to increase from $12.25 to $14 on Monday.
    It’s awesome…for me.
    I also work full time at a very well compensated role that has benefits etc.
    The college kids I work with definitely aren’t hurting for money at either $13.25 or $14 BUT the convenience store across the street where people are actually trying to make a living? Every $.75 helps around here.

    DC is in a weird place because VA’s minimum wage is $7.25 an hour and MD’s is $10.10. People who can afford the commuting costs want to work here. Commuting is wicked expensive though and housing is so expensive it drives people to live in the far out burbs.

    There’s no winning with this – but the housing shortage and high COL drives the need to pay people enough to live on – but that doesn’t solve the lack of housing.

    1. Dan*

      And that’s the rub with all of this. $15/hr minimum wage in metro DC is fine. The cost of living around here is ridiculous. But in down state VA, cost of living is soooo much lower. So $15/hr in one part of the state is very different than $15/hr in another part of the state. “One size fits all” isn’t a good answer.

      1. Daisy*

        One size fits all is terrible.
        But – college is just as expensive for the people from those areas where the COL is low. Medical care still costs the same (Arguably more given the lack of it in many rural areas).

        And while there are scholarships available and in theory medicaid those aren’t fix it all solutions either.
        There’s no good solution here for anybody

    2. hermit crab*

      I’ve also noticed a difference between public and private employers in the DC area. In VA, local governments are limited by the Dillon Rule and can’t pass a higher minimum wage for their jurisdiction. However, they can set their own pay bands, for their own employees, to establish an effective higher minimum. The lowest pay band for Arlington County employees, for example, starts around $12/hr.

      1. doreen*

        I don’t really understand how that’s an “effective higher minimum”. The whole point of a minimum wage is that no employer can pay less – it doesn’t matter whether it’s Arlington County , Costco or Starbucks , a single employer having a higher starting rate is completely different from a legally mandated minimum wage.

    3. Manon*

      >The college kids I work with definitely aren’t hurting for money at either $13.25 or $14 BUT the convenience store across the street where people are actually trying to make a living? Every $.75 helps around here.

      Not to be picky but can we not generalize about the means of college students? There are college students supporting themselves, taking out loans, living in poverty, on food stamps, etc. Even at Georgetown, not everyone has wealthy parents to pay their way. Every $0.75 makes a difference for them, too.

      1. Daisy*

        I am very happy to generalize about the means of the specific college kids I work with – as they are incapable of anything but oversharing I’m quite well versed in the scenarios of who is paying for what. That familiartiy is why I specified ” the college kids I work with” and did not say “college kids aren’t hurting”. Many college kids are hurting – these ten are not

        I am happy to make that assertion that because we have all worked together for two years and the students who were working there who needed money for expenses beyond RECREATIONAL travel, beer, nights out etc. left to work at stores and restaurants where they could get more hours.

        So while your more general point is well taken perhaps you should apply it to people who are generalizing the entire current generation of college students. Not to someone referring specifically to a group with which she works.

  32. km*

    My experience is wage compression. When I worked in hospitality in Washington state, which has been increasing the minimum wage annually for a while, the result was that the minimum wage workers experienced a big bump, but that everyone else in the hotel received a tiny or zero increase. This wasn’t necessarily a concern for employees well above the minimum wage, but it definitely was for those in positions that previously paid $1-$2 above minimum.

    The other concern is hiring teenagers. When minimum wage is (for example) $15, how many employers are willing to hire an unskilled teenager? I’m concerned how such high minimum wages will impact kids getting first jobs.

    1. Middle Manager*

      I have long wondered how it might play out as a policy that there are two minimum wages- one if you have a HS Diploma/GED and one without. I haven’t thought through it fully as a policy (I work in a policy office), but it intrigues me to think about hiring high school kids at one rate, but paying adults who have to live on their wages actual living wages.

      1. irene adler*

        For doing exactly the same work?
        That would be a major sticking point for me.
        Some of those HS students are working to help support their family.
        Some of those HS grads are living at home and are not asked to pay a cent towards their room and board.

        I can understand paying a ‘training wage’ (for a set period of time) that is lesser in amount when a worker is new and learning the ropes.

      2. Manon*

        Yeah, that’s total BS. You don’t get determine wages by how much you think a worker needs it. Those high school students are doing the exact same work and many of them are supporting their families or saving for college.

      3. goducks*

        Is the work that students who work for so called pocket money somehow less valuable to the company than the work of other workers? If two people are working a cash register, does the 16 year old somehow contribute less per hour to the company than the 30 year old?
        No? Then all this policy would do is allow big companies to exploit teenagers and pocket the profits.
        Bad policy.
        Equal pay for equal work, regardless of any other status the worker belongs to.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Moving to Seattle actually was the first time I saw teenagers working what are classically thought of as “teenage jobs”. I had never gone to a fast food place prior in other locations and seen many people under the age of 35 it seemed. Now it’s all stocked up with teens or early adults, so it really depends on your area. I’m aware that in rural communities this is where it squeezes the most because the jobs are so limited and far between.

