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MT Workers: Your labor has no value to us

According to a report by our illustrious and always accurate Montana Watchdog sister publication, Montana’s minimum wage is set to go up ten cents to $7.35 an hour in January 2011. What that means is that if you don’t have $7.35/hour plus, say another 20% in taxes and benefits or so worth of productivity in you, then you’re not worthy of being employed according to state law.

Working at a gas station, on a farm, convenience store, fast food restaurant (at least in Eastern Montana) and whatever you’re doing doesn’t add around $9.00 an hour to the value of whatever whatever you’re doing? You don’t deserve a job. Go on welfare. We’d rather support you than encourage you or let you build the skills for higher paying jobs.

Are you a student who just wants a part time gig for beer money or, heaven forbid, tuition if your Pell grant didn’t come through? Tough luck. Go back to your dorm and study until you’re smarter or the economy picks up.

Is there a machine or, better yet, an Asian who can do your job for less than $7.35 an hour plus benefits and taxes? We won’t let you waste your valuable time being productive, achieving anything, or just filling your time not robbing banks. We’d much rather you get unemployment and move back into the folks’ basement.

This is the inanity of a minimum wage. Low hourly-rate jobs are traditionally filled by the unskilled or the temporary labor force, or more likely the temporarily unskilled. Very few people stay at minimum wage more than a year as their work skills develop and they become worth more to their employers. But in the meantime, untold numbers of people who want a second or part time or entry level job are denied the opportunity as employers are forced to mechanize, outsource, or just forego growth because the minimum labor cost is higher than the marginal revenue of hiring someone. And we’re doing this during the largest economic downturn since the Great Depression?

Labor is subject to basic economic principles just like anything else. If the price goes up, less of it will be bought. With unemployment at historic levels and showing no signs of relief, why in the world would we tell people their labor is not worthy of us just to prop up the wage levels of a lucky few who get their foot in the door?