$15 per Hour To Flip a Hamburger???

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That’s what the economically-ignorant workers at many of the country’s fast food restaurants want. It’s so that they can make a “living” wage. Why so stingy with themselves? Why not $50 per hour or $100 per hour? Then they would really have a living wage.

As Peter Schiff pointed out in his excellent analysis of minimum wage laws:

The way it is supposed to work is that people do not choose to start families until they can earn enough to support them. Lower wage jobs enable workers to eventually acquire the skills necessary to earn wages high enough to support a family. Does anyone really think a kid with a paper route [or a fast food worker] should earn a wage high enough to support a family [or support himself, for that matter]?

MEMO to all workers (low-wage or otherwise): It is the marketthat determines the price of a product or service (i.e., labor).

If the buyer of a product (i.e., customer) or service (i.e., employer) determined the price, everything would cost a penny (or, in the case of salary/wages, we’d all be paid whatever the minimum wage was that was artificially set by the government*). If the seller of a product (manufacturer/retailer) or service (employee) determined the price, we’d all be paying hundreds or thousands or even millions of dollars for readily abundant products (such as hamburgers) or services (such as the people who flip hamburgers).
*According to the Labor Department, the average fast food worker actually makes $9.00 per hour—which is above the $7.25 per hour minimum wage.

UPDATE: Fast food employee Michael writes:

This was surprisingly so personal and in one of my favorite places on the Net! I work in fast food.

While I, duh, defend the right of people to associate with fellow and other workers for peaceful unionization, to walk out en masse and such, I am skeptical to say the least about the practicality in this instance considering the firm competition, the age of the workforce, the high labor turnover, language barriers, and so on. This seems quite susceptible to consumers and employers just firing them, as they have the right to do.

As far as a “living wage” or whatever, I do make over minimum wage and that is in under a year and in this economy. I also have saved over a third of my wage income before taxes. So, it is indeed possible to live and relatively prosper on such an income. Sharing housing, living close to work, not having kids, and avoiding use and abuse of drugs goes a long way, and there is nothing undignified or unjust about facing reality so. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the sense to avoid college debt or at least delay it until I had a better motive or plan beyond appeasing others. My current source of education is primarily my Kindle, and it is quite a bit more affordable and enjoyable.

I’d like a real $15 an hour for my job, a lot more even, but count me beyond skeptical that unionization could legitimately get me there. Also, as hostile to the illegitimate aspects of actual unions.

I would also like to take this chance to thank all the writers at LRC. I can’t thank y’all enough for persuading me so absolutely away from the establishment. It is a big thing to me at least, but it is my intention to maintain my record of never voting.

Merrill Hess writes:

Although I work for a state agency, I’ve tried to introduce free market and Austrian ideas into my job search workshops. My primary objective has been to re-orient the participant’s thinking about employment. My desire is to help wash out the garbage that has been fed to them since childhood. Hopefully, they gain a new perspective as well as a better handle on their futures.

On wages, I am constantly surprised to see the reactions when I tell people they will never be rich working at a dollar per hour job. It’s like they have had an epiphany. It still baffles me how most people simply never think about such obvious things.

Next, I ask them to think about the nature of employment — that a job is just a form of financial transaction. They trade their time and efforts for wages in a voluntary economic exchange, just as if the employer were buying a gallon of milk. That they are in effect business persons and they themselves and their talents, time, and labor are the assets of their business.

Once they grasp this idea, we discuss wages. Rarely will I find anyone who thinks of wages as a negotiable item. They simply accept or reject what is offered. Of course, the inevitable question arises, “Why don’t employers pay more. I need more than they pay.” This gets us into concepts of value. I ask them to put themselves in place of the employer. “If you need someone to cook meals in your restaurant, do you pay them what they think they are worth? Or would you pay them what the result of their work is worth to you, subject to whether you could pay someone else to do it for less?” “Do you pay the worker what they think they are worth or do you pay them for the value of the work?” Mind blown.

Once the participants understand the role of value in the labor market, their perspective usually changes. I encourage them to conduct research. Find ways to make themselves valuable to an employer. Find a way to solve a problem the employer is facing. Find a way to improve their business. Make yourself invaluable.

Not all catch the whole message but all of them catch parts. For the ones who do, it is immensely rewarding to see their excitement and watch them walk out of the room as if they are two feet above the ground.

11:10 am on November 30, 2012