published Monday, April 14th, 2014

Smith: How wages are being politicized

By Robin Smith

The new political "crisis" is the minimum wage.

Before addressing a few points, let me make personal observations about employers who pay workers less than their value to a company: You're a thief, and you're greedy. If you intentionally use others for financial gain without commiserate compensation, you're dishonorable, as well.

The need for a minimum wage and the origin of labor unions have resulted from such abuses.

Now, on to the minimum wage.

That's exactly what it is ... a wage paid as entry-level compensation, often for new hires or in service industries where tips and gratuities are often part of employment.

Taking a job at the federal minimum wage, currently $7.25 per hour, one agrees to the terms of employment for that wage.

Please note, if you want to increase your earnings and get promotions you must address those goals at hiring. If you choose not to inquire about the possibilities of upward movement on the company ladder, that's not the fault of your employer.

As a new graduate, I interviewed at major hospitals in Atlanta, Birmingham and Nashville. While the starting salary at the hospital in Birmingham was less, I was encouraged by the response to my questions regarding promotion.

I chose the lower starting salary and took required additional training, eventually meeting the criteria to be night charge nurse within six months after my hiring. Within a year, I moved to day-shift charge nurse with greater responsibilities and salary.

I asked about opportunities. I was given the answers. I made the choice. Then I had to work to meet the criteria to earn a promotion and a bigger paycheck.

Had I failed to do any of the above, it would not have been my employer's fault.

Years ago, I earned minimum wage as an umpire. No joke.

I made myself available to work more time during the summer, covered games for those taking vacations. I earned more money because I gave more effort.

Today, employers are limiting hours available to many workers due to slower business needs and to simply meet the newly defined work

week by Obamacare: less than 30 hours worked per week. By exceeding 29 hours per week, an employee is deemed "full-time" by the IRS, which enforces the new health law.

A sad fact is that many in the workforce, regardless of wage, show up on time, do their job, leave as soon as the clock permits and expect a raise or a bonus.

Understand, if you meet expectations at work, that's what you were hired to do. If, however, you meet expectations of work and your company does well, a one-time bonus is most likely in order.

To move the needle on recurring increased wages, effort that exceeds expectations in the workplace is necessary.

Now, to those of us who've grown up working and have started our own businesses, all of this makes sense.

But, to those whose motivation is to rescue the disgruntled or those who exert the least amount of effort to get the maximum gain, the "bad guy" is the employer.

In life, you typically get what you give, otherwise known as the law of the harvest.

Robin Smith served as chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party, 2007 to 2009. She is a partner at the SmithWaterhouse Strategies business development and strategic planning firm and serves on Tennessee's Economic Council on Women.

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Rickaroo said...

"Taking a job at the federal minimum wage, currently $7.25 per hour, one agrees to the terms of employment for that wage."

Well, duh. One has no choice! When we allow business owners legally to get away with paying their workers sweat shop wages (and that is what $7.25/hr. amounts to in a country where the cost of living is so high), then the worker MUST accept those terms. And most Walmart or fast-food employees see only the smallest incremental raises, even after years of being on the job.

As for moving up the ladder within the company...sure, there is certainly opportunity there, but only a limited number of employees are suited for management positions. Not all people are wired for management careers in retail or fast food. That doesn't mean that people who have no desire to be managers are lazy or lacking in ambition, it just means that their priorities lie elsewhere. In the best of all possible worlds, those people would not be working for years at Walmart or Burger King but we are not living in the best of all possible worlds. We are living in a world where unemployment is still at 7% and there are three people for every available job. So many of these people are staying in jobs unsuitable for them because they have no choice for the time being.

Robin Smith, you talk about your past work experience and you pat yourself on the back for seemingly carving your own destiny or whatever. But you seem oblivious to the fact that there were indeed greater opportunities back in your day. You delusional conservatives never acknowledge that these are extremely tough times and many people are suffering through no fault of their own. Sure, there are still opportunities and some few are still able to land decent jobs or create a new cupcake and start their own business. But those few are extremely fortunate. For those not endowed with entrepreneurial talents or those who simply are not management material and are willing to stick to doing the baser, more menial jobs, they should not be punished by paying them demeaning wages that won't even cover their rent or put sufficient food on their table. NO job in America, however menial, that serves the needs of a business owner, is NOT worth more than $7.25/hr.

April 14, 2014 at 2:34 p.m.
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