Minimum wage means if they could pay you less, they would

Today, the price of hiring someone got a little higher.

I’ve worked minimum wage jobs, but not since my time at the University of Massachusetts.  I’ve also hired people at minimum wage – and, more importantly, NOT hired people because of minimum wage.  Today’s $7.25/hour federal minimum wage comes nearly a decade after Massachusetts hiked their $5.25/hour rate to $5.75, then $6.25, then $6.75 over the course of a year and a half.  That sucked for me – I didn’t have work-study assistance, the program where the federal government pays two-thirds of a student’s hourly rate, so while I cost an extra $1.50/hour, others would only cost an extra $.50.  It also sucked for Chris, the guy who ran the Coolidge Snack Bar.

The Coolidge Snack Bar was a business venture undertaken by us nerds who participated in the dorm council for Coolidge Tower at UMass.  Using some seed money from what can best be called tax dollars, the snack bar provided a social space for the 550 people who lived in the building.  The initial business plan called for a manager – a glorified term for someone to work the cash register, serve the customers, and make sure things like health codes were followed.  Enter Chris.

That was the spring of 1999.  Summer came, and with it a scheduled increase in the state minimum wage.  When fall rolled around, we simply couldn’t afford to hire Chris back.  He lost his job because the Massachusetts legislature wanted to help people making minimum wage.  Good work, fellas.

A decade later,with a national economy in rough shape, we’re seeing stories which pose the question: is a minimum wage hike really the best thing for America’s workers? No one expects minimum wage earners to receive pink slips en masse tomorrow, but it may have something to do with the fact that unemployment as been rising steadily over the last few months.

I bet folks who find themselves today in the position Chris was in ten years ago might have an opinion, though.

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