      This is why Oregon chose the route of going with population bands for their minimum wage. Depending on your density, the minimum wage will be different. It’s [guessing, I haven’t been there for awhile now] 12 in the rural areas, then 12.50 in the middle density, then 14 in Portland metro].

      1. goducks*

        As a Portlander, I like our tiered system. Although we’re taking too long to get to $14. We’re just moving to $12.50 next week.
        Oregon is a state that is giant, but has most of its population centered in a very small area. So the COL in the extremely rural parts of the state are considerably different. It does make sense that the min wage in the vast swaths of the state with a population density of 1 person per square mile would be different than those in a major city with skyrocketing housing costs.
        I’d like to see other places adopt such a system, although much of the country isn’t as up and down as the west coast. In the NE and upper midwest population seems to be more uniformly distributed. Yeah, there’s big cities, small towns, and rural areas, but it’s unlike here where our nearest big city is a 3.5 hour drive, and our second nearest is 10 hours drive. So I’m not sure how effective the system would be in a place where multiple major cities are 2 hours apart.

      2. Seattle*

        Yeah, I work in youth services in Seattle and teenagers are actually working a lot of service jobs because competition for workers is so tight. It’s draining them out of more typical after-school activities because they can make so much working, and also rents are going up so a lot of them *have* to work to help their families.

        1. Portland area*

          I teach online in Oregon, and a lot of our sophomores and above get sucked into working nearly full time jobs once they hit 16 just because unemployment is so low. Once their bosses figure out that they can be scheduled during school hours they end up working a ton of hours just because they show up on time and do their job even though they don’t have a degree. Some of them need the money, and some of them would prefer fewer hours but don’t know how to enforce a “no more than x hours a week” boundary with an adult like their boss (especially since that may cause them to lose the job). I don’t see how paying them less than adults would help.

          Since unemployment is so low right now, it’s hard to separate the effects of that from the minimum wage increases. We can’t hire enough school bus drivers and have had to cut back on any optional busing we can (like some field trips) and with pressure to avoid non-optional busing if there is any possible way. It’s hard to know if that’s because it no longer pays enough about minimum wage to incentivize the terrible schedule and stressful working conditions, or if it’s because there’s no amount you could pay people with other options to take the job.

  33. Liane*

    In Arkansas, minimum wage in 2018 was $8.50/hr; however, I believe most jobs were paying above that. I know the local McDonald’s restaurants were paying at least $9/hr to start at the time. My seasonal Halloween store gig, previously minimum wage, paid $10/hr last fall. On 1/1/19, minimum wage rose to $9.25. On 1/1/20, it will become $10, & on 1/1/21, $11. My kids, employed full time at Big Name Grocery (national, mid-level prices, & unionized), now make $12-13/hr. I haven’t noticed prices going up that much. In fact Big Name Grocery did a lot of permanent price reductions (besides member-card discounts) about a year ago.

  34. Ace in the Hole*

    I work in local government (a JPA that deals with solid waste). Our funding isn’t as rigid as yours but we still have to get approval from our member agencies for any budget changes including wages.

    Several years ago California introduced a gradual minimum wage increase from $10/hour to $15/hour, which will finish in 2022. We’ve used the state minimum wage increase as justification for raising wages across the board. Basically, we’re arguing that we should raise our lowest paid classification to keep it at the same ratio to min wage as it was five years ago (so roughly 125%), and raise all the other classifications proportionally to prevent wage compression. We’ve already noticed more difficulty hiring and retaining new employees as our entry level positions edge closer to minimum wage, and the constant hiring/training is an expensive hassle. Our member agencies have tentatively agreed, and are currently having a consultant evaluate our entire compensation package (pay and benefits) to make sure we’re on the same level as other similar agencies.

    It’s also definitely made it easier to argue for our COL increases.

  35. Kimbimbop*

    My partner works for a company that raised all starting pay to $15/hr. It has caused some ripples for people who were making that or a little above. Everyone got a little bump when the starting pay was increased, but there are still some with negative feelings about high school/college students making close to what they make.

    There have been other issues, like the actual labor budgets not being raised, so now managers comically have to work even harder to schedule staff adequately, while paying workers more than before, while also remaining under budget. It’s a struggle.

  36. Borg*

    Not necessarily minimum wage related, but after some broad union negotiation wins for educators and librarians, I’ve seen administrations cutting those positions completely or making them paraprofessional roles when someone leaves their position with the rationale that it’s not affordable.

  37. AVP*

    Well, the promised wave of coffee shop and diner closures in NYC hasn’t happened yet. At least, no more than the usual turnover.

    1. Mazzy*

      Are you sure? I go there all of the time for business and all of the streets that used to have an eclectic mix of businesses now have Dublin Donuts, Starbucks, Bank of America, Walgreens, an empty storefront, Panera, and then some ridiculously priced place. I’m sure the cost of doing business has played a role in this transformation.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        In the end those places never really made money and operated on a shoestring budget. They’re often ran by an owner and maybe one or two employees. So that was always precarious AF. So yes, a bump will create a closure.

        It will also be because people seriously have thrown tantrums and just closed up shop saying “Can’t afford this, so I’ll move/retire/go back to work for someone else.”

