Last month, “Fight for 15” continued the public minimum debate by hosting its first-ever nationwide convention in Virginia. The movement, which seeks to increase the national minimum wage to $15 per hour, has received a lot of attention in the past year. For example, both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton recognized the movement and added its initiatives to their platforms.
Minimum wage hikes have long been opposed by conservatives, mainly because conservatives actually consider economic implications past their immediate effects. The Left supports minimum wage hikes not because of their benefits for the economy, or even for those whom they seek to help, but for political gain.
As I watched the convention, I was intrigued to see that most of the arguments for a higher wages ignored conventional assumptions that we make (or that I thought we make) about work here in the United States. The following is the most intriguing example of such an argument.
In arguing for minimum wage hikes, Fight for 15’s presents some statistics. Among them is this, indicating the struggle of what, I suppose, it considers a full-time fast food worker: “A 24-hour-a-week worker making the median fast food wage would earn only $11,318 in a year.” $11,318 in a year is admittedly not a lot of money, but neither is 24 hours a lot of work.
To put this in perspective, the United States Department of Labor does not define either full-time or part-time employment. Full-time is typically defined as 40 hours of work per week because the Fair Labor Standards Act mandates employers to pay overtime to those who work more than 40 hours in a week. For that reason, when we speak of full-time or a full work week, we generally speak of 40 total hours of work. But the Fight for 15 has a much lower standard for full-time.
If that 24-hour-a-week worker were to become a 40-hour-a-week worker, he/she would make would make nearly double what was made before. The statistical choice to use a 24-hour week as a full week of work may or may not prove that people aren’t willing to work much anymore, but it certainly supports the proposition that many expect much in return for a little. And that is one of the fundamental fallacies made by minimum wage supporters.