It has been said that a rising tide lifts all boats, which seems clear and to the point. But when it comes to raising the minimum wage, which most commonly applies to low-skilled workers, often found in the fast food industry, fast-food franchise owners shake their fists and declare they can’t afford it — any change is simply too high. With all the complaining, however, about how minimum wage increases hurt businesses, it seems that few are pointing at the elephant in the room as to the real failure of any particular business: relevancy.
On Monday, Aug. 10, the Wall Street Journal published a story about how Wendy’s franchise owners will most likely cut jobs by replacing some workers with automated kiosks. Top executives blame minimum wage as the culprit. But in a report by Franchisehelp.com, “Fast Food Industry Analysis 2015 — Cost & Trends,” there is not one mention of how minimum wage is hurting the profit margin of fast-food restaurants. In fact, it states that the fast-food industry is in the predicament it is now, i.e., seeing lower profit margins, because of 1. a demand for a higher quality of food due to media exposing harmful health impacts, 2. commodity prices on the rise, and 3. market saturation. The fast-food industry has been cutting corners for years and now it wants to put the blame on legislators who want to ensure that employees earn higher wages for a better quality of life; and then take it out on employees by cutting jobs or hours. There is reality and then there is spin, but there is no sense in taking it out on employees who are just as in-need of a decent life as the higher-ups. The fear of becoming irrelevant, obsolete, valueless is a hard reality to bear — that the general public isn’t as interested in fast food any more as it was 10, 20, 30 years ago — but it’s better to improve the business model than to further damage the business by showing a lack of care for those who work there.
Years ago, a conservative business owner who operated an ever-expanding plumbing business was heard speaking of minimum wage and even raising it, saying he was in favor of it. When confronted about how many conservatives are against the idea, he said that a business owner needs to be good at running a business and avoid cutting jobs or resisting wage increases while looking at ways to expand the business to make up for higher costs. Understandably, this philosophy can’t necessarily be applied to every business owner, but certainly, we can change and even embrace wage increases by ending the “victim of legislation” rhetoric and focusing on how to be better business owners.
In the meantime, there is some good news. In SeaTac, Washington, with a minimum wage of $15, which began in January 2014, unemployment decreased from 5.7 percent to 4.9 percent. The national average is 5.5 percent. So if the impact of raising the minimum wage can result in lack of job loss and, in fact, improve the overall employment rate, at least in SeaTac, what are we waiting for?