        As a champion for small business, these people are not what it’s about. So yeah, they will lose out on that kind of thing. They’ll also be pushed out anyways, because landlords are greedy and can make more money by jacking the rent and having a Starbucks in there that has the margins for that kind of thing.

        So there’s a lot more working there.

        1. LiveAndLetDie*

          Yeah IMO if someone’s budget was so shoestring that paying their employees a living wage tipped them from “making it by” to “not making it by,” that business wasn’t honestly a success in the first place. A lot of folks seem to think that they’re entitled to run a business even if it means cheating their employees of wages for their work, which is NOT the case.

      2. Alice*

        Why do you think the cost of doing business is driven by staff wages as opposed to rent? Commercial rents in some parts of Manhattan went up 89% between 2010 and 2014. Link to follow.

      3. Working Mom Having It All*

        That’s happening because of how commercial real estate works in NYC, and has been a problem since long before the minimum wage increases. Basically, in a lot of cases it’s preferable for commercial landlords to have a storefront sit empty until they can find one of these huge chains that can pay much higher rents to move in, as opposed to renting for a reasonable local market rate to Mom & Pop’s Quirky Record Store And Coffee House. Even though the existence of the latter type of business is the reason NYC has historically been seen as a more desirable place to live or conduct business compared to, like, Phoenix or Houston or wherever.

    2. Seattle*

      Yeah, in Seattle this hasn’t really materialized either. There was one restaurant closure that the owner publicly blamed on the minimum wage, but through a friend who knew her personally, I learned that the real reason was that she was using the restaurant as collateral for a business loan to fund another business that failed. It’s completely normal for businesses to close, and there are many reasons for each closure.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I love when they close down so dramatically. It’s always just propaganda for their agendas.

        Most small businesses fail, it’s just how the cards are stacked. Especially in the food industry. It’s the competition and the fact if you don’t have the chops and skill, you’re not going to last.

  38. Marty*

    Minimum wage is now $15/hour where I live (Alberta, Canada).

    I teach adult education and many of my students are small business owners (running restaurants, small cafes, other businesses). They work unbearably long hours because they cannot afford staff. The staff makes more than they do. Reduced hours is also common.

    As someone who needs childcare, I’m also now expected to pay up to $15/hour for a teenage babysitter. They just won’t do it for less anymore because they can make that at McDonald’s. I haven’t had a “fun time out” in over a year at this rate :/ I can only afford childcare to cover my hours.

    I’m not a fan. Obviously, I understand there are reasons for it, but I also think going up to $15/hour is insane. Our cost of living is not extraordinarily high. As someone who grew up in Vancouver, I think many Albertans who haven’t lived elsewhere don’t quite realize this. Places with lower COL (like Quebec) also have sky high taxes that we don’t.

    1. Ella*

      I was making $10-15 USD an hour babysitting as a teen in a relatively low cost of living city in Ohio 15 years ago… that’s not an unreasonable babysitting rate. A decade and a half later, $15+ an hour is really not an unreasonable amount to pay for childcare.

    2. Manon*

      That’s not an unreasonable rate for a babysitter. I got paid $10 an hour to care for 2 boys, $15 for 3 and that was 5-6 years ago.

      1. deadmonton reader*

        Why shouldn’t your babysitter earn the minimum wage for watching your children? The Alberta government is reducing the minor minimum wage soon enough so you can save $2/hour.

        If your students or business can’t afford staff then they should reconsider if their business is viable in this market. I come from a long line of small business owners in my family and wages are a cost of doing business. If you want competent staff, pay more than minimum wage as well!

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Of course they won’t take less and nor should they. Both are under appreciated work, at least McDonald’s gives you a crew to work with and pal around with. Minus the responsibility for another human life and all that as well.

      Child care is expensive but it’s also criminally underpaid work for everyone from the teenagers to the adults who do it for a full time living.

  39. C Average*

    I work in an upscale grocery store in the Portland metro area, and we recently got an across-the-board raise due to a minimum wage hike.

    This is all anecdata. I’m not drawing any broader conclusions from my own experience, but I’m sharing it anyway.

    We’ve seen a huge drop in morale and a lot of turnover in the last few months, despite the pay raise. Mostly at the lowest tier, the one affected by the raise.

    It’s really brought home to me that most people who work there do so for the quality of life and the benefits, not so much the money.

    Here’s what I’ve observed:

    –Staffing has been cut, making it difficult to meet management’s expectations. If someone calls out sick, we’re swamped, whereas in the past we were staffed such that we could easily absorb an absence or two.
    –Job expectations have risen, and we’re now being asked to do more than is physically possible. Before the raise and the staffing cuts, we already hustled plenty! I think management expected an increase in hustle commensurate with the raise, which . . . isn’t actually doable. It’s made the job really unpleasant, to always be falling short and getting yelled at for it.
    –Quality of life scheduling has been deprioritized. We used to all have relatively consistent days off and a relatively consistent work schedule, and a high likelihood of getting requested PTO approved. With the staffing cuts and the turnover, this is no longer the case. When we complain about it, we get a lot of side-eye from management. I think the attitude is, “We’re paying you more, so you should be willing to inconvenience yourself a little for us.” I don’t think they realize that for a lot of us, the schedule was as valuable as the money, and we really miss that particular benefit.
    –General belt-tightening that’s affected us in multiple ways. Certain supplies don’t get reordered as frequently, so we run out and have to source them from other stores or improvise solutions. The store has become more selective about culling produce, which means we don’t take home lots of bruised but delicious free food, as we used to. We’ve gotten nitpickier about things like coupons, leading to unpleasant customer interactions that bum everyone out.

