Raising the wage is a sound investment

I got my first job the summer after I turned 16. It was in fast food, and while some of my friends enjoyed vacation days at the river, I wiled away hours mopping floors, prepping food and taking orders. I came home, always exhausted and smelling of grease.

For this I was paid $3.35 an hour. My weekly paychecks were microscopic, but I was only saving for a car, not trying to pay the rent or support a family. Still, the low pay was demoralizing. I hated that job and quit as soon as I found a better-paying opportunity.

Fast-forward several decades and my experience as a member of the working class is much different. I have it pretty well: Not only do I make much more than California's $9 minimum wage, I also have health insurance and a partner who helps shoulder expenses.

Not everyone has it so easy, however (See “How much are you worth?” by Nick Miller, SN&R Feature Story, page 14). There are those who work 40 hard hours a week and still struggle to buy groceries or pay for utilities and other basic necessities.

Of course I know that while it may be relatively easy for corporations such as Wal-Mart and McDonald's to give workers a raise, it will be harder for small mom-and-pop businesses to absorb the cost of a higher minimum wage.

Harder, but not impossible. And, frankly, it's a smart business move.

Higher-paid employees enjoy higher job satisfaction. Happier employees typically means lower turnover. Satisfied employees feel valued and, in turn, are more committed to their work, to their employers.

Paying minimum-wage workers a better, living wage—from a moral and economic standpoint—makes for a sound investment.