We hear about minimum wage all the time. People who don’t like it, people who think it should be raised, and everyone in between. They all have an opinion on this subject. However, I wonder if anyone ever thinks about where minimum wage actually began? In 1896, New Zealand was the first country to pass such a law, but other countries quickly followed suit, as did many of America’s individual states. In 1924 though, the supreme court ruled against such laws as they violated private companies rights to set their own wages and an employees rights to ask for what pay they thought fair. The Great Depression hit soon after this, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt countered this ruling when he made a $0.40 minimum wage throughout businesses involved in interstate commerce as part of his New Deal. Part of this also ruled on better overtime pay and added child labor laws to the books. Now that we have gotten a blast from the past, why is it that Roosevelt implemented this idea of minimum wage in the first place? Well, I believe he saw the importance of the employees who worked these harder, underpaying jobs and did not wanted them to suffer under the unfair pay of greedy big business owners. As the cost of living rises over time, so should our minimum wage, which is why in the past 75 years, our minimum wage has risen from $0.40 to $7.55. This is only fair right? Some people believe that it should be even raised higher! However, most of the reason why people want it to rise is because they feel that it is a means to an end of getting themselves out of poverty. Don’t get me wrong, I hate poverty as much as the next person, but people who think this way are not normally aware of what minimum wage does and why it was created in the first place. America did not even allow it for many years because they believed it violated American’s rights as free citizens! For the U.S to dictate wage is just another way for them to add to the list of rules we have to follow. I am glad Roosevelt implemented minimum wage the way he did, but its’ purpose was to protect the employee from those greedy employers who sought to take advantage of their workers. It was not created to be a “living wage” as many people believe. The minimum wage jobs are normally those with a lower skill set needed to do the job quickly, and if you have a good work ethic, you can move up to better pay in the same job quickly enough. I worked in fast food for over three years, so I know what minimum wage is like. However, I worked hard and ended up getting a raise within 6 months of working there, and another raise the next year. By the end of my time there, I was making $8.25 and got offered a manager position at $9.25 an hour. Even though I did not take that offer and ended up leaving for another job opportunity on campus, I actually enjoyed my time there! And my experience working there showed me how a good work ethic can pay off. If the minimum wage were to rise higher than it was intended to go within a certain standard of living, it would leave many more unskilled workers out of a job, which would in turn raise the poverty level instead of diminish it like many people believe. If employers cannot pay as many lower skilled workers a higher wage, they will more than likely decide to cut costs by hiring a less amount of more skilled workers who would get the job done better and in less time. Again, minimum wage was not intended to be a living wage, but a way to keep unskilled workers better paid under greedy or unfair management. The discussion on minimum wage is a vast one, but if there is anything I can leave you with, it would be to remind you to have a good work ethic! Because whatever job you work in, whether it pays minimum wage or not, will value and appreciate that characteristic in you, and you will respect yourself more because of the hard work that you choose to do.
“Minimum Wage.” Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection. Detroit: Gale, 2014. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 15 Sept. 2014.