    In short, what used to be a great workplace now kind of sucks, and the wage increase was a factor. I actually gave my notice today, because it’s just not fun to work there anymore, and if I’m gonna work a minimum wage job (even for a higher minimum wage), it had better be fun!

    1. KeepIt*

      Most of this sounds like management is using the minimum wage increase as an excuse to treat their workers poorly

      1. C Average*

        Agreed. And it’s my hope that it represents an edge case, not the majority of situations.

        Don’t get me wrong, I’m 100% in favor of the minimum wage representing a living wage! And I don’t know that anyone should draw conclusions about broader trends from my experience. Nonetheless, it’s what I’ve experienced and I figured it was worth sharing.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Grocery stores are dying. It’s not the minimum wage it’s the delivery services out there. So this just compounds the issue for you guys.

      Grocery stores have been slashing hours and jobs for a decade now. It reminds me how Hagan’s thought they’d just swoop in and take over the empty Albertson’s and Safeways after their merger meant they consolidated a lot of stores. Within a year they were done.

      1. Samwise*

        Depends on where you are. Some communities are increasing the number of stores, new national chains moving in. Middle to upper middle class areas, low unemployment, lots of colleges and universities in the area, art/culture/ entertainment opportunities = grocery stores are moving into the area and seem to be doing well. The sort of place where people get all excited about Trader Joe’s and Wegman’s moving in.

        Of course, we also have food deserts in the area as well. Depends on the neighborhood and how much people earn there… Capitalism really sucks in a lot of ways.

    3. emmelemm*

      If it’s really an upscale grocery store, they should be able to raise their prices a little bit to help off-set the cost.

    4. Portland area*

      If this is the Portland-area upscale grocery store I’m thinking of, I suspect a lot of it has to do with the ownership changes from a while back. They’ve been getting gradually less “friendly” and more “corporate” as a store over the last decade. I’ve pretty much stopped shopping there as the tone changed.

  40. irene adler*

    Thirty years ago I worked at a large biotech company, making a couple of dollars above minimum wage. The very day the federal minimum wage was increased, the company hiked everyone’s pay by the exact same amount. They told us that this was because everyone was performing so well; they wanted to reward us. Pure coincidence that the increase coincided with the recently increased minimum wage. Okay, whatever.

    At the small biotech where I am now, they absolutely do not increase wages whenever the minimum wage has been increased. Many earn 3-6 dollars above minimum;so it’s very much a morale killer. Feels like we are losing ground.

    1. PretzelGirl*

      This is me, if min wage is increased to $15, I will only make a few dollars above it. I would never take a job at this point in my life making $11.75 an hour (in my area min wage is 8.75). I agree that it should be raised. I just don’t think as many employers will raise it as people think. There are many professional jobs, administrative work and others I am sure that only make a little over $15 an hour. Some make less. My first job out of college I made something like $14 in 2008.

      1. mcr-red*

        I honestly don’t know why people think employers WILL raise it. That is what frustrates me in these discussions. I KNOW I’m not the only one living in an economically depressed area because of misc. circumstances. There are plenty of people out there like myself and my friends, who have been at their jobs for a decade or more, have college degrees, do NOT work in the service industry, and do NOT make $15/hr. And if the federal minimum wage increases to $15/hr, we will all end up making $15/hr or if we’re “lucky,” $16/hr.

  41. DecorativeCacti*

    My city’s minimum wage jumped $0.85 last year. Our lowest paid workers were raised above the minimum wage but no one else got raises. I can’t really say it’s tied to that, though. We haven’t gotten any raise in three years and in the last ten our wages have only gone up 5% (despite minimum wage going up 49% and our area’s CPI going up 25%). Suffice it to say, people are pissed.

  42. Jamie*

    I work in manufacturing and was in management when our city increased min wage from 8.25 to 10.00 (beginning of the increments to $15) while the surrounding area (suburbs) did not have a wage increase.

    Because our local competitors didn’t have the increase in labor to billing that we did raising prices to our customers to cover it wasn’t an option. We’d have gotten out bid on every job.

    We had no part time people so they didn’t cut employee hours and those who were making just above min wage were given $1 increases for the morale reasons noted above, however as it closed the gap morale was still an issue.

    It was a company that used a lot of temp labor and regularly offered “permanent” (scare quotes because no job is permanent) jobs to temps. This stopped resulting in a hiring freeze at that level. We still had the increase in costs as the temp wages went up, but not bringing anyone new on board saved on benefits.

    Overtime was drastically cut which was a huge issue and many people had grown to count on that as part of their salary.

    Health benefits were downgraded to a crappier plan with higher premiums.

