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I have been reading a lot about the protests going on, apparently throughout the United States, where fast food workers want to make a minimum of $15 per hour.  Last week here in Detroit, a bunch of workers protested, and 25-30 got arrested after they took to the streets…literally, by blocking traffic on major thoroughfares during the morning rush hour.

I have to be perfectly blunt on where I stand with this issue, and it's not at all with the workers.  Before you paint me as some heartless scumbag, let me outline my reasons.

  1. You lost me when you shut down traffic – If workers wanted to gather and demonstrate to get media attention, fine.  But when they shut down traffic, sorry, you lost me.  The people whom they were blocking traffic for were regular people just trying to get to their jobs.  And, the demonstrators made it so that they couldn't.  Innocent people with no skin in the game became collateral damage to those looking to make a point that could have been made without negatively affecting other people.  I equate this to people in traffic that pull out in front of other people before traffic clears, because they don't want to wait a spot.  You shouldn't make your problem other people's problem.
  2. A real world comparison – Somebody I know worked at a day care facility taking care of a room full of toddler age children.  She worked there for seven years and was barely making $11 per hour.  She left that job to go to one that paid closer to $15, which she got only after negotiating.  Sorry, but you'll never convince me that taking care of children all day, being instrumental in their development, and overseeing their well being for a huge chunk of their young lives is worthy of less compensation than working in a fast food environment.
  3. The market does not and can not bear $15 – If fast food companies could not find enough qualified people to work at lower wages, then the wages would go up. Pure and simple.  But, since they can find plenty of applicants to work at lower wages, free market theory indicates that there's no rational economic reason for $15 to be paid.
  4. Paying $15 would mean job losses – Simple cause and effect tells me this: If fast food minimum wages went up to $15, prices would go up.  If prices go up, people would buy less fast food.  If people bought less fast food, restaurants would close.  If restaurants close, workers lose their job.  Bottom line, there's no way the market could simply absorb these costs without a portion of workers going from what they make today to zero.
  5. No company has a responsibility to provide employees with a standard of living – The basic premise behind the $15 number is that the current minimum wage is not high enough for a worker to support themselves.  I don't dispute that.  In fact, simple math tells me it's true.  But, where is it the responsibility of the fast food companies to provide this?  Call me heartless, but the fact of the matter is that any company is expected to provide fair wages for the work performed.  That's what I get.  While it so happens that I do make enough to support my family, what if that changed?  What if there was an illness and we couldn't afford treatment on my salary?  Do I have a right to march in and demand more money?  Of course not.  What if my wife and I decided to take after the Duggan's and shoot for 19 kids?  Would I go into my bosses office after each birth and demand a raise?  No.  That's silly.

The point is that while $10 per hour (roughly the minimum wage) is peanuts compared to some of the costs, I don't think that simply demanding an industry specific artificial prop is the answer.  There are other ways that each person has to work through and take personal responsibility for making the decisions about:

  • Reduce expenses – I'd be interested to see how many of the protesters have smart phones with high data plans with which they go to social media to propegate their 'cause'.
  • Side hustle – There are other ways to make money when you're not at work.  Cut grass, shovel snow, clean windows, write a blog, or any other number of things.
  • Second jobs – When I hear stories about my parents and grandparents generations, there are multiple stories of people who worked multiple jobs.  It's hard, it can be grueling, but it's what people have done when the first job isn't enough.

Personally, I hearken the whole thing to the Occupy Wall Street movement of a few years ago, as the common theme is trying to take ones problems and project them to others in order to gain a solution, rather than working the solution themselves.  I just can't get behind that especially when it involves, you know, blocking traffic.

Readers, what do you think about the whole uprising going on for $15 per hour wages?