Author Archives: shandah

About shandah

Medical Lab Tech, going back to school online while working full time

Minimum Wage – Final Thoughts

Over this past semester I have clarified my understanding of how our government works. I was required to follow a government policy, track what has been going on with that policy, and relate it back to what we were covering in class. I normally would have chosen something that impacted me more personally, such as healthcare policies, since that is my chosen career. I instead chose minimum wage, something I wasn’t sure how it would affect me, my opinion was very sporadic depending on the information I had at the time, and I could find out how to obtain more information on it, which I could apply to other government issues I wanted to learn more about.

My original opinion of minimum wage varied, as I said. I felt that minimum wage was too low, but didn’t deserve to be $15/hr. When I finished my Associate’s Degree and obtained my certification, I didn’t make $15/hr. and working in a medical laboratory takes more specialized knowledge. If minimum wage was increased, how would that affect my current wages? I now have 12 years of experience, lead a department with in the lab, and have much more responsibilities than when I first started. My wages have increased based on my performance, experience, and attitude, as I feel it should be. I’ve worked hard to get where I am and now have a year left before I finish my Bachelor’s Degree to qualify for the next tier in my certification level. Needless to say, I believed in the posts you see on Facebook stating “Minimum Skills, Minimum Pay.” But I also believed that everyone should make enough to be able to provide for themselves, the “Living Wage”.

I originally intended my blogs to cover just the changes in minimum wage and to highlight the debates seen throughout the nation. However, news was slow and I ended up with a mixture of current news and an informative approach on how the policy is controlled through the government. It ended up being a very informative blog, and as I tried to leave my personal opinion out of it, hopefully non-partisan.

I’m still not sure what my current opinion is. I now believe that minimum wage should be a livable wage and should be indexed with the economy. That would allow the policy to stay current with the economy and should then become less of a partisan issue. Business could then plan accordingly for reasonable, predictable increases instead of substantial increases such as New York and LA are experiencing. I also feel that each state should create their own and not rely on the national minimum wage. The cost-of-living in each state/area should be taken into account. However, I don’t feel that you can increase minimum wage without bumping up the entire pay scale. The same percent increase should be given across the board, but not counted as a yearly raise taking experience and merit into account.

Giving someone in fast food, a service profession, where you hear complaints about incorrect orders and rude service, $15 an hour is fine, as long as the paramedic, with a college education, and where mistakes end up jeopardizing someone’s life instead of just their dinner plans, are adjusted accordingly. Someone who has been working for 25 years at McDonald’s should be paid more than the high school student starting their first job they are training. A trickle-down theory is great, and I’m sure over time it works. But in the meantime, you have thousands of individuals upset with the government and each other because legislation only affects the minimum, not the average. I know there are others that disagree with me, and my focus tends to be more on the individual, rather than the businesses, but I tend to want to look for a solution that helps everyone out. That’s the medical professional in me, looking for efficiency and quality in an area outside of my expertise.

Are Minimum Wage Laws Against the Law?

There’s been some talk off and on over the years about whether or not the laws enforcing minimum wage are Constitutional or if the Federal Government is over-reaching its power and that it should be the states’ individual rights to determine the legislation. The argument most heard is that it violates the Tenth Amendment.

However, with very little research, I can deliver the facts about how Constitutionally-sound the legislation actually is. Everyone knows (or should know) that the U.S. Supreme Court has the final say in the decisions regarding whether or not a law Congress passes is in conflict with the Constitution. The Supreme Court solidified this position in Marbury v. Madison in 1803. The opinion of the Court held that the Constitution was “the fundamental and paramount law of the nation” and that “an act of the legislature repugnant to the constitution is void.” In non-legal jargon, that means that the Constitution is the highest Law of the Land, and any legislature that conflicts with it is automatically illegal and cannot be enforced. So with this case, the Supreme Court basically said that a law can go to Court and see if it violates our Constitutional Rights.

The Fair Labor Standards Act which includes provisions for minimum wage seems to have first come under fire in 1941. In U.S. v. Darby Lumber Company, where it was questioned whether Congress has the constitutional power to prohibit interstate shipments of lumber manufactured by employees paid less than “minimum wage” and whether Congress had the power to prohibit employment of workers manufacturing interstate goods at less than “minimum wage”.