    End of year bonuses were severely reduced and for some positions eliminated. There was no officially announced freeze on raises, but anyone who mentioned a raise was dressed down mercilessly behind their backs by management for daring to ask. And it was absolutely held against you. The entire culture shifted harder to the “you should be grateful to have a job at all” and that was always a prevalent sentiment amongst the owners.

    Fwiw I understood the business impact of the labor to billing ratio changing and how it made it harder to remain competitive – but the insistence that none of the impact be absorbed by the owners or family members who worked there was really, really unseemly. 100% of the burden of absorbing the loss was on those who could least afford it.

    Just my experience – I am sure it’s different elsewhere, but I think doing it in one city and not the surrounding area is very problematic in manufacturing.

  43. Elizabeth West*

    The minimum wage is not a livable wage anymore. It hasn’t kept up with inflation and people cannot even afford to fricking eat. They can’t find affordable housing. It’s not like minimum wage workers don’t work hard. They do! But it’s become a series of diminishing returns. You put out all this effort and get nothing back. You can’t get ahead; you can’t even live.

    When I point this out, some folks say, “Well let them get a degree and find a better job.” Not every job can and should require higher education, which puts people in an even more precarious financial position. Tuition costs have skyrocketed, and there aren’t enough of those jobs to go around. Most new jobs in the U.S. are in service industries—food service, retail, and the like, which traditionally pay low wages. So once they graduate, they’ll be right back where they started, but now five or six figures in debt.

    Those industries often don’t treat employees well or give them enough hours to make a living even at a better wage. A lot of food jobs are filled now not by teenagers working after school, like they used to be, but by grown adults who have families to support. And by older people who couldn’t save enough to retire after working minimum-wage jobs for years. The government calculates your Social Security benefits by what you made when you were working. If you don’t make much, they’ll be lower.

    So we can look forward to eating cheap cat food in a decaying flophouse until we die. Whee!

    1. stuff*

      I really get upset when people just say “oh get more education”… we have too many people with too many degrees and not enough jobs that require these degrees. All it does is DEVALUE the degrees because so many people have one that shouldn’t have one/ wouldn’t have needed one.

      Plus, if you can’t afford to eat/pay rent/ go to the doctor unless you work 100 hours a week, how are you supposed to afford/ spend time on school? It doesn’t make any kind of logical sense. We need minimum wage to be a living wage and anyone who wants to make more/ chooses to better themselves should.

      Generation Jobless is a great documentary (about Canada, but same thing is going on in the US) about how messed up our system is and how other countries do it **right**.

      1. Amber Rose*

        Seriously, degrees are crazy expensive! I’m looking at that again right now. I want to go back to school, but it’ll be a painful debt load to do so, or I have to come up with around $600 per class out of pocket. And I happen to be lucky enough to only need to work one job, therefore having time for evening classes. Many are not.

        My first degree cost half as much as my house. My husband will be paying off his until he’s in his 50’s. Mine would have been worse but… well, I got a windfall of sorts that will never happen again.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          For a long stretch, the industry was trading loans like baseball cards and I didn’t even know who had all mine. I had to go into default to find out! After I got them out of default, I was finally able to consolidate and start paying (the interest), only to lose my effing job and now I can’t find another one that pays a living wage.

          I will never, EVER pay off all my student loans because of the interest, unless 1) EW wins the 2020 election and manages to do the loan forgiveness thing; 2) I win the lottery; 3) I write a J.K. Rowling-level bestseller or my book is made into a major motion picture and I get a good cut of the profits; 4) I marry someone wealthy who secretly pays it off as a wedding present; 5) John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight pays off a bunch of loans and mine happens to be one of them.

      2. CupcakeCounter*

        Completely agree! We need more people in skilled trades such as plumbers, electricians, etc… People can make a fantastic living without going into thousands of dollars of debt. My husband and I are both college educated (accountant and engineer) and managed to graduate with less than $10k in loans and secure good jobs. If our son told us he wanted to skip college and get an apprenticeship to a electrician or welder we’d be thrilled.

    2. Dankar*

      I find the higher education argument so frustrating. You’re absolutely right that not every job should require 2-4 years of advanced study. It’s just asking people to sink time and money into an arbitrary indicator that they can do work they were already doing, rather than permitting them to work their way up in the field.

      And if you only need a degree, any degree, people will get them in the catch-alls like business or English and devalue the “returns” when they end up in a position that pays low wages. Then we get this endless cycle of, “You should get a degree so that you make more.” -> “Of course you’re earning low wages, this is entry-level work! Pay your dues and then we’ll see.” -> “No one should get business/English degrees! Those graduates just work unrelated jobs and earn minimum wage.” AAAARRGGH.

      1. OP*

        Yeeeeeeeeeep. The need for degrees is absurd, especially when the cost of said degrees is prohibitive for so many people (not to mention the predatory policies of for-profit colleges, etc).

        I hope that more jobs will start to accept equivalent experience instead of requiring a degree (especially when in a lot of cases, experience is more relevant for the job than the degree itself).

        I wish we had more of an established apprenticeship / trade school system here. Hopefully in the next years more alternatives will pop up, as the cost-benefit analysis of going to college gets worse and worse.

