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Most minimum wage workers are adults who work for large corporations

May 10, 2013

One of the major arguments that comes up whenever there’s some talk about raising the minimum wage is “What about small businesses!” and “What about teenagers! Who is going to hire teenagers if they have to pay them anything close to a living wage?”

It’s easy to assume that most minimum wage workers are teenagers working for some extra pocket change so they can get a dress for prom, go to the movies or buy some Adderall off that kid in third-period history. They’re just learning to have some real responsibility for the first time! They don’t need all the money! And who will even pay a whole $9.00 an hour for a teenager?

Well, here’s the thing:

chart minimum wage be43a51 Most minimum wage workers are adults who work for large corporations

Only 24% of minimum wage workers are teenagers. Both male and female adults outnumber them. The minimum wage right now is $7.50 and Obama has suggested raising it to $9.00 an hour. Which still does not quite add up to a living wage for most single adults– never mind anyone who has a kid. And yet people are still up in arms about that.

We have a serious problem with the working poor in this country. For all the Right wants to assume that all poor people are just lazy, there are a hell of a lot of people out there working full time jobs who can’t make rent.

And what about small businesses! How can we expect small businesses to be able to pay humans a living wage! We love small businesses! We don’t want to hurt small businesses!

Well, as far as that goes, the majority of minimum wage workers (66%) in this country work for large corporations with more than 100 employees. The number one minimum wage employer in this country is Walmart. Where the CEO makes more in an hour than most of his employees will make in a year.

It makes me sick.

These companies complain about minimum wage hikes, and having to give workers health insurance. Meanwhile, they gleefully take tax breaks and corporate welfare from the government. They make all of their products in foreign countries where the workers make maybe $38 an hour– what those people in the Bangladesh factory fire were making. Which is actually less than some of the people who died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire were making here in … 1911 ($21-$48 avg).

Of course, proposing a maximum wage on these fine, hardworking entrepreneurs would just be cruel and evil “socialism”. But would it be so terrible to ask them to pay their employees $1.50 more an hour?

Sigh.

One last thing on the small businesses, because I worked for a lot of them in my retail days. For one, I probably shouldn’t say this, but two of them paid me cash under the table to begin with. For another, many small businesses, as much as we love to talk about how wonderful they are … screw the hell out of their employees. Like keeping workers and management at 39 scheduled hours a week to avoid paying health insurance or giving normal full time benefits (even though half the time you’d end up working more than that). Or like the last restaurant I worked at a year ago, which to this day has not paid me. Even though I live two doors down.

So I’m just not so sure that all small business owners are wonderful saints who are perfect in every way. I don’t see why they should have any more leeway to screw their employees than large corporations do. But that’s just me. I could be wrong.


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