Not only did the Supreme Court decide that it was constitutional, but went into detail as to why it was legal. The Tenth Amendment states “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” The Court’s response was “The amendment states but a truism that all is retained which has not been surrendered. There is nothing in the history of its adoption to suggest that it was more than declaratory of the relationship between the national and state governments as it had been established by the Constitution before the amendment, or that its purpose was other than to allay fears that the new national government might seek to exercise powers not granted, and that the states might not be able to exercise fully their reserved powers.”

This might be a weak argument to some, a very loose interpretation of the Amendment and incorrect. However, the Commerce Clause in the Constitution gives an enumerated power to “regulate Commerce with Foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.” There is also the Necessary and Proper Clause, which allows Congress to exercise whatever additional power is “necessary and proper” to carry out its enumerated rights.

The Supreme Court ruled that “The motive and purpose of the present regulation are plainly to make effective the Congressional conception of public policy that interstate commerce should not be made the instrument of competition in the distribution of goods produced under substandard labor conditions, which competition is injurious to the commerce and to the states from and to which the commerce flows. The motive and purpose of a regulation of interstate commerce are matters for the legislative judgment upon the exercise of which the Constitution places no restriction, and over which the courts are given no control.” What this simply means is that if it affects the ability of interstate commerce to effectively take place, Congress has the right to regulate it. Therefore, in order to maintain the safety and quality of interstate goods, the employees must be treated equally and fairly in regards to wages, hours, and safety, which to me is a very precise interpretation of the Constitution.

As with any decision made by the Supreme Court, you can disagree with it, debate it, celebrate it, or not let it bother you at all, but until they overturn their own decisions, you must follow it.

Minimum Wage Red Tape

Minimum wage laws are passed by Congress but how are they carried out? Everyone could have a different interpretation of the law and not every clause of the law is distributed to every individual. Congress is too busy to outline the implementation of every single law they pass so how does it get from Congress to us “little people”? The bureaucrats, of course!  Not everyone loves bureaucracy or their red tape but they do actually serve a purpose.

All laws pertaining to workers, employers, and anything else workplace related are interpreted, implemented and enforced by the Department of Labor (DOL). They deal with over 180 federal laws that deal with workplace activity. They regulate Worker’s Compensation dealing with injuries on the job and employee benefit security such as COBRA insurance and HIPPA regarding medical concerns. They place regulations on unions and their members, and protect employment for our military personnel when our troops are deployed. They place procedures and limitations for wage garnishment and distribute guidelines to allow parents to be home with their new child with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Of course, the Department of Labor is so large, it has to divide up its workforce into a hierarchy in order to deal with all these aspects, and they can be so different from each other that is requires specialized expertise on each subject. So the Department of Labor is divided into agencies or sub-departments if you will. OSHA is one example, which oversees workplace safety and health. The agency that oversees wages and hours, including the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) dealing with minimum wage is the Wage and Hour Division (WHD).

The WHD oversees minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, child labor, and the FMLA. They have offices in every state to aid in the enforcing of laws. Iowa’s happens to be in the state capital of Des Moines, while Utah’s office is in Salt Lake City. There are some states, due to their population and size, which require multiple office. Texas, for example, has two offices in Houston, as well as one in Arlington, McAllen, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, and Austin. They also have one located in Albuquerque, NM, for the West Texas Panhandle and Northwest Quadrant of the state.

The DOL and WHD websites are full of information on the laws they regulate, how they interpreted the laws, and the history of the laws in effect. In regards to minimum wage, I found a list of exemptions to the law, which I found pretty interesting. Some I knew and others I did not.

Farmworkers, for example, are exempt from minimum wage and overtime laws. In my area, most agriculture employees are paid more than minimum wage but not many actually get overtime pay. Tipped workers, such as waitresses, are only required to be paid $2.13 as long as their tips put them up to minimum wage. Most states actually have their tipped minimum wage higher than the federal minimum, and eight states actually require tipped workers to be paid the full federal minimum wage before tips.

Another example, (one I wasn’t aware of), comes in terms of specialized skills. Computer programmers, software engineers and other highly skilled computer professionals (as long as they meet certain duty requirements as their primary duty) are entitled to a special minimum wage of $27.63 per hour unless salaried. Building or repairing computers does not fall into this category, but there are plenty of opportunities that do.

