This is your intrepid man on the street, looking for the one stakeholder who hasn’t been heard amid all the yelling for or against a minimum wage hike. Hey, average consumer family, could I talk to you for a moment?
Husband of a 40-something couple, teenage son in tow: Sure, but make it quick. We’re doing Netflix and a frozen pizza tonight.
Reporter: Are you in favor of raising the minimum amount restaurants have to pay employees?
Wife: Of course. What they pay is obscene. Imagine, $2.13 an hour, when they’re making millions.
Son: Duh, Mom. My best friend works at Buddy’s Burgers, and he can’t even afford a phone with 4G.
Husband: You have a friend? And he works?
Reporter: Actually, the $2.13 is what servers in some states have to be paid in addition to their tips, which can top $35 an hour at places like The Cheesecake Factory. The real minimum wage is $7.85 to $15. But, hey, those are just pesky facts. So, you’re in favor of an increase, even though it’ll almost certainly trigger an increase in food and beverage prices? (Silence.)
Husband: By beverages, you mean alcohol? I work 70 hours a week, pal. The pressure is unbelievable.
Reporter (to the wife): But if the minimum wage is raised, all prices are likely to jump. The supermarket that carries the frozen pizzas will have to pay more, as will the company that trucks them, the factory that makes them, the plant that supplies the mozzerella, the company that makes the boxes, the outfit that makes the cardboard and so on.
Husband: Hey, we’ve already stopped going to the movies because it costs $50 a pop. Now you’re telling me we won’t be able to afford pizza and beer. We have to go right now because I need to stockpile pies and sixes. But why don’t you ask restaurants to voluntarily pay a decent rate, one they can afford, so there’s no need for an increase? That way, Junior here may be able to try the Domino’s app on his $400 phone.
Reporter: Good question. Why, there’s a restaurateur over there. Hey, you! With the copy of “Navigating Obamacare” under your arm! Could I talk to you?
Restaurateur: You’re not with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, are you?
Reporter: Nope. I’m curious about why you don’t voluntarily raise wages so lawmakers won’t try to force an even bigger increase on you.
Restaurateur: Have you heard about the new healthcare requirements? It’s going to be one of the biggest expenses ever to hit the business. How can I raise wages, too?
Reporter: What do you do?
Restaurateur: I’m the CEO of Buddy’s Burgers.
Reporter: Don’t you make millions of dollars, plus great perks?
Restaurateur: Yep, but that’s market value.
Reporter: It doesn’t feel hypocritical to hold down wages while your pay soars?
Restaurateur: Nope. Besides, no one notices. And we’ll be able to kill any wage increase by yelping about the fragile economy and the need to create jobs.
Reporter: So you think it’s better to fight any increase than to raise the wage by a reasonable amount. You’re not too bright, are you?
Restaurateur: I’m not the one working on the street, am I?