A little matter of 25 cents.

31 01 2010

A recent decision to increase the minimum wage by 25 cents an hour as outraged many of the hard Right.

One complained “I was going to employ a student to tidy up my filing room and do a few other odd jobs around the office, but now its too expensive.” Can this be true? That the value of having an organised filing system doesn’t warrant a few hundred dollars in wages? this person would rate be less productive, or perhaps plans to tidy the files herself, at an assumed hourly rate of $80.

Another said “There are some jobs that are patently and clearly not worth paying someone $12.50 per hour (let alone $15) to do. As a small business owner, am I going to employ another person at $15 per hour to perform tasks that are rightly worth somewhere considerably south of that, or am I simply going to distribute those tasks among my other employees (or do them myself)?”

Again, prepared to do the job for $80.00 an hour makes no economic sense.

This debate reminded me of the decision by Justice Higgins in the Harvester Case, as it became known, in 1907. Higgins, J determined that a wage of 2 pounds 2 shillings per week was the absolute minimum for a male worker to provide a decent standard of living. He outlined civilised habits, frugal comforts, decent shelter, partitioned rooms, fresh air, water to wash in, enough wholesome food, and provision for ‘rainy days as essential for a decent standard of living.

I wonder if $12.75 an hour today meets the standard of living envisaged in 1907. I doubt it.




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