Carrying out Congress’s laws is a daunting undertaking, and someone has to do it. Bureaucracies have their place, even with all the “red tape” they produce, and laws wouldn’t be easily enforced otherwise. Try and keep that in mind the next time you are on hold and transferred multiple times trying to get you to the “correct” person to talk to. It’s not necessarily to cause you distress, it’s because each person you talk to has a detailed and exact job description and if what you need help with doesn’t fit, they can’t help you. Just try and remember that they are getting you to the “expert” able to handle your issue.

Minimum Wage and the Presidential Hopefuls

This blog post is more of a list format. I want to outline the list of presidential candidates for the 2016 Presidential Election and state their stance on minimum wage, if they have publicized one. With the long list of all hopefuls, I’m going to stick with those that have Declared, leaving out those that are still considered potential candidates.

Democratic Party

  • Howell Astor – Has no official comment on his stance on minimum wage but does have a detailed plan for offering incentives to businesses to hire currently unemployed workers.
  • Morrison Bonpasse – No official stance on minimum wage but would like to replace the current U.S. dollar with a single Global Currency.
  • Jeff Boss – Advocates a $15/hr minimum wage.
  • Harry Brown – No official stance at this time
  • Andy Caffrey – No official stance at this time
  • Willie Carter – No official stance at this time
  • Lincoln Chafee – No official stance at this time
  • Hillary Clinton – No official stance at this time but has a history of supporting an increased based on recent votes and comments at public demonstrations such as a Fight for $15 rally.
  • Lloyd Kelso – Advocates $12.50 by 2017
  • Martin O’Malley – Advocates $17/hr over next several years
  • Bernie Sanders – Advocates $17/hr over next several years
  • Doug Shreffler – No official stance at this time
  • Michael Steinberg – No official stance at this time
  • Jim Webb – No official stance at this time
  • Robby Wells – No official stance at this time
  • Willie Wilson – Supports increasing minimum wage but no details
  • Brad Winslow – No official stance at this time

Republican Party

  • Skip Andrews – No official stance at this time
  • Michael Bickelmeyer – No official stance at this time
  • Kerry Bowers – No official stance at this time
  • Jeb Bush – Advocates eliminating minimum wage laws
  • Dr. Ben Carson – Supports an increase in minimum wage but not to be determined by the federal government. Advocates that the states should determine their own minimum wage laws.
  • Dale Christensen – No official stance at this time
  • Chris Christie – Has spoken against increasing minimum wage and has made comments that he is “tired of hearing/talking” about minimum wage.
  • Ted Cruz – Against any increase in minimum wage
  • Brooks Cullison – No official stance at this time
  • John Dummett, Jr. – No official stance at this time
  • Mark Everson – No official stance at this time
  • Jack Fellure – No official stance at this time
  • Carly Fiorina – Against increasing minimum wage as it would increase unemployment
  • Lindsey Graham – Against increasing minimum wage
  • Jim Hayden – No official stance at this time
  • Chris Hill – Advocates a “living wage” based on age and average cost of living in the area of residence
  • Mike Huckabee – Admits current minimum wage is a “poverty wage” but is against increasing it
  • Bobby Jindal – Against any increase at this time as the economy is not strong enough to handle an increase
  • Michael Kinlaw – Advocates a $1.00 increase now then increases of $0.50 every 2-3 years
  • K. Ross Newland – No official stance at this time
  • George Pataki – Against any increase in minimum wage
  • Rand Paul – Against an increase on the grounds that it would hurt young people and minorities
  • Rick Perry – Against any increase and would prefer to eliminate minimum wage laws
  • Michael Petyo – Against increasing minimum wage, adamant that there is a better way but is not specific on what is a better way
  • Marco Rubio – Supports increasing the minimum wage, but has made comments that the minimum wage laws don’t work
  • Brian Russell – Against increasing minimum wage as would result in job loss
  • Rick Santorum – Supports an increase in minimum wage but to a value less than $10.10
  • Jefferson Sherman – No official stance at this time
  • Shawna Sterling – No official stance at this time
  • Donald Trump – Advocates two separate minimum wage laws, one for young workers and a second higher wage for older workers, as long as it doesn’t create business disincentives
  • Scott Walker – Feels the minimum wage laws don’t “serve a purpose”

With as many Presidential hopefuls as we currently have, is seems support is all over the place. Of course there are many other issues on the table that would need looked at in order to determine which candidate you would like to support, but there should be one for everybody with this lineup. But please try to look at all the candidates, not just Republican or Democrat. There may be one on the other side that may surprise you.

