$15 an Hour Does Not Do Much

Hey! Bernie Sanders! Yeah, you with the famous mittens!

Been reading about your push to get a federal $15 minimum wage, same thing you’ve been trying to do for a few years now.

I got news for you, Senator. $15 an hour doesn’t really do much for the workers of the United States except in places where the cost of living is very low.

See, you don’t take into account the taxes taken out of that $15 an hour, or the fact that most jobs that pay minimum wage don’t give more than maybe 30 hours a week – less now that they would have to provide healthcare for workers who are on the books for those 30 hours. Most minimum wage workers work about 20-25 hours a week, and if they do work more than the 40 hours suggested, they get no overtime at 1.5x their hourly wage. Their take home for the year is just over $20,000 a year, and just over $80 a day.

So here’s the basic calculation. At $15 an hour, and 30 hours a week, a person is taking home the income on the right. With the federal taxes taken out, and JUST THE FEDERAL TAXES, a person is taking home income that doesn’t pay for shit. (https://us.thetaxcalculator.net/hourly-wage-tax-calculator – if you want to do some math for yourself)

I know the current federal minimum of $7.25 is even worse. But you don’t go far enough to help workers. We need a federal minimum of something like $25 an hour. And laws that make sure that jobs that promise full time work actually give those 30-40 hours a week, and the 1.5x overtime wage. And mandatory audits of those companies so that workers aren’t shorted or cheated.

Many placements for people like low or mid-level office workers – the admin assistants, receptionists, call center workers – pay these days starts at something like $13 an hour. It might hit $15 or so after a year, and maybe it will hit $18 after 3 or 4 years. A few places might start at that $18 an hour but go only up to $18.50 an hour. And few will even think about overtime or bonuses.

These are still very low wages. Affording housing, utilities, food, transportation – just the basics of life these days – on minimum wage – well, it doesn’t add up, even at $15 a hour.

And what about those workers who’ve been paid $15 an hour or somewhat more for years and now are being shown that their labor isn’t worth more than that minimum. We’d need to push those companies to pay more – $25-30 an hour let’s say – to show that these workers with more skills are worth more to these companies. I can think of several people I know whose jobs as mechanics, technicians, drivers – would need to be paid at higher wages than the proposed $15 to show that they are more than minimum wage workers.

The problem, Senator Sanders, is that most companies don’t want to give anything out of their bottom lines. Public companies want to keep paying their stockholders the interest dividends they’ve come to expect, and private companies want to keep that profit in the family, keep squirreling away money into their own pockets and not into their workers pockets.

A $15 minimum wage is not the final answer. It’s not even the starting answer at this point. It’s a token to those who believe in you and your democratic socialism. We need more, and we need you to come through. So, Mr. Mittens-Memes-For-The-Ages – let’s go back to the drawing board and look at all the things workers do need these days.

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