Wednesday, May 04, 2005
There's More To Life Than The Entry Level Job
One of the things that strikes me when people complain about low wages at "restaurants" like McDonalds or retailers like WalMart, is that they focus on the entry level wage. Now, granted, it isn't as if supervisors and low-level management positions at such businesses pay enormous salaries, but they are available and they do pay better than entry level jobs. And where an employee displays a decent attitude, a willingness to work, and enough self-discipline to show up on time for scheduled shifts, it is hard for me to imagine that those jobs aren't available by way of promotion.
Now I will grant, by nature, nurture, or both, some people don't have the aptitude to rise above an entry level position. But for those people, should we really be asking why it is that their employer doesn't pay more? Sure, everybody wants to make more money for the same work, but it is safe to assume that the typical entry level worker has already chosen the employer who will pay the highest available wage. If you want to boost entry level wages, the best approach is probably to ignore the squawkings of the "chicken little" types who claim that any such increase will ruin the economy, and raise the minimum wage. But, whatever you may think of the moral aspect of low wage employment, it is probably not realistic to ask that a business, which is already paying more than the minimum wage, voluntarily pay an even greater sum so as to improve the lot of its entry level workers.
To change the employment picture, governments and workers' organizations should focus on educational opportunity and labor laws, not singling out particular businesses as "evil". Even if you believe Wal-Mart to be an "evil" company, it does no good to shake your finger at it, or even to splash it with holy water. It is unlikely to change anything it does if it means unnecessarily lowering its margins or decreasing its profits. And it is perfectly reasonable for Wal-Mart to respond that it should not be expected to do something at its own expense, where no similar demand is placed upon its competitors.
(If there is anybody out there who "hates unions" and also "hates Wal-Mart for the way it treats its employees", I would love to hear you comment.)