Minimum Wage – Tying up $$ in Congress Committees

This post I’m going to talk about the most recent bills proposed in Congress regarding minimum wage and their current status.

Senate

On March 5, 2013, Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat from Iowa, proposed The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013.  It has been labeled as S.460 for tracking purposes.  The bill proposes an increase of minimum wage 90 days after is has been passed to $8.20, a second increase the first year after passage to $9.15, a third increase the second year after passage to $10.10, and finally yearly increases starting on the third year based on the Consumer Price Index (inflation).  It would also increase tipped minimum wage to $3.00 and then annually adjust the wage so it would be equal to 70% of minimum wage.

The same day Sen. Harkin introduced the bill to the Senate, it was referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.  The current chairman of the committee is Republican Senator Lamar Alexander from Tennessee.  The Ranking Minority member is Senator Patty Murray (Democrat) from Washington.

The most recent action taken on the bill was a hearing on March 14, 2013.  The purpose of the hearing was to collect information in regards to indexing the minimum wage.  A representative from the State of Connecticut (a state that had chosen to index their minimum wage 10 years ago) testified in regards to the process in place and the effects it has had.  A representative from The National Restaurant Association, which I mentioned in my last post, also testified against raising minimum wage, citing increases in costs.

Unfortunately, no further action has taken place in regards to this bill.  There have been motions placed to continue committee progress by Senator Harkin, but no other reports have been made.

House of Representatives

The Fair Minimum Wage Act (HR.1010) is an identical bill that was introduced to the House of Representatives March 6, 2013 by Representative George Miller, Democrat from California.  The bill is truly identical to that proposed in the Senate with the exception of tipped wages.  In this bill, the tipped minimum wage (currently $2.13) would increase yearly by $0.85 until it reached 70% of minimum wage, and would be adjusted from that point on increase yearly to remain at 70% on minimum wage.

That same day it was referred to the Committee on Education and the Workforce.  The current committee was established January 1, 2011 with 40 members, 17 Democrats and 23 Republicans.  The current chairman is Representative John Kline, Republican, from Michigan.  The Ranking Minority member is Representative George Miller from California.  On April 23, 2013, the bill was then referred to the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections.

A motion regarding the bill was placed February 26, 2014 by Representative Timothy Bishop, Republican from New York.  The motion was to discharge the committee from reviewing the bill further, taking it from their hands.  This would allow it to be reviewed by the full chamber again, and is useful if a committee never takes action on the bill.  In order to discharge the bill, however, 218 signatures from Representatives is needed.

The bill was reintroduced February 13, 2015 by Representative Steve Seivers, Republican from Ohio.  A hearing occurred on June 3, 2015 for reviewing the rules and regulations for implementing federal minimum wages and hour standards.

Congress could keep a bill in committee indefinitely in order to keep it from being passed.  In order to keep things actively moving forward, those in support of the bill need to be vigilant in keeping tabs on the bill.

Minimum Wage + Interest (Groups)

In class this past week, we learned about interest groups and their role in the government.  I decided to incorporate that into my discussion on minimum wage for this post by defining what an interest group is and outline current interest groups involved with the minimum wage debate.

Interest groups can be known by other names such as factions, pressure groups, special interests, or organized interests.  Their primary service is to connect citizens with the government and allow public interest be heard directly to the officials in power or attempting to gain power through election.  Any organization that actively seeks to influence public policy is classified as an interest group, and they concentrate solely on policies that directly affect the groups/members interests.

Business for a Fair Minimum Wage

Business for a Fair Minimum Wage is composed of primarily businesses, such as Ben and Jerry’s, Costco, Dansko Footwear, and Zingerman’s.  There are also smaller businesses such as family farms that are members. The goal of this group is to see a $12 minimum wage by 2020, and then adjust yearly at the same increasing rate as the median hourly wage.  Not only would this restore the lost value of minimum wage, the annual increases would reduce future erosion in value, and stabilize and predict future increases, making it easier for businesses to plan and absorb higher wages with less consequences.

