Hey Business! Want to get Rid of Minimum Wage Laws Once and for all?
Dear Business Leaders and CEO’s- Look, I came up with an idea to get rid of things you apparently do not like.
I got rid of things like minimum wage laws, required coverage of health care for your workers, corporate taxes, unions and labor problems, etc.? There is actually something you can do. It may require a bit of a shift in the way you do things, but it will definitely work. Here’s how you do it: Give workers the same deal you give yourself.I know that is a radical idea. I am a Socialist, of course, and so I tend to think a little outside the box. But unless you run your business along the ethic that inequality is a good thing in this society, please think about it. If you hate government intrusion into how you run your business, why not run your business in a way that treats your workers like your partners?After all, they are the ones who make the stuff that you then turn around and sell. You compensate them for their time, sure, but is that really the true measure of the service they provide for your company? Without that time, you would have nothing to sell, you wouldn’t be able to compensate yourself to the degree that you do. I am not saying that workers are the most important part of the company. I am merely suggesting that they provide an integral part just as you, who are compensated now, for merely making decisions, sometimes as much as 250 times as much as they are. Why not treat them as if they are partners in your enterprise?
I understand- labor costs are an enormous cost for business. But making workers pay a portion of that cost in terms of as low as possible wages allowed by law, for the privilege of working for you makes it clear that you view labor as a liability, as a cost that you HAVE to pay in order to make a profit. Unlike materials, taxes, things like electricity, transportation, storage, and other things that you have to pay in order to conduct business, workers are people, who themselves consume the products you sell. Paying electricity makes you money because it allows your machines to run, but paying workers makes you money twofold, because not only do they actually produce the things you sell without putting any time in on that production yourself, but then they also turn around and buy the stuff they make back from you in the market. So doesn’t it make more sense to offer them a pay raise and a compensation increase in line with what you pay yourself? Doing so allows more money to go into the system, which allows you to make more, which allows you to hire more workers, which allows you to make more things, which allows you to sell more things, you get the picture.
Yes, yes, I understand that there is this argument that workers are a dime a dozen while it takes a LOT of skill and training and experience to do the super-important job you do, and your compensation works like that. But let’s think about this a minute- These are not your workers. They are not your property. They are making your things for you, something you would have to do yourself otherwise. You may know how to operate the machines, but you never do. But the people who operate these machines are not yours. They have their own incentive structures, and they are operating on them. As a result, they believe you are cheating them, especially if you take so much more out of the company than you are willing to give them. To get rid of this resentment, you have to get into the same boat with the workers at your company. You have to demonstrate that you have the same stake in the health of the company as they do. But to do that, you have to give them a stake in the health of your company which is something more than “Work or starve.”Here’s how you do it- there are two ways to do this, both of which are completely in your control. Either cut your own compensation or raise theirs. You could do some measure of both, and make the matter public and transparent, so you get the credit for looking out for the workers who work at your place. There are, of course, two different kinds of compensation- You could give workers wage increases, or you could make it easier for workers to meet their own obligations in life. Those obligations are things like paying back loans and credit cards, but also things like getting better health care or things like getting better education. The most important thing you could compensate your workers with is time. Think of it- You have all the time in the world. Time means you work not because you have to but because you want to. If I am a worker and can make as much in 4 hours as I used to make in 8, you bet I am going to be happy to either take that extra four hours out to do something else with my life other than working, or I will happily work the extra four hours for more money. And since workers only have their time to sell you , why not use that to compensate them?What are the benefits then? Well, this is not such a radical idea. Henry Ford tried it and freed himself of the labor struggles which gripped other companies. To offer workers a real stake in the health of the company makes them part owners. They are no longer working for you but working for themselves, and capitalists and liberals alike tend to believe that people take care of the things they own more than they care for the things other people own, especially people they hate. Cutting salaries at the top while raising wages at the bottom of the chain will create a sense of shared responsibility and benefit among workers. A worker who earns a true living wage from their employer will be less likely to unionize and will be more sympathetic when economic downturns affect the company. At least they know that you will be taking a hit too. Meanwhile, political support for minimum wage laws will evaporate, as will demands that corporations pay “their fair share” (whatever that means, right?) in corporate taxes, because workers will learn that an increase in corporate taxes equals a decrease in their wages or an increase in their prices. Workers will come on board with the success of your business instead of sitting with you in a mutually antagonistic and adversarial relationship.
It will definitely require a rethinking about labor relations within your business, but if you want to get rid of all those headaches around labor, just pay your workers what they are really worth to your company, not merely “what the market will allow.” In other words, do not put labor on the market model. Treat labor as your partners in this business, not just rhetorically as you do now, but in a very real way. I guarantee your life as a manager will improve immensely, perhaps more than you lose by cutting your own salary.