minimum waaaaage!

Brent Finnegan -- December 21st, 2006

The minimum wage in Virginia has been stuck at $5.15 for the last decade. Some Virginia Democrats are pushing to raise the state minimum wage up to a “whopping” $7.25 an hour by 2008. The wonks fully expect all minimum wage efforts to fail in General Assembly in 2007.

Guess where Harrisonburg’s Senator, Mark Obenshain, stands on the issue. Like most state Republicans, he’s fond of the phrase, “government-mandated minimum wage is a federal matter,” and insists that it’s not a state issue. Of course, about half of the United States would beg to differ.

It’s hard to see local issues in a global context, but this is a perfect example. The minimum wage issue here in Virginia is a piece of a larger jigsaw puzzle: the global distribution of wealth. But I doubt many people in Harrisonburg will get that upset about it. As with SRI’s high-paying jobs, statistically, most workers won’t be affected by it. If it doesn’t affect them directly, why should they care?

I do find it somewhat puzzling that “unskilled minimum wage jobs” are the sort of employment that many Virginia politicians are afraid of losing to another state. That’s like fighting over who gets to eat the rotten apples.

While we’re on the subject of unskilled jobs, it might be fun to see who’s worked the worst job for the least amount of money. Mine is a tie between being a paper boy for The Idaho Statesman, and working as a cook at Hardee’s in Timberville (when minimum wage was $5). The paper lasted for a month or two, and Hardee’s lasted for three weeks. What’s yours?


9 Responses to “minimum waaaaage!”

  1. writergirl says:

    The whole minimum wage thing really burns my butt! Federal or State, no matter how you look at it, the government keeps these workers at over $10K below the poverty line! They can gripe all they want about government programs like welfare, but this is the reason those programs have to exist. We need to sit these people down in a room and make them watch Morgan Spurlock’s episode of 30 days on minimum wage and see what they are doing. If it wasn’t benefiting someone somewhere it wouldn’t have been this low for this long.

    As for bad jobs, mine won’t win the worst contest but I worked as a stocker at Big Lots for a while. I can’t remember the pay but it wasn’t near enough for the physical labor I put in and the abuse I took from my manager.

  2. finnegan says:

    Oh, by the way – the title of this post is an obscure reference to a song by a band with a name that’s an obscure reference to a book. Kudos to anyone who can name the book.

  3. linz says:

    Writergirl, I couldn’t agree with you more! And yes, if you haven’t seen “30 Days,” you’re missing out.

    I bagged/cashiered at Kroger for a year and half for minimum wage. When I reached my year anniversary I received a whopping $0.05 raise (putting me at $5.20/hr) for all of my physical labor, building up store knowledge, covering on a moment’s notice, working holidays, and putting up with customers’/mangers’ crap.

    Minimum wage should be no less than what someone must earn to be above the poverty line. Otherwise it’s a joke.

    Has anyone here worked at Wal-Mart? I haven’t, but I have friends who do and I watched “Wal-Mart: The high cost of low prices” and was apalled. The business model is to profit off of the welfare system. They have a LOT of lobbying power at the federal level, so it’s all the more reason for states to bypass that mess and hold companies like this accountable at the state level.

  4. writergirl says:

    Glad to know I’m not the only one who watches “30 Days” although I don’t get to see too many of them. Between that show and the book Fast Food Nation you quickly realize that all of the things we complain about as a society and can’t understand why the government doesn’t change them, are actually helping someone out or they wouldn’t still exist. Fast Food Nation will help you understand why we have so many illegal immigrants and why nothing ever gets done about them.

    I haven’t seen the Wal-Mart thing; I’m afraid to watch it because I shop there. Reading Fast Food Nation changed how I eat, but I’m too broke not to shop at Wal-Mart.

  5. larsen says:

    All these places you’re referring to are big corporations. Minimum wage increases really do impact small businesses, because it requires raising the entire pay scale. And for the small business with a thin profit margin, that’s a big hit. I don’t know how that can be addressed – unless the minimum wage is based on some kind of formula that’s tied to a company’s profit!

  6. TM says:

    HiYaa! I thought They Might Be Giants took their name from a George C. Scott movie.

  7. Barnabas says:

    I worked at wal-mart and it took me a long time (7 years) before I realized just how horrible it was. I was one of the very few who was compensated well for my efforts but that wasn’t until I got a good manager. I go into wal-mart maybe once a year now and that’s usually because it is the only thing open. I am not a well off person but I find that by not shopping at wal-mart I get by better than when I did. Wal-mart is really good at getting the extra sale and cross merchandising. So you may be getting better prices but your most likely buying more than you intended to. So if you just get the things you need elsewhere then you end up saving money. And you don’t have the aggravation of dealing with the oversized retail giant’s mega complex capitalistically engineered labyrinth of consumer mayhem.

  8. David Troyer says:


    So you know for later debate, the small business argument often also includes the claim that such action will in fact force small businesses to cut minimum-wage level jobs and in turn hurt the minimum-wage level worker.

    In my personal belief (non-scientific fact), this is a gross manipulation of the purpose of the law The minimum wage was not inacted as a small-business protection. The law was established during the depression for people who already had jobs (which were extremely hard to find) be better able to afford to pay for necessities.

    As the poster mentioned, many states have taken action to increase the minimum beyond the federal limit. This has given researchers the opportunity to measure the effects of such increases. Surprisingly, . So… presumably costs of small-business services might increase, but it appears that the economy is able to keep up. But, who knows, maybe Virginia is in an unique position with so little unionized labor and so many immigrant workers (but I doubt it).

    On a national scale, it appears that the President has already shown signs of new-congress cooperation by supporting minimum wage increases. Don’t fret, these would be paired “with targeted tax and regulatory relief” for small businesses.

    At any rate (haha), an increase is not THE answer to poverty, but merely part of it. Why should we pass it off just because it is not the end-all answer? This is like throwing our hands in the air to CO2 emission reduction as an answer to global climate change because of cow farts.

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