  44. LeahRPA*

    I work in robotic process automation (in consulting so for all sorts of businesses/firms). Our practice has grown dramatically though that started the moment whispers of doubling the minimum wage. We help automate development systems but also things like automated ordering, point of sale solutions, & creating chatbots so that we need less support workers, cashiers, peole to validate parking, etc.
    Cost cutting measures happen all the time but the change seems to have accelerated their switch to automation (which is addmittedly great for us) but does cause staff to be cut in half or duties to be reduced – which leads to a smaller work force in the full time area.

    1. Jamie*

      Great point. When responding above I had forgotten to mention that while cutting benefits and OT they were investing considerably in robotics to further eliminate positions.

    2. JohannaCabal*

      This. Almost every McDonald’s I go in now has an automated kiosk for placing your order.

  45. Esve*

    Not sure why people think it wouldn’t be demoralising. I’m not in the US, but minimum wage is gradually increasing here and the payscale at my company is absolutely not. Pretty soon there will be no benefit to me staying in my faiely challenging/stressful (and underpaid) role. I could just go back to the role I started in years ago, which is incredibly easy, and I’ll barely be worse off. Better off maybe, as at least I could relax and have more energy to pursue things outside of work. I have no problem with people getting paid more (at all!), but the fact that many employers won’t adjust payscales is a problem.

    1. Amber Rose*

      If you’re underpaid, how does other people making less money than you change that? Maybe consider why you feel better about being underpaid just because you make more than the lowest earners in your company. And then advocate for yourself to be paid what you’re worth.

      If you weren’t demoralized before, then there should be no change in that now just because some other people make more money.

      1. Esve*

        Because if I started off underpaid, I’m far more underpaid now the gap has almost closed! Not sure why that’s difficult to understand. I WAS demoralised before and am getting moreso by the day. Believe me, I’m looking at my options, but don’t try and rephrase this as me just being happy that some people earn less than me. That’s a ridiculous misrepresentation of what the issue is.

        1. Amber Rose*

          No you’re not? You’re exactly the same amount of underpaid. It’s just that minimum wage folks are less underpaid, while you are still the same. Nothing about your situation has changed.

          Wages are measured in value to the company, not in distance from minimum wage.

          1. mcr-red*

            Generally, a lot of business use minimum wage as a beginner salary. At least around here they do. So you would expect that the longer you are at a business, and grow your skills/abilities and most importantly, expected workload, the wage would reflect that.

            So now you have Fergus making $15 minimum wage. Fergus is fresh out of college and is given Project A to do. Esve, at the same company, has worked there for 10 years. Before the increase, Esve got paid $13 an hour to do Projects B, C, D, E, F and G, because Esve is a hard worker and has a lot of experience in the projects. With the increase Esve now gets paid $16 an hour (or worse $15) to do projects B, C, D, E, F and G, while Fergus gets paid $15 to do Project A.

            How is Esve not more underpaid?

            1. Amber Rose*

              Because nothing about her situation has changed. She was always underpaid, and is still underpaid. Your worth doesn’t change just because someone else’s does. That’s literally not how any of this works.

              You can call minimum wage “beginner salary” all you want, the fact is, you either are paid what you’re worth or you aren’t. And if you started at $10 an hour when that was minimum and worked hard and made it to $15 and now suddenly that’s the entry level, then either your company will start raising hiring standards so the newbies are worth what you are, or you can make a case for being worth more.

              I’m sorry, but this passivity is driving me crazy. Upset about your wage? DO. SOMETHING. ABOUT. IT. Ask for a raise. Ask for a promotion. Ask for more training opportunities. Work hard to find a job that doesn’t pay garbage and treat people like garbage.

              Don’t complain that others are being lifted up when you won’t put in the work to lift yourself up.

              1. mcr-red*

                I’ve been working for 10 YEARS trying to get a new job and get out of this crap one in which my pay is stagnant and I get more and more responsibilities. I have asked for promotions. There are none. I have talked to my boss so many times about raises, who says corporate will just not give money for raises, and is constantly ready to cut jobs. I have went to job interview after job interview. The competition for even retail jobs around here is fierce. I would LOVE to pick up and move, but until my husband’s dad DIED, we were stuck in this crap area taking care of his elderly father. Now we have the problem of not being able to pay for two mortgages or a mortgage and rent if we pick up and move, so we’d need to sell our house. Except no one wants to buy a house in this area, and they sit for YEARS.

                So don’t you dare tell me to work harder to get a raise or work harder to find a different job and act like I’m not putting in the work to get out of this.

                1. Amber Rose*

                  I’m not talking about you at all. I’m saying, if everyone put in the work, companies wouldn’t have a choice. This is literally why unions are a thing.

                  But the fact is, in your specific case, your ire should be aimed at your shit company, not at the people who have been fighting for decades to get the government to raise minimum wage. You’re undervalued with awful management, and having everyone else be the same way or not does not change that.

              2. DKMA*

                You keep saying nothing has changed, and that she is complaining about the wage change, neither of these things are true.

                Something has changed – her options – she was willing to be underpaid for a bad job when she didn’t have other options, she’s not if she has other options.

