Eugene Weekly Letters, 3/3/2016
by David Ivan Piccioni, ESSN board member, Eugene
A panel addressing the controversy of minimum wage was held at the UO Feb. 24 by the Student Labor Action Project. The question was whether small businesses can afford to pay wages such as $15 an hour.
The Department of Labor a few weeks ago stated that 50 percent of businesses don’t last more than four years as is. Also, the expenditures a small venture devotes to paying workers is relatively small compared with other expenses. This supports the idea that minimum wages don’t majorly influence businesses’ survival and can rise.
But should they? A country that considers itself “the greatest in history” and cannot supply its workforce with the basics after performing any function is deluding itself and its citizenry as to its worth. Social democracies such as Canada and the European nations with the highest standards of living have other things at play that help this delicate balance.
One major cost for employers is health care. All these other countries have some form of single-payer, which shifts a lot of the burden off the owners. Even with a modest tax increase, this is a definite plus for businesses. Another benefit these other countries have compared with ours is that education for them is not a cause for indebtedness. For most it is free and depends on effort and intelligence, not money.
Because of these reasons alone it is feasible and ethical to shrink the gap in wealth inequality by paying our workforce more money.