We employ hundreds of customer service and warehouse workers at Uncommon Goods. Our lowest wage for seasonal workers is $12 – up from $11 in 2012 and $10 in 2011. Full-time workers earn more. We see higher productivity and lower turnover when employees are fairly compensated. And as we’ve raised our starting wage, our entry-level workers have become more financially self-sufficient. That’s what our government should be encouraging – not poverty wages.
The Fair Minimum Wage Act, introduced earlier this year in Congress, would gradually raise the minimum wage in three steps to $10.10 and then annually adjust it for inflation to keep up with the cost of living. In addition, it would raise the minimum wage for restaurant workers and other tipped employees who have an even lower minimum wage of $2.13, a figure that hasn’t changed in 20 years. The $5.12 shortfall per hour between $2.13 and $7.25 is expected to be covered by customer tips – whether you work the slowest shift or at the lowest price truck stop. When that doesn’t happen, employers are supposed to pay the difference. Not surprisingly, many don’t. The proposed legislation would gradually raise the base wage for tipped employees to 70 percent of the regular minimum wage.
As business owners, we have to deal with annual price increases in rent, insurance, utility bills and supplies. Our employees also feel the pinch of these higher costs and should see their wages increase to keep pace. Future more predictable 2 to 3 percent annual increases for inflation will be much easier for businesses to manage than the necessary situation now of bigger spikes after years of stagnation. And indexing the minimum wage to inflation has the great advantage of taking politics out of the issue.
Ten states currently index their minimum wage to rise with inflation: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. And New Jersey voters recently passed a referendum making it the 11th state to do so. It’s time for the federal government to follow suit.