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OPINION | EDITORIAL: We can work it out

Do we keep on talking till we can’t go on? July 30, 2021 at 3:11 a.m.

President Biden's administration is still pushing more regulations on business, even while trying to make things easier on Big Labor. The AP reported earlier this month that the Department of Transportation is considering rules requiring airlines to refund money when baggage in delayed. (!) Somebody should tell this administration that businesses, like baseball batters, do better when the handcuffs are off.

The Labor Department announced last week that it had "begun the process of raising the minimum wage for federal contractors to $15 an hour," according to The Wall Street Journal, "ensuring [the wage] would continue rising to keep pace with inflation."

It should be said that the administration has said that it won't be satisfied with a $15 minimum wage for federal workers only. The private sector is very much in play. If Congress would only go along. The papers are full of ideas coming out of Washington.

Then private business was heard from.

The Associated Press reported this week that the number of job openings across the nation, as the country comes out of the pandemic hibernation, is pushing more employers to offer $15-an-hour wages. Without a government mandate. Imagine.

"Businesses, particularly in the restaurant, retail and travel industries, have been offering a $15 wage to try to fill enough jobs to meet surging demand from consumers, millions of whom are now spending freely after a year in lockdown. And many of the unemployed, buoyed by stimulus checks and expanded jobless aid, feel able to hold out for higher pay."

There will be those who'll note that government has helped workers in the last 18 months, and it certainly has. Many a job has been saved through the federal government's intervention during this pandemic emergency. And the stimulus has kept a pandemic recession from becoming a pandemic depression. Which is another reason for not having a Balanced Budget Amendment--but that's another editorial/argument/week-long fight.

Many companies have looked at the job market and made their own decisions: We gotta pay more to get good help.

At ZipRecruiter, for example, the number of jobs advertised for $15 an hour or more has more than doubled since before the pandemic began in 2019. Not to mention all those companies who have already volunteered to raise minimum wages.

We were struck by two business managers in the AP story, for different reasons.

One owner of a company with several flower shops in different cities told the reporter that when he offered $15 an hour: "I saw a markedly different picture in how fast we could recruit and in the experience level of workers."

Another CEO of a jobs website said, "The $15-an-hour debate is essentially being resolved through market forces."

So what does it matter if private business raises wages or if the government demands it? Well, one might think that a private business (Amazon, Costco, Target, local ice cream shop, favorite pizza joint) that raises its wage can afford it. And has figured it out either with the company's CFO or on the back of an envelope.

Government imposing the wage across the board on every business might price some people out of jobs. Maybe as many as 1.4 million in the next few years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

A wise man once said that the minimum wage is always zero. If the government mandates $15 an hour (more than double the $7.25 minimum wage now) how many businesses will hire fewer workers? ("One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results."--Milton Friedman)

The Fight for $15 doesn't have to be a fight. It can be a negotiation between employees and their private employers. If government will just let them work it out.

Print Headline: We can work it out


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