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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Asking the Piper to pay back

There is a good bit of discussion going on recently in Chicago about what is known as the 'Big-Box Ordinance', which would expect 'big-box' retailers to pay a higher wage than minimum, and offer benefits (I think it is $10 per hour in wages, and $3 per hour in benefits). Wal-Mart, among others, is going all-out to oppose this measure, unsurprisingly, as they are just opening their first store within the city boundaries.

It is straightforward why Wal-Mart (and others) would resist paying higher wages (a 'living wage', although $10/hr. does not exactly solve everyone's problems): because it is their goal to reduce all possible costs in doing business. But in today's Chicago Tribune column, Eric Zorn mentions another reason why they might be resisting so mightily: because it won't at all be the disaster they are predicting, but would work out just fine.

He cites examples from Santa Fe, NM, San Francisco, CA, and the state of Wisconsin where they have raised minimum wages in the name of a 'living wage', and shows that these laws have either made no impact on business, or accompanied job and revenue growth.

Zorn expands on this, saying that '...the bigger reason I'm skeptical of these Chicken Little forecasts is that we always, always hear them when pro-worker reforms are proposed.
When have business interests not predicted unintended calamities at proposals to raise the minimum wage, institute workplace safety measures or impose environmental restrictions?
Threats that jobs will dry up and communities will suffer if employees get a better deal are the "Wolf!" cry of the industrial age. If the free-market alarmists had had their way at every turn, we'd have no minimum wage, no regulations to cushion workers riding the roller coaster of pure capitalism, toxic air and water, and even less of a labor movement than we have now.'

I think he is right. Only unlike the boy who cried 'wolf', just to have no one listen when there actually was one, these little boys are crying 'wolf' and we're tending to listen to them even with no wolf in evidence. I suppose the next thing they will do is go out and procure a wolf -- no doubt from overseas, and paying him minimum wage -- to give some teeth to their complaints.

(The rest of the column is here. Check out the comments on that page, too: there are a number of people who are sceptical of Wal-Mart coming into the city, even with this legislation in place.)

4 Comments:

Blogger Peter Young said...

I am against the Big Box Ordinance due to its blatant unfairness. And no I'm not fronting for WalMart. It horribly unfair to those who don't work for WalMart.

Why not just raise the minimium wage for everyone? What about the poor bugger who isn't lucky enough to work for WalMart. When I was just starting out I worked for Burger King for a lousy $3.35 minimium wage. I worked just as hard as those lucky enough to work at Sears (no WalMart in Gurnee at the time) or Penney's. Plus, how many poor people work for those thankless multibillion dollar fast food corporations. Don't they deserve a living wage too.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006 12:22:00 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

Would you support raising the minimum wage?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006 3:39:00 AM  
Blogger Peter Young said...

Possibly. I believe there are better ways of making everyone life better, such as universal healthcare. But I am not opposed to a higher minimium wage. Of course, this all depends upon what we consider the wage to be. I would like to see it set as a percentage of the poverty rate.

Thursday, July 27, 2006 4:06:00 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

You make a very good point, v-v the square footage of the stores -- McDonald's is a huge corporation, but would be exempt from such legislation (now passed by a veto-proof majority, I understand). I would also support universal healthcare; perhaps also universal retirement benefits (let's leave to one side the question of whether this was the intention of soc. sec. or not, that's beyond my point). Those, coupled with a (more) living wage, would be a good start.

Thursday, July 27, 2006 4:52:00 AM  

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