Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Minimum Wage, Again

Stack of newspapers with "Breaking News!" headline
Nicholas Watt, The Guardian - October 15, 2014

So, the debate over paying some disabled workers less than Minimum Wage has come up in the UK. It’s interesting how the same arguments, pro and con, rise to the surface.

I think there’s one thought that’s missing from most of these stories and discussions. While I believe that far too many disabled workers are assumed to be sub-par in their work abilities, due to their disabilities, I also think it’s pretty obvious that there are some disabilities that really do prevent people from handling a “normal” job. That’s Lord Freud’s justification for paying less than Minimum Wage, and the reason most often given for continuing the practice here in the U.S.

All of which takes for granted the idea that the only factor in determining wages should be productivity.

Yet, some of those who defend these sub-minimum wage schemes most vigorously do so because they see certain disabled workers as, essentially, needy people who require special considerations and protections. If that’s so, then why not agree that for these folks in particular, we will all just agree to pay them at least Minimum Wage, whether or not they “earn it”, strictly speaking? Presumably, the taxpayers will spend to assist these people anyway. Why not do so through subsidizing Minimum Wage, or better yet, through minutely higher prices for the products and services of companies who pay those wages? Or maybe (shocker), some of these companies that love to show off how charitable they are to disabled workers could actually just pay them a bit more and take it out of their massive profits.

In fact, we already subsidize companies that pay less than minimum … through SSI and Developmental Disability services that make up for the wage gap. And in the UK, through whatever support systems they have.

One other thing. If you have a job, do you always, every day, every hour of every day, work at your full capacity? Do you always earn exactly what you are paid?