Profiting from cheap labor

Concerning the recent minimum wage debate and our newly appointed state Representative Ed Read’s position on the matter, according to the Vermont Digger website:

“I support small business in the state of Vermont and I support senior citizens in the state of Vermont, and anybody who votes for this bill, I don’t think supports that,” Read is quoted as saying.

Ed, I’d like to say that I agree with you. I’d like to say I support small businesses (which is the real focal point of the argument) in favor of not raising the minimum wage.

We can never allow businesses to be the X-factor in determining a fair wage for the people who perform the actual work a business provides.

The question a representative must ask themselves is, How many people exist in Vermont? How many of those people work for at or near the minimum wage? And then the other question needs to be, how many small business owners exist, and how many of them are profiting from cheap labor?

The moral and ethical question one must pose concerning this debate is, if a business cannot afford to pay its employees an honest and livable wage (the amount of which business owners absolutely cannot be allowed to dictate), then perhaps that business should reduce the number of employees or seek business elsewhere.

It can never be the responsibility of the people who profit from cheap labor to determine the amount they are to be required to pay those whom they profit from. That is a closed loop in which the masses suffer from low income due to small businesses complaining about needing to pay a sufficiently compensatory wage.

The minimum wage has never risen with inflation. It was implemented at $7.25 nationally in September of 1991. It is currently still $7.25 nationally, and $10.50 here in Vermont, as of January 2018.

A gallon of gas in 1991 cost $1.14; today the average is $2.80. However, the difference between the current gallon of gas is nearly $2 more in terms of cost differences ($3.14 or 34 cents more, which we’ve seen at the pump, would be a $2 increase). Assuming the purchase of only gasoline, a minimum earner will have virtually no additional money left over to provide them with any other necessities. Just to clarify the math, $10.50 minus $2 = $8.50, so factoring in the difference of nearly 30 years of inflation since 1991, leaves minimum wage having risen $1.25.

On top of that, an earner needs to buy food, have a place to live, insure their vehicle (if they can afford one), pay electricity, heat, clothing, shoes, medical coverage, cosmetics (shampoo, razors, toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc.) and needs to be able to perhaps save just a little bit of money so that they can pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get out of the nightmare of working for minimum wage perhaps by taking some college courses.


Tell me, Ed, with that remaining $1.25 per hour, how many hours does one need to work per week to cover all of that? 500, 600? 1,000?

Ed Read has only examined one area of concern around raising the minimum wage and as a small business owner it is clearly in his favor to prevent said minimums from rising.

For the many hundreds of thousands who cannot afford to pay the cost of living and must work endless hours for pennies on the dollar in terms of what they are paid versus the cost to exist, they could really give a damn about the small business owners who do not pay them a livable wage.

And, as a state representative, Ed, you should be beholden to the masses, not those who, like you, own small businesses and will suffer a loss in income should the state mandate a minimum wage raise.

The debate, of course, falls to if the small business owners go out of business due to not being able to afford paying their workers a livable wage, where then will those workers earn any money? The answer (as a true statesmen would arrive at) would be, it is not the place of a business owner to dictate state legislative mandates, and though initially some might suffer, the scale of business will always right itself either through a mass exodus of people leaving the state to find employment elsewhere or through the measure of employers cropping up who are able to pay a livable wage in place of those businesses who prevented that business from existing before.

Either way, the solution cannot reside with a small number of people profiting from cheap labor making the decision about what they will pay. There are other areas of concern that must be examined.

Sallerson lives in Warren.

Tagged under Vermont minimum wage
The Valley Reporter - serving Vermont's Mad River Valley since 1971