Reasons To Raise The Minimum Wage

[SCENE:  John “FUZZY” Premisse, age 45, steps out behind a Burger King on a grimy industrial boulevard.  He is paunchy, his hairline a distant memory.  His face, doughy from decades of blue-collar food, is criss-crossed with stress lines.  In the background, the smokestacks of a high-tech incubator park belch smoke into the night sky, the glow of the open code hearth lending a faint glow to the background as he lights a cigarette.  ]

[FUZZY is joined by a much younger man.  It is  his son, Luke “STRETCH” Premisse.  Stretch, age 21, bums a cigarette off his father.  As he lights the cigarette, we see spatter burns on his forearms, accrued through hard years on the deep frier]

STRETCH:  [takes a puff] Busy night. 

FUZZY:  [Takes a long puff, holds it, lets it go slowly]  They’re all busy, in their own way.  [Stares into the distance

STRETCH:  Yeah.  Hey, Dad?  That guy who was talking with Erica the assistant manager?  Who was that?

FUZZY:  [Scowls, with an air of contempt] Pfffft.  Sheee-*t.  Buddy. 

STRETCH:  Buddy?

FUZZY:  Buddy Dayusexmachina. 

STRETCH:  Seems like a nice guy.

FUZZY:  [Spits with contempt]  Sh*t.  He’s a f****ng “earner”.

STRETCH:  “Earner?”

FUZZY:  Someone who earns more than minimum wage. 

STRETCH: Huh.  [Takes a puff on hiscigarette].      

FUZZY:  [also takes a puff].

STRETCH:  So – that’s a bad thing?

FUZZY:  [Looks at his son with an air of alarmed]  What?

STRETCH:  So he earns more than minimum wage.  That’s a bad thing?

FUZZY: [Alarm turns to comtempt].  What the hell?  Is that how I raised you? 

STRETCH:  [Takes a puff, flicks his cigarette, stands a little straighter]  What do you mean?

FUZZY:  We’re minimum wage earners.  My grandfather earned $.35 an hour at a burger joint in the forties.  My father before me?  He started at a buck and a quarter at this same Burger King, back in 1965.  Nineteen Sixty Five!  And he worked away, stayed at that minimum wage, til the day he died at the drive-thru.  I started here in 1983 – I made $3.35 an hour.  Flippin’ burgers, just like you do today!  You probably don’t even remember back in 1997, when Bill Clinton raised the minimum from $4.25 to $5.15.  You were just a baby.  But it was one of the proudest days of my life!

STRETCH:  But…why?

FUZZY:  [Steps aggressively toward his son]  Because the minimum wage got raised!

STRETCH:  Yeah, but…so?

FUZZY:  It’s how our life gets better.  When the minimum wage goes up, we get more money.  How f****ng hard is it? 

STRETCH:  Right.  I get that.  We’re the Premisses; the best burger flippers, frier operators and shake-pourers in the Valley. 

FUZZY:  Damn straight.  [Takes another puff]

STRETCH:  OK…well…Mister Dayusexmachina says that if I learn to run the scheduling system and how to count tills, I could move up to assistant manager.  That’d jack my pay up to $12.50…

FUZZY:  [Drops cigarette in shock, turns on son in muted menace]  What did you just say? 

STRETCH:  They said I could move up…

FUZZY:  [walks closer to son, rage building]  I hear what you said.  You wanna “move up”.  Is that how I raised you?   

STRETCH:  Er…what do you mean?

FUZZY:  We earn minimum wage.  You do.  I do.  My daddy did.  So did his daddy.  That’s what we do.  We’re the Premisses!

STRETCH: But – this would be more than minimum wage…

FUZZY:  [looks son in the eye] Mark Dayton just raised the minimum wage.  We all just got raises. 

STRETCH:  Yeah, but this is even more?

FUZZY:  What are you?  Getting all “too good for minimum wage?”  Going out and “learning new skills” to “get pay raises” and “move ahead in life” without waiting for the Feds to raise it for you? 


FUZZY:  You think you’re too good for the minimum wage life?  The life that was good enough for your father, and his father, and his father? 

STRETCH:  It has nothing to do with being “too good”.  It’s just that I know how to use the computer, and that other assistant manager Shaylene got fired for dealing pot out of the bathroom, and…

FUZZY: You look at me, son.  Look at me!  Other people may “learn skills” and “move up”.  And some of them “screw up” and “move down”.   But we Premisses?  We are always here.  Reliable.  We do the jobs nobody else wants to.  And we’re the best at them. 

