There has been much written and said concerning the minimum wage in the United States and what is the minimum amount that it takes to live. When I took my first job in 1983 the minimum wage was $3.35. It was at Kinney Shoes where I also had the opportunity to earn commission on top of my minimum pay. Commissions helped me appreciate my own ability to earn more money in spite of the minimum wage I was guaranteed. In fact, I only worked one other job outside of pastoring in which I could not earn commissions because I understood the value of that in earning potential.
As a business owner, I have always appreciated my employees and the stability they brought to my company. I have not always been able to reward them the way I desired, but knew that the business was very dependent on them in order to be successful. I have always tried to be flexible when they needed to be off or leave early and I have tried to give bonuses when possible to increase their earnings. Though I was aware of my own personal financial needs, I did not always give a lot of thought to how wages affected their quality of life. With all of the recent discussions about the subject it has given me cause to think about how much it actually takes to live.
Much of the discussion has centered around a $15.00 per hour minimum wage. The current Federal Minimum wage is $7.25 per hour and has not changed since 2009. There is quite a bit of debate about what is a fair wage and what is sustainable for businesses. As with most issues, everyone has their own statistics and “proof” to make their point valid. As both a business owner and a pastor, I have seen the value in both sides of the argument. I have asked myself questions like:
Can the business sustain every employee making those wages?
Will those wages improve employee moral?
Will it create a sense of entitlement?
Will productivity increase?
I could spend months listening to arguments and seeing examples of how it succeeded or failed in different places. I could have taken a position based on my own research and thought processes, most of which would have been skewed by my own prejudices. So I decided to take a different course of action. I chose to give each of my full time employees at our business a minimum of $15.00 per hour. I explained to them what I was doing and explained that it may not be permanent, but that it would at least be the first six months of 2016. I’m going to do my own experiment of how that wage affects both my business and my employees.
I will offer updates in my blog over the following months to let you know how things are going and what if any difference I have noticed. I will report the benefits and the struggles of everyone involved. If this has been a debate that interests you, then my business will be your guinea pig or experiment laboratory. I am excited and nervous at the same time. Hopefully we can all learn something that will help us improve.