There are at least two types of workers that are competing for minimum wage jobs. As I see it, from a purely unscientific perspective, the two large groupings of these workers are part time and full time workers. The defining criteria between full and part time are chiefly and not the number of hours worked. Given that the 8 AM to 5 PM 40 hour work week is morphing into 30 hours a week averaged across a week, the universe of full time employees will surely be expanding.
For better or for worse, because it is the current state of our country’s economy, even after the ACA goes into effect in 2015 there will still be those who depend on fast food, retail, or other minimum wage, unskilled employment as their primary source of income. At the risk of over-generalizing the profile of a part time worker, I see those that seek part time employment as simply desiring to add income. While this list is clearly not comprehensive, part time employees would include full time students, people with other full time jobs, retirees; stay at home moms looking for work while the kids are at school – basically anyone looking for supplementary income. These types of workers optimally would not depend on part time work as their primary income source.
Full time workers, conversely, are those people that are working for the sole purpose of generating a primary income. It is these people, and their families, that deserve earnings above the subsistence level. In addition to health insurance, a full time worker who devotes their time and indeed their spiritual energy to the success of their employer should be deserving of at least a living wage.
I believe there is room for a dual minimum wage – one for part time workers that have other primary sources of income, and one for workers that meet the criteria of “full time” under the Affordable Health Care Act.
The other piece of that puzzle is what to do about companies whose business models depend on part time, low wage workers (shout out to Walmart). One would hope that if a dual minimum wage were implemented along with the new ACA “full time” standard that there would be a mass exodus from the Walmarts of Kentucky to companies offering employment along with a little bit of dignity.
At the end of the day, isn’t it about dignity? Don’t most of us want to feel proud of whatever activity into which we invest our time and energy? If I work like a dog for a company that won’t invest in me I’m not sticking around long. And while I DO stick around my work product might not be the best. Once again, it seems like Democratic principles such as a decent living wage, health care to support a healthy workforce, and compassionate business models CAN and DO lead to better business overall. What company doesn’t want a healthy, strong, loyal workforce? Democratic principles, forged into our working psyche by labor unions, express and lead to a strong motivated workforce, and a healthy sustainable economy.