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The Quick & Dirty: Minimum Wage ... Hold the Applause

Henk Campher headshotWords by Henk Campher
Leadership & Transparency
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The minimum wage craze seems to have hit us from every angle. It seems as if every company is finding a few extra spare pennies to show us how deeply they care about their workers. Yes, it is time to rejoice! Minimum wages are hitting new highs!

Let's just back off slowly and take a closer look at this. Is it really all that good?

Do you know what $10 an hour actually means? It is roughly around $21,000 a year. Great, right? So, what do you think the official poverty line is in the U.S. for a family of four? $24,000 ... Yes, that is the poverty line and not the middle-class line. Not even the working-class line. It is the poverty line. Below that line, you go beyond struggling. You are officially in a state of deprivation. Yes, deprivation.

Doesn't sound so great anymore now, does it?

So, please excuse me if I don't jump up and down when I hear some company has increased its minimum wage to $10 or $11 an hour. Those workers are marginally "better off" than workers earning $9 an hour. But it isn't really much of an improvement in their lives. They are still dirt poor, still in a state of deprivation and will still have to work multiple jobs to get out of the poverty trap.

Let's rather applaud companies that make a real difference -- companies that take true leadership positions and don't just dole out pennies to make themselves feel better. Let's applaud the Container Store for paying its retail workers almost $50,000 a year. Or Costco paying on average $21 an hour. Or Ben & Jerry's paying $16.29 at entry-level positions. That is leadership. Not $10 an hour.

I will leave you with two more thoughts: Guess what the minimum wage would be if it kept up with productivity? Over $21 an hour.

And guess what the average hourly wage is for the CEOs of some of the top retailers out there?

Let that be your homework. But I am willing to bet $10 that it is a wee bit higher than $10 and hour. Or $100 an hour. Or even $1,000 an hour.

It might even be above the poverty line.

So, let's hold back on that applause when we hear someone raised their minimum wage to $10 or even $11 an hour. It's called a MINIMUM wage for a reason.

Image credit: Flickr/401(K) 2012

A series of quick & dirty opinion pieces by Henk Campher. Senior Vice President, Business + Social Purpose at Edelman (www.edelman.com) out in the Wild West of San Francisco. Disrupter of purpose. Engineer of big ideas. Slayer of myths. Social media junkie – @angryafrican. He never wears ties. Ever. But always wears an accent with a strategy and opinion in his back pocket. Please note this series will not focus on individual companies and any reference is purely to provide color commentary. His book, Creating a Sustainable Brand is available here.

Follow Henk Campher on Twitter.

Henk Campher headshotHenk Campher

A series of quick & dirty opinion pieces by Henk Campher out in the Wild West of San Francisco. Disrupter of purpose. Engineer of big ideas. Slayer of myths. Social media junkie - @angryafrican. He never wears ties. Ever. But always wears an accent with a strategy and opinion in his back pocket. Please note this series will not focus on individual companies and any reference is purely to provide color commentary. He wrote a book once.

Read more stories by Henk Campher

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