The My Turn published Wednesday on minimum wage cites the danger to those who want to increase the minimum wage in Alaska of being replaced by machines. I dislike calling any earnest opinion silly, but it’s hard to find a synonym here.
Machines must be built, purchased and maintained. A person had to prepare the lunch burrito, our initial warning not to ask to be decently paid. A good company thinks of its employees’ welfare, not just how little they can pay them. Pay high enough to live on is not an unfair demand. In Alaska, the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is not enough to live on. The states of Washington and California are in the neighborhood of $9.00 and $10.00 an hour, and a person can live far more cheaply there than here. For one thing, most of our groceries must be imported, and that drives costs up. Construction materials must also be mostly imported, as are many other items.
Saving money can be done in many ways; why is the first thought to make the employee suffer? What is the company’s profit margin? Can they save money by shopping around in the South 48?
It is also interesting that person-to-person contact defies all technology; we are humans first. We gain far more from meeting a live human than any amount of Skype or email. And to meet an employee who is barely subsisting is to not meet a happy person — and we know it.
I will cheerfully admit to carrying a minimum wage petition booklet in my shop. It was enormously heartening to have so many people coming in to sign. After all, we are Alaskans, and if any of us are being paid so poorly we cannot subsist, we care about them. We do not care about machines replacing workers; they are not even made in the state.
This whole subject of pay is nationwide. And more, I was in England when David Cameron, then newly-elected prime minister, inveighed against those on welfare; he announced they simply sit on the couch all day, watching the telly and drinking beer. Odd to hear that echoed over here. (Fortunately, the machine enthusiast didn’t go into that.) Cameron’s statement has been proven just as true as the misrepresentation that only teenagers work in fast food places.
Thank you for listening,