LETTERS: Minimum wage hike hurts teens, helps unions


To the editor:

A U.S. congressman of my acquaintance told me years ago about elected officeholders, “We never do anything for the reasons we tell the public.”

They’re still at it. Case in point: the massive push to raise the federal minimum wage. We’re told it will raise millions of people out of poverty and dramatically improve our economy. Don’t be surprised when you see weepy, unwed mothers on the TV news painfully recounting hardships of raising babies on the paltry sums paid by rich, greedy, fast-food operators and retail store owners.

But you won’t see anything abut bright-eyed teenagers in their first job, eager to earn extra money for school, a car, or to help out with the family finances. No one will tell you how those teenagers learn work habits and responsibility, preparing them for a complex and competitive future so that they won’t have to work in these places all their lives. Imagine how they feel when the boss says, “Go home. Your job is gone. We can’t afford you anymore.”

The fact of the matter is that minimum wage workers are in families with an average total income of $53,000. That’s because the minimum wage earner is rarely the family’s primary provider. Full-time minimum wage workers account for perhaps 3 to 4 percent of the total workforce. Most of these jobs are intended to be entry-level, and many of the people working them earn tips on top of their wages. Yes, an increase in the minimum wage will certainly be needed and welcomed by a whole lot of folks. But a recent study released by the Congressional Budget Office estimated that 500,000 jobs could eventually be lost as a result of the proposed action. Ouch.

So who is really behind this? Advocates for the poor? Burger Flippers of America? How about labor unions? Many union contracts provide a provision for pay increases every time the minimum wage increases. Most union workers are already paid far above the minimum. Minimum wage increases lead to either automatic raises for many union workers or trigger immediate reopening of negotiations. These provisions are especially prevalent in contracts with retail and service workers. That has a big impact here in Las Vegas.

And when these automatic increases kick in for all those unionized public employees, that money comes right out of your taxpaying pocket. A whopping 92 percent of union political contributions go to the Democratic Party. This whole scheme smells like a blatant political payoff.

You decide: Are the benefits of increasing the minimum wage at this particular time worth all the entry-level jobs that will be lost now or never created later?

PHILIP WATERMAN

LAS VEGAS

 

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