The logic behind the stance is that the workers are also customers.  The customers can then spend more with more money in their pockets, which would increase sales.  More sales mean more employees.  Happier employees means less employee turnover, which in turn would increase productivity, quality of goods, and customer satisfaction,  which then leads to more sales.  This would create a profitable circle for business that makes sense.

American Federation of Labor – Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)

AFL-CIO represents “people who work” and is works closely with unions to achieve goals.  While the group doesn’t express an exact goal, it states that there is a need to increase minimum wage.  The group’s website posts a lot of supporting data though.  For example, if minimum wage had been adjusted to match inflation, it would now be $10.75.  However, if it increased at the same rate that productivity has increased since 1968, it would now be $18.67.  There is also data posted that supports that boosting the minimum wage would help bridge the gap in gander-pay equality.  The charts suggest that a minimum wage increase would benefit women the most.  55-60% of all affected by an increase would be women and 55-60% of the total people affected would be white.  85-90% of all affected are over the age of 20.

Employment Policies Institute (EPI)

EPI is a non-partisan research institute that focuses on employment growth, and in particular issues that affect entry-level employment.  Currently, EPI is opposed to increasing the minimum wage.

National Restaurant Association

The National Restaurant Association is a food service trade association that targets financial and regulatory obstacles for its members.  The group currently opposes a minimum wage increase.

National Employment Law Project (NELP)

NELP’s goal is stated to “rebuild the wage floor for low-wage workers in the U.S.”  This group is currently working towards increasing the minimum wage.

All of these groups have websites online to be able to learn more and find supporting data.  In order to get a good understanding of all sides an issue, it would be beneficial to research all the interest groups as well.  Each group might present data in a way that supports its stance, but looking at both sides will give you a better view of the issue and help you make an informed decision.

Who Actually Supports Minimum Wage Increases?

I’ve discussed a few things going on in the news lately regarding minimum wage, but haven’t actually gone into each party’s position on the topic.  Why are the democrats in favor of raising the minimum wage and why are republicans dead set against it?  I’d like to try and answer a these questions.

Democrats:

The Democratic Party is all for raising the minimum wage and then adjusting it regularly.  The official stance in that no one working full time should have a family in poverty.  As I mentioned before, President Obama has recently called for a $10.10/hour minimum wage nationwide by 2017.

Republicans:

The Republican Party as a whole is against raising the minimum wage, believing it would instead hurt businesses by forcing them to cut jobs or export them overseas.  Republicans also believe it would increase inflation due to businesses raising prices to cover the cost of increasing wages.

Tea Party Republicans:

Although a political movement within the Republican Party, and not a true registered and separate party from the Republican Party, Tea Party Republicans overall have the same stance on minimum wage.  Generally against raising the minimum wage, there have been Tea Party demonstrations recently that are in favor of raising the minimum wage.

There are two major political parties in the United States, the Republicans and the Democrats.  However there are many minor parties throughout the nation that are registered and active.  Two of them have managed to get on the Presidential ticket several times, including in 2012 against Obama and Romney, the Libertarian Party and the Green Party.

Libertarian Party:

The Libertarian Party was founded in 1971.  The party’s official stance holds that an increased minimum wage in turn increases the cost of employing additional workers, adding to poverty.  The goal of the Libertarian Party is to loosen minimum wage laws, to allow business to relax their spending and in turn hire more workers.  This would then, in theory, drive down the nation’s unemployment rate.

Green Party:

The Green Party was founded in 1991.  While they don’t have an official stance on minimum wage, the Green Party wishes to expand voluntary simplicity similar to that of the Amish or Mennonite cultures.  The Green Party’s economic policy is based on community-based economics, using a local currency in addition to the national currency.  The local currency would vary from area to area and would help local communities to drive their own pricing and wages.

There are other factors in an individual deciding their stance on minimum wage.  A person’s religious beliefs could also affect their stance, not just their political affiliation.  Religious leaders such as Pope Benedict XVI have spoken in regards to minimum wage.  In 2009, the Benedict was quoted distaste in “the low value … put on work and the rights that flow from it, especially the right to a just wage.”  John A. Ryan, a Catholic priest and the leading figure in the minimum-wage movement, simplifies his reasoning.  “The question . . . is not what a man must have in order to be a profitable producer,” Ryan wrote, “but what he ought to have as a human being.”

What are your thoughts?  What wage are you worth?  What wage are your individual employees worth?