                Therefore the consequence of a minimum wage increase will be that she is more likely to leave the job for morale issues. Now, in reality she doesn’t really have lower morale than she did before, she is just more empowered to act on the same low morale. From her employer’s perspective they now have a bigger morale problem.

                You are being fairly unkind to this person who is explaining a dynamic to you that you don’t seem willing to listen to.

              3. JamieS*

                Yes she would be more underpaid because the value of a dollar isn’t static. If it were everyone making $8+ would be living high on the hog.

                When labor costs go up the cost of living increases as well. So yes someone would be more underpaid if their wage didn’t rise in proportion to the wage increase because the value of their dollar would diminish.

      2. CupcakeCounter*

        Even if you are well compensated for what you do, you are not going to be excited about doing hard, demanding work for $65k if you can do a significantly less stressful job for $63k.
        I don’t think anyone is upset that the minimum wage is rising for people who cannot survive on what is currently being paid. I do think people who have worked very hard to get where they are and have been rewarded with raises, promotions, and more responsibility are not going to happy when someone significantly below them gets an economic realignment to a much higher wage very close to what they are making without having to put in the work and time.
        Lets say that you were hired on at the same time as Paul for the exact same role and pay. 3 years later due to lots of hard work with excellent results you have received several good raises and a promotion. Paul has done a good job but nothing more than what is expected for that role and therefore has only gotten the minimum COL increase. 6 months later, Paul is given a raise that brings him to exactly the same salary as you because of a government mandate. His role is still what you both started at while you have significantly more difficult tasks and a higher title. Are you happy right now? Before Paul’s economic realignment you were very happy with your salary. Do you think you are being fairly paid now or do you think you should have been given a comparable salary bump? How about if Paul was bumped up $10k and you were only given another $1k? You are working more hours and have more pressure on you and Paul is making the same as you while still doing the job you were both hired for 3 1/2 years ago.
        Most humans want to be fairly compensated for the work they put in. If I am putting in more work and have significantly more responsibility than Paul I want to be paid more than Paul by an amount that reflects the “more” I am doing. Last week that was $10k more than the value Paul was bringing. Now because of some X-factor the company is saying my contribution is not worth any more than Paul even while requiring more from me.

        1. Amber Rose*

          “Even if you are well compensated for what you do, you are not going to be excited about doing hard, demanding work for $65k if you can do a significantly less stressful job for $63k.”

          Then take the less stressful job. You don’t get any gold medals for working a thankless job you hate. If the company starts losing all of it’s $65K folks to $63K jobs, then they’ll be more motivated to raise wages.

          ” 6 months later, Paul is given a raise that brings him to exactly the same salary as you because of a government mandate. His role is still what you both started at while you have significantly more difficult tasks and a higher title. Are you happy right now? Before Paul’s economic realignment you were very happy with your salary. Do you think you are being fairly paid now or do you think you should have been given a comparable salary bump? ”

          If I was happy before, then I am still happy, because my worth is not decreased by Paul being worth more. If I’m not happy and feel I’m underpaid for my work, I read up on AAM, prepare my documents, and present my case for a raise. That said, much like how you can’t ask for raises because your personal bills have gone up, it’s not very reasonable to ask for a raise because other people make almost as much as you. That’s not how individual value works.

          “How about if Paul was bumped up $10k and you were only given another $1k? You are working more hours and have more pressure on you and Paul is making the same as you while still doing the job you were both hired for 3 1/2 years ago.”

          I’d probably ask for a demotion at that point. Or a promotion. Depends what my career goals are.

          “Now because of some X-factor the company is saying my contribution is not worth any more than Paul even while requiring more from me.”

          Advocate for yourself then. Instead of expecting the world to do it for you.

        2. Gazebo Slayer*

          Why do you even care what Paul is paid? Why does “Paul doing better” have to equal “you doing worse”?
          What a petty, spiteful outlook on life.

    2. kc89*

      Almost every comment like this has included something like “(and underpaid) role”

      The problem isn’t what people below you are making, it’s that you aren’t making enough to keep you happy

      If there is no benefit to staying in your fairly challenging/stressful role, why not go back to the role that would be incredibly easy and you would barely be worse off?

      1. Esve*

        The problem is an underpaid role becomes obscenely underpaid once the minimum wage increases. That’s why you’re seeing these comments!

        1. goducks*

          If your profession is underpaid for the effort you have to expend to do the job, and there’s another job out there that’s easier and pays essentially the same, changing to the easier job seems like a perfectly rational thing to do.
          So often what I think this comes down to is the idea that those easier jobs are somehow “beneath” the person. They think they’re better than the other job. So if the other job pays something near what they’re currently being paid, it’s an insult to them, because they’re too good for that type of work. Even though they could earn similarly and have a happier, easier time with less stress. It’s ego, and that’s it.

          1. fposte*

            I don’t think that’s fair, I don’t think moving jobs is that easy, and I also don’t think that stress correlates with pay the way people are suggesting.

            Are there people who think they’re too good to work [whatever]? Of course there are. But most of the people talking about the problems of wage compression in these comments aren’t saying that.

