Remember the first job you ever had? Whether it was babysitting, delivering newspapers, or working at a grocery store. One thing was the same; we all made minimum wage, the amount of which was determined by what year we had that first job.
When I had my first real job (not counting summers spent painting houses) the minimum wage was $1.50/hr compared with today’s wage of $7.25/hr an increase of almost 5 times. Yet in hindsight, my money bought a heck of a lot more back then than it does today. A cup of coffee was $.25 compared with $1.50 (on average) for a medium sized cup today. Gas for my car was at $.32. Now we pay about $3.95 in Buffalo (why so much higher here is another topic for another day). You could purchase a new car for about 2K, not 20K like today. What the average person spends to purchase a decent vehicle is what our parents paid for the homes we grew up in (if even that much).
I mention all this in view of the ongoing debate at the Federal level to raise the minimum wage. While the Feds set the rate, individual states have the right to make it higher or lower. For example, the rate in New York is the same as the Federal level, while in Illinois it is $8.00 and in Massachusetts it is $8.25. Wow, good times in those states! It just so happens that those are the home states of the two main candidates for President in the 2012 election this November, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney (yeah he’s going to be the candidate).
What is troubling to most of us working stiffs is that this rate has not changed since 2009!! Have gas prices held the line since then, what about food, housing, medical care, etc? This list goes on and on. To hear the pro and con debates about raising the rate makes one want to run outside and scream at the top of your lungs, “just stop it already!! Besides it’s not as if the rate is raised it will increase by 3 or 4 bucks like it should so the average Joe can get by just a little easier. But if you do that then everything and everybody else needs to adjust accordingly say the opponents of raising the level. Why?? If the guy making $7.25/hr. gets a bump to let’s say $9.00/hr. why does the guy making $25.00/hr. need to go to $30.00/hr. It just goes on and on.
The fact of the matter is that everything else continues to rise except the working persons wages as the following chart highlights better than words:
The other part of this topic is the fact that while the vast majority of us work for a determined wage that has not kept pace with the cost of living, the executives of some of Buffalo’s largest businesses (as well as employers) continues to skyrocket.
The Buffalo News of June 3, 2012 revealed the top pay for 6 of the areas largest businesses. Keep in mind that while the median income for Buffalo, NY is around 34-35K, these 6 gentlemen made about $3 million/yr on average. David Smith, Chairman and CEO of National
Fuel Gas made $6,960,024. Ronald Tanski, the President and COO of National Fuel made $4,725,064. That’s $11.68 million for 2 guys at National Fuel in 2011. It’s not like Ronny plays first base for the Atlanta Braves or Dave is pitching for the Yankees. Makes you want to send in your gas bill for this month right away don’ t it. Their median pay was 28 times higher than the annual wage of workers. And keep in mind that National Fuel employees make considerably more than the mom serving your coffee at Tim Hortons.
Also on this top 6 list was Thomas Hook, President and CEO of Greatbatch whose total pay for 2011 was $3,228,533. Times must be tough in the utility and medical device industry. A few days after this article came out, Greatbatch announced that they were moving the corporate headquarters to Frisco, TX (a Dallas suburb), but that manufacturing was staying put in WNY. How many of you are buying that? He probably already has a Cowboys hat and jersey! The last company that said the same thing was a little outfit called Trico. Where are they now?
Therein lies the problem with the minimum wage rate as well as the pay for the average American worker. The top executives of all these businesses make 10 times as much as their employees. The pay scale is all out of wack. So the next time someone says that they want a pay raise, check to see who is saying it. The top executive of your company or your fellow worker in the warehouse.