[Javier AMARILLO, President of the local SEIU chapter, steps into the frame and addresses the camera]

AMARILLO:  What we’ve seen here is why America needs to raise the minimum wage.  Because all across this great but racist and deeply flawed nation, hundreds of millions of hard-working Americans have chosen not to learn more marketable job skills, to better themselves, and to go to the job market without skills or education that would give them a skill that anyone would pay for.  Many of them, raised in a public school system that taught grievance-mongering and neglected hard work and striving to better oneself, have no concept of the idea that “bettering oneself” is not an entitlement, but a personal responsibility. 

And it’s for these hundreds of millions of Americans that we need to raise the minimum wage. 

So please join me in demanding your congressperson demand a raise to the federal minimum wage!  

FUZZY:  Hey, it’s Javier Amarillo, of the SEIU!  When are you going to organize fast-food workers?

AMARILLO: [Smiling blandly]  You don’t exist to me. 

STRETCH:  Do you make minimum wage?

AMARILLO:  As if.  I make $187,000 a year plus perks.  I drive a BMW.  I haven’t eaten at a “Burger King” in 20 years.  Get back to work, as****es.    I’ve got to get to a dinner meeting with Tina Flint Smith. 

[And SCENE, as a Pete Seeger song plays dimly in the background]

14 thoughts on “Reasons To Raise The Minimum Wage

  1. You have probably seen the ad the Democrats are using to bash Johnson. The single montehr working for miminum wage. I sympathize with someone working hard at unskilled work, trying to get by.

    Now, I don’t know her story. Could it be a deceased husband? Or could it be a case where the guys she was banging won’t chip in to help the kids.

  2. If you were facing a lifetime of minimum wage work, wouldn’t you be in favor of raising the minimum wage? I would.
    Where capitalists have screwed themselves (as a class, not as individuals), is in devaluing work. Makes economic sense for them in the short term, but in the long term it leads to economic populism, and that eventually leads to a place where Obama would be considered a moderate.

  3. PM,

    I don’t disagree.

    I do agree with the individual’s imperative to make their work more valuable and salable.

  4. It is the job of capitalists, Mitch, to make your work less valuable. The ideal position of a capitalist consume only undiiferentiated goods (like wheat) and sell a product no one else can sell (like branded wonder bread). The many producers of wheat cannot control the market, so they they have to sell for something very close to cost. The capitalist who sells in a closed marketplace can charge a monopoly price, which is close to the cost of substitution for another product and always higher than cost.
    Consider the mavens ofSilicon Valley who want to buy software talent in a completely open market, but will sell in a market protected by IP rights.

  5. When capitalists compete the savings is passed on to you! *points at you*

    Or something like that …

  6. The Mary Burke vs Walker ad campaign in WI is a great example of how complicated the economics of a large company can become.
    It’s difficult to be certain, but the era of high growth at Trek bicycles likely occurred when Mary Burke was the head of Trek’s strategic planning unit. Trek wanted to grow its market by becoming more than a niche product for people willing to spend big bucks for a bicycle. Jobs were outsourced, trek made lines of cheaper bikes. Is Burke guilty of outsourcing WI jobs overseas? Probably, but maybe not as much as you might think. No outsourcing, not cheap bikes, no market growth.

  7. Economic theory says that having value created at the lowest cost is the most efficient way to increase value (obviously). I don’t think that economic theory says much about how that increase in wealth will be distributed. I think it would tend to accumulate at the top, simply because the wealthy can afford to spend more money on investment and less on necessities. More of their wealth can be invested and so increase. Poor folks have proportionally less money to invest. Some live hand to mouth, with no money to invest. If ROI was 100%, they’d be as poor fifty years from now as they are today.

  8. I was there. It – and a series of DFL her tweets on the issue – are the “inspiration” for this post.

  9. I figured it was too much of a coincidence. Hmm. I did not see you in the cheap seats, and you are hard to miss. You must be moving up in the world! Hear, hear! There is still hope!

  10. QUOTE: It is the job of capitalists, Mitch, to make your work less valuable.

    IMO, this is why the Fed shouldn’t run with so much inflation. We should actually have a slight ongoing deflation. And the ONLY reason we have asset bubbles that few can cope with is excess easy money and bad finance regulation.

    So people vote for more and more centralized government to take care of them. Except it doesn’t. It robs from them EVEN MORE.

    This is why everyone and everything is running out of money.




  11. Regarding the timeline of Burke at Trek, PM nails it. US News says she returned to Trek when 31, in 1990 or so, and that she left in 2005. So one might be able to quibble about how great a role she played in the outsourcing of Trek’s lines, but it’s pretty much undeniable that she played a role.

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