  46. Sally Forth*

    I am on the board of a non-profit in British Columbia. Our full time employees are far above the minimum wage line, but when the minimum wage went up, we had to budget for our part-time and summer student employees, who are traditionally $2-3 an hour above minimum wage. There are often government grant programs here to hire summer students at minimum wage and we cover the gap. What I have seen is that in this low unemployment market, the non-profits who don’t bump up PAST minimum wage, even this higher minimum wage, aren’t filling their entry level job openings.

  47. Moocowcat*

    Moral was high in my company when the minimum wage increased. People in the higher income brackets were happy for our coworkers seeing the increase. Salaries in the middle or upper levels did not go up. (We’re paid a living wage already. ) Later in the year, our group RRSP plan improved.

  48. ForTheLoveOfSpreadsheets*

    You are clearly a city/county employee, so I wonder if this is covered by Civil Service Laws? Might be worth a check. Another good approach would be to unionize, you may even be able to join an existing union. I know its state-dependent how well unions work, but this is exactly the type of situation that collective bargaining is useful for.

    1. Brett*

      Generally, no, civil service laws do not take minimum wage into account.
      Often it is the opposite, minimum wage specifically cannot be taken into account unless a wage is below minimum wage.
      Have to be extremely careful with collective bargaining too. Many states exempt public sector collective bargaining agreements from state and local minimum wage. So, if you unionize, then the government you work for can negotiate for contracted wages below the local minimum wages, as long as it is above federal minimum wage.

  49. Yay Area*

    The minimum wage in the SF Bay area is 15 in many (but not all) cities, and going up in some. These increases were passed to help people be able to afford to live here. I’m mixed. I don’t know how sustainable it is to keep increasing the minimum wage. I know there have been a rash of places closing, especially restaurants, but I don’t know how much of that is tied to leases being exorbitant, or differing tastes of the influx of new people to the area, or the glut of restaurants. It can’t help that wages have gone up 50% in the last few years, though. And it still isn’t enough to live – you cannot afford an apartment in the bay area on $30,000 a year. But the same people that eagerly vote for increases in the minimum wage (which other people will have to deal with) vehemently protest when they try to build apartments near them (which would impact their lives). It’s maddening to me.

    It’s hard for me to say if this has caused an increase in wages generally – I think the price of housing/outsized salaries of local tech companies also complicates the picture. It is really hard to keep a good person at $40,000 a year if they can make 2 or 3 times that by working at a tech start up down the road.

    1. Just a thought*

      The Bay Area is a special beast. A lot of the normal rules about working don’t seem to apply. Notably, loyalty to employers is ridiculously low among the tech sector with average tenures in the <3 years category, and wages are built to stack up to "market rate" at a similar pace accordingly (if you have a lot of new workers making a move because they can't get a raise at their current place, you need to match expectations, so people keep moving in order to get raises, etc., etc.).

      The cost of living here is absolutely bonkers and I don't know how people do it on less than six figures. A minimum wage of $15/hr sounds so exorbitant because it's being compared to its current $8.25/hr, but when your average 1 bedroom apartment costs more than two weeks of your full-time $15/hr labor, pre-tax, it's real easy to remember how long it's been since the last increase.

      For the record, I'm one of the would-be NIMBYs because of my income bracket but I am also desperate to see more housing built. Where I live specifically, my 1-mile radius, we're getting an influx of 250 new units in the next 1-2 years and my biggest complaint is just that they aren't addressing the transportation infrastructure to readily accommodate the impending population boom. Build away, friends, build away.

    2. Ella*

      The NIMBYism that prevents more housing being build in the bay area is something of a separate beast than the minimum wage raises, in my opinion. There are too many people in the area who are desperate to prevent high occupancy buildings from going up or more affordable housing from being built in the area (because it would “ruin the skyline” or bring more “undesirable” people into the neighborhood” without considering the fact that service industry workers can’t afford to pay the several thousand dollars a month in rent that the lack of housing and influx of highly paid tech workers have created. That’s less about what minimum wage is (though a higher minimum will certainly help at least some people afford rent) and more about the need to build more high occupancy, affordable housing rather than low occupancy, luxury housing.

      1. Yay Area*

        I think the people opposing building new housing (which would at the very least help to flatten rents if not decrease them) are happy to vote for minimum wage increases as the solution to making the area more affordable (nevermind the fact that 15/hr isn’t enough to live on if an apartment rents for $2,000 a month).
        Which is one of my issues with how I see liberalism/progressiveness play out in the Bay – so often it is about making other people pay for stuff (the perennial “tax the rich”) rather than taking on the burden ourselves and having hard conversations about what we want and how to pay for it.

      2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        Also, part of it is that if the supply of housing goes up, and thus the cost of housing goes down, someone bought a $1.3 million starter home stands to lose a good bit of money in the deal, and they might not be able to take that hit again.

        It’s not helpful to the population on the whole, but I understand why it happens.

      3. Gumby*

        Additionally, all of this new housing tends to be “luxury apartments” which are not going to make more housing affordable. Why build a standard apartment that you can rent for $2500/mo when you can slap some granite countertops down and rent for $3500? Correction: $5872. A legit price listed for a 1 bedroom place (814 sq. ft) in some of the newer construction in Redwood City. That is the 12-month lease rate. It drops down a touch if you will go for a 20-month lease.