If you can’t pay a living wage, your business has already failed.

October 10th, 2017 | Posted by Mush in Soapbox

In which there’s a lecture.

When your business is open each day only because your staff are getting the rest of the food, shelter, and medicine they need to survive via charity because you’re not paying them enough to buy their own, it means either that you’re not a viable business because you cannot pay a living wage, or that you’re a greedy asshole who will not pay a living wage.

Either way, you remain in business only because the rest of the community you operate in is providing your employees the EBT, gas vouchers, and health care you’re not. Which is to say that, if you were operating in a community that was not providing this lack, you’d already be closed because your staff would stop showing up, and you can’t run a business without staff, right? And hungry, sick, and homeless people tend to have a hard time getting to work each day.

No one who works a full-time job, even as a lowly dishwasher, should need assistance to survive. If you’re not paying the warm bodies who allow you to open your doors each day enough to rent a room, eat modestly, travel to and from work, save a bit, and see a doctor, you shouldn’t be in business. Because you’re not a thriving concern, you’re literally dependent on welfare.

Yes, it is true you’re forced into this horrific model by monsters like Walmart, who drove prices down so low they’re unsustainable, but the facts still stand: if you can’t afford to pay a living wage, one that keeps your people above the poverty line, your business has already failed.

If you can only afford staff from near, at, or below the poverty line, well, then you simply cannot expect them to show up regularly, or have knowledge or education, or be healthy or enthusiastic or empowered or happy, or smell clean or have decent clothing. Because that’s what fucking poverty means. I know a lot of privileged conservatives think that people are poor because they “waste” their money on things like cell phones, but that’s bullshit. A cell phone is a cultural norm; everybody has a cell phone. Anybody who works full time or more should have one, and probably needs one more than you do.

It’s not what poor people spend their money on — hint: it’s exactly the same stuff you spend your money on, asshole — it’s the hatred people feel toward those who earn less than themselves, and the idea of the stereotypical willfully ignorant, addicted, lazy “poor person.” That person is so rare s/he barely exists. The vast majority of the poor in America work full-time in two, or often more, jobs. They’re not lazy, they’re systemically underpaid by a broken economy.

When I worked at Home Depot, half the people I worked with had second jobs, and half of those were grandmothers. Women in their 50’s and 60’s, working more than full time to make ends meet because their families had needs or they were too, too proud to get assistance. Do you really think that any white, 50-something, educated, experienced grandmother should have to work more than one full-time job? Really? Well, that’s who “the poor” are. Sure, there are some junkies, some crazies, some lazies, but MOST POOR PEOPLE ARE JUST LIKE YOU ONLY WITH DIFFERENT LUCK. That’s it. Their morals, values, and work ethics are the same as yours, they just can’t get jobs that pay a living wage, because the number of jobs that do pay a living wage is very low.

The federal poverty level is $15,060 a year. No one could live on that without help. Period. If you were actually a kid with a part-time job flipping burgers, fine, you don’t need a living wage, but the people flipping your burgers aren’t kids living at home earning spending money. They’re struggling retirees, with mortgages they used to pay with their decent and now non-existent middle class jobs.

Ten bucks an hour, full-time for 52 weeks, earns $20,800 a year. Very few areas of the country where someone can both earn that and live on it. Telling someone to move to those areas is ignorant and stupid, because nobody making $20,800 a year can afford to move. Moving is expensive, and it requires so many basics: transportation or money to buy it, the ability to take enough time off without income to move, so many factors non-poor people take for granted. Moving is difficult with money; impossible without it.

Fifteen bucks an hour earns $31,200 a year. That’s all. That’s it. Just barely twice the goddamned poverty level. It is by no means a lavish lifestyle, but it’s enough to have shelter and food and transportation and savings and healthcare. It’s enough to not be a burden on others.

I make a little over ten bucks an hour. For each hour I spend being screamed at by angry customers and abused by hostile corporate policies, I can buy some mouthwash and a pair of cheap socks. Or a single, low-quality meal out. Or a t-shirt.

Doesn’t matter how many hours you work yourself or how hard. If you’re underpaying but your staff are alive to come to work, somebody — the community, welfare — is subsidizing them on your behalf, and you’ve failed to provide your people what they need.

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