John Andrist: Thoughts On The Minimum Wage From A Member Of The 8%


Fast-food workers and supporters organized by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) protest outside of a Burger King Worldwide Inc. restaurant in Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. Fast-food workers in 50 U.S. cities plan to walk off the job today, ratcheting up pressure on the industry to raise wages and demanding the right to wages of $15 an hour, more than double the federal minimum of $7.25. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The city of Los Angeles is the latest to pass a minimum wage for workers of $15 an hour, and a $15 floor at the federal level seems to be gaining steam.

While I have my opinions, it has  occurred to me I may not have the credentials to take a stand.

You see, I’m one of the 8 percent of adult Americans who was self-employed. Matter of fact, I never have been employed as an adult, except on a part-time basis working as a State Senator for North Dakota.

That may make me an even more rare animal. But I have often tried to put myself in the shoes of those of you who depend on a regular check for your livelihood.

That’s important for all of us, although very difficult — in some sense perhaps impossible.

I don’t even know what it is alike to be young and searching for a job. The last time I did was when I was 15 and got a summer job at $12 for a six-day week in my home town hardware store.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]“Look for ways to make myself more valuable to my boss — not for his sake, but for mine”[/mks_pullquote]

I reckon if I was young today and didn’t want to be on my own, my wage would be at the top of my list. I also reckon a minimum wage would not be on my radar screen.

My approach would be to find a work I enjoy, and train for it. . . and then to make myself worth whatever the boss might pay me. After all, that is what makes a job secure, making my work be worth what I’m paid, and not what government or some union said I must be paid.

Alas, you can tell I’m falling into that 8-percent mentality. I remember telling many young people, when asked for advice, that the best security lies in a job where I have unique abilities that make me hard to replace.

Say it this way: “Look for ways to make myself more valuable to my boss — not for his sake, but for mine”.

After all, we don’t just work for somebody because we like him, and he doesn’t hire us because he wants to be generous. Employment is a business deal.

Another point on employment

You go into a restaurant and order a meal. You tell the waiter how you want your steak cooked. He lets you substitute green beans for the broccoli. Other changes? No problem.

The experience is pleasant because the emphasis is on service.

But say you want to send a graduation card to a kid back home and you don’t have a box number. We’ve learned long ago that even in a small town where the postal clerk knows the box number they won’t deliver if it’s not on the envelope. Customer service comes second.

So you call and inquire about the box number? No soap, at least not in the Crosby post office. They won’t tell.

It’s rules that are important to the postal service, not customers. The difference is that a restaurant, or any private business, is dependent on satisfied customers.

The postal service is a monopoly, the only game in town. Postal workers have learned their lesson. You never get in trouble following the rules, even if it makes you a lousy neighbor.

Making sense out of Congress

While so many people struggle these days to understand why Congress appears to be so inept, my lament is why they don’t begin by working to make sense out of their rules.

The power vested in leadership defies my understanding. Leadership can’t require members to vote as they want, but they can decide whether or not you can have the opportunity to vote on a given bill.

It seemed like Harry Reed decided nobody gets to vote on anything.

And then there is the filibuster. Can you imagine speaking for 8, 12, or 24 hours for the sole purpose of preventing a vote?

Leadership in the North Dakota legislature is certainly not powerless, but it has to be much more subtle. And ultimately, every bill must have its day for decision on the floor.

Members of Congress are smart people. So why are they willing to live by such archaic rules? They are the mother of their problems.