On Scaring Minimum Wage Workers


The opening paragraph of this CNNMoney piece (over one year ago) perfectly captures a growing sentiment that I’ve seen making the rounds more frequently of late:

As protesters across the country call for the fast-food chains to raise their wages, a number of companies have begun experimenting with new technology that could significantly reduce the number of restaurant workers in the years to come.

Do you see the beautifully subtle, nuanced blame-shifting going on there? It’s the minimum wage workers and those protesting on their behalf who are, we’re supposed to believe, forcing companies to experiment with new technology. If said workers and protesters would just keep their traps shut and work tirelessly for poverty level wages, their benevolent corporate overlords might just look the other way and not concern themselves with squeezing another penny into next year’s EPS. I see this blame-the-worker meme growing and being more widely circulated in the past few months as the minimum wage has come more front and center. So, allow me to say this:

Give me a fucking break.

I’ll take a wild guess that the fellows below didn’t protest for higher wages, but I haven’t seen any of them around recently.


Has anyone seen this lovely lady around in the last few decades:


There may be a few of these guys left, but not many:

elevator operator

And it’s not just a low tech phenomenon. Below are traders on an atypically busy day on Wall St.

computer servers

The point is simply this:

Wages and salaries are part and parcel of running a business. Companies are (generally) going to try to minimize them (along with all other expenses) to the extent possible (with the notable exception of senior management types, who will continue to bilk the system for all they can get). Some companies – as Barry documented here – will pay their workers so low a wage that their employees need to avail themselves of various forms of public assistance. This is shameful and should be addressed.

Technology is going to advance whether employees protest for higher wages or not. Automation will replace some $7.25/hour workers who haven’t so much as uttered a syllable about their pay, no less asked for it to go to $15/hour.

This scare tactic – suggesting that workers should consider themselves lucky to have their jobs and just shut up and do them lest they be replaced by a machine – is just that, a scare tactic. It will or won’t happen depending on what some green-visored bean counter (wait, they’re gone, too?) says after running a cost/benefit analysis on his abacus calculator Excel spreadsheet. So let’s stop pretending it’s a punishment to be imposed on those fighting for a higher wage. It’s not.

Oh, one final thing. If this guy is ever at your front door, you may want to call 9-1-1.

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  1. krice2001 commented on Sep 10

    Good observation and wel put….

  2. DeDude commented on Sep 10

    And if that scam doesn’t work they will come up with something about how it doesn’t make any differences anyway because as soon as those “lower class” people get more income the landlords and grocery stores will take it away by increasing prices (so it is hopeless to fight for a better life through higher income). Interesting how their religious advocacy of market forces gets suspended as soon as they threaten the higher objective of making sure that the lower classes stay low. Suddenly the prices of rent and groceries are no longer determined by supply and demand, but instead by some mysterious cabal that coordinate the setting of prices to fit monthly incomes. But if such a cabal actually exists shouldn’t we order them to lower prices? – oh no you couldn’t do that because of ….market forces.

  3. howardoark commented on Sep 10

    “The comfort of the rich depends upon an abundant supply of the poor.”

    ― Voltaire

    Or, in the future, an abundant supply of self-programming, learning robots. Taxi and delivery drivers, parking lot attendants, fast food cooks, gardeners, prison guards, janitors, warehouse workers, many nurses, airline pilots, soldiers, sailors and marines, cops (because getting away with street crime is going to be impossible) and dozens of other low or medium skilled occupations are going to go away in the next 20 years. So, maybe k12 class sizes will be reduced to 5 and there will be a social worker/probation agent for every person who needs one, but I don’t see how any of the low skilled people make a living other than on the dole in the future.

  4. Slash commented on Sep 10


    I want the people who handle my food (for example) to be paid a decent wage. For various reasons.

    The “job creators” are a bunch of whinging* dolts.

    * I’m not English, I just like the word “whinging”

  5. bigsteve commented on Sep 10

    I work in the Utilities industry for over forty years. The trend has been fewer and fewer workers but much more skilled. My industry is not alone.

    As a boy I read Science Fiction novels that portrayed social systems where few people worked but all had a guaranteed living. In other words almost all of us lived off of capital that our ancestors created and accumulated. We are a long way from that presently. But it sure looks like that is a possibility in the intermediate future.

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