The Right Wage

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Protesters outside a Wendy's on Nassau Street. The store was one of dozens where workers walked off the job to draw attention to their low wages (Cindy Rodriguez/WNYC)

As fast food workers organize for higher wages, Elise Gould, director of Health Policy Research at the Economic Policy Institute discusses the landscape of minimum wage and living wage employment -- including who should make $7.25 an hour and what burden employers have to provide for their employees. EPI has recently released their 2013 Family Budget Calculator, which shows regional differences in how much income is needed for economic security.

Comments [15]

antonio from baySide


No, like I said, I am just surprised. It was a meant to be tongue and cheek...After all wouldn't that bring them closer to what one of their endearing Presidents called 'The ownership society?"

Aug. 01 2013 11:23 AM

re Jagarbuz - so the guest is a socialist? So what?

Aug. 01 2013 11:18 AM
Mike from Brooklyn

A solution for this problem would be a more competitive labor market. The markets will eventually adjust. "Eventually" (the operative word) is what economists call "The Long Run." But, as Keynes once said, in the long run, we're all dead. I wish our political system would understand that "eventually" incorporates a whole lot of suffering in the here and now.

There is, of course, a role for government to help. We've been promoting competitive markets for 35 years (even the Carter administration had a deregulatory approach). But given that free market approaches can break down, there is also a role for government to help in other ways. It is possible to have both.

Your guest clearly cares about the welfare of our fellow citizens who are less well off. I'm not sure why calling her a socialist is going to help. Perhaps she is just a realist. Corporate welfare is often promoted as pro-market (think of the Kingsbridge Armory). The reality is that it is also a form of socialism. Those tax breaks (and other government perks) take resources from other places in need. When we propose the money flow back the other way, suddenly we see socialist plots. I see people in need of help.

Aug. 01 2013 11:16 AM
susan from Manhattan

If McDonald's and other companies pay so little that some of their workers need food stamps, lack insurance or are supported by their parents then taxpayers assume the burden of supporting those underpaid workers through various government supported safety net programs - INCLUDING tax deductions for dependent adult children who live at home and cannot afford to support themselves on these criminally low salaries.
Taxpayers are therefore subsidizing the companies who engage in this practice. It's simply corporate welfare.
I, for one, do not want to see my tax dollars go to a company I do not support in any way whatsoever.
Workers may lack currency as things stand now but informed consumers can BOYCOTT these businesses.
That's a bargaining chip that can be thrown onto their table by anyone who disagrees with these unfair labor practices.

Aug. 01 2013 10:55 AM
ivan obregon from manhattan

"The inflation-adjusted value of the minimum wage is lower today than it was in 1968. If the value of the minimum wage had kept pace with average wages since then, it would be $10.50 today. If it had increased alongside productivity, it would be $18.75 today. And if it had increased at the same rate as the wages of the top 1.0 percent, it would be over $28 per hour."

See more at:

Aug. 01 2013 10:48 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

@Antonio, are you proposing private companies take responsibility for paying their workers enough to not depend on Govt assistance? Oh, the horror.

Many conservatives love it the way it is. They publicly rail against "govt programs" but secretly they and their corporate suitors know it's only way companies can hire and retain people at minimum wage.

Aug. 01 2013 10:48 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Your guest is a socialist. I hope she realizes it and would be honest enough to say so.

Aug. 01 2013 10:43 AM
John Hamilton from Yonkers

I totally want to reinforce what others have said. Such low wages breed government assistance on the part of working people. This is a disgrace, especially in an country where the middle class pay a larger percentage of their income in taxes than the very corporations, individuals, and investments who make money on these low wage paying companies. Sure some of those investors are pension funds, but these low wage employees don't have pensions. Ours is a totally unjust system. Land of the free? Not for the working people.

Aug. 01 2013 10:42 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

I don't think there should be a "minimum wage." I certainly think there shouldn't be slavery, and that all people should be paid for work provided, but I don't think it's the government's job to set either a floor or cap on wages. Government already provides a "safety net" for the aged and disabled, which includes medicaid and medicare, but why set a floor or cap on wages?

Aug. 01 2013 10:41 AM
John A

There will be workers just starting out without families. So should they be allowed to work below minimum wage? If it were provided that minimum wage were enough for a family...

Aug. 01 2013 10:40 AM
antonio from baySide

I am surprised the GOP has never proposed reducing social welfare programs for certain groups in exchange for a wage of about 25.00.

Aug. 01 2013 10:40 AM
Hugh Sansom

The Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy recently published a study finding that ONE THIRD of New York City residents spend over HALF of their income on rent alone. Add up rent, health insurance, and basic food — the average New Yorker is economically stressed.

Aug. 01 2013 10:36 AM
paulb from Prospect Heights

How would a fast food living wage affect teen employment?

Aug. 01 2013 10:35 AM
antonio from baySide

I am surprised the stance or opinion of the Mayoral candidates if the development of the Kingsbridge armory should have been tethered to a living wage has not been much of an issue...

Aug. 01 2013 10:33 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

People who do not educate themselves, learn a trade, or have the gift of graft, aren't entitled to lavish vacations, brand name clothes, or other perks of higher paid jobs.

However - anyone who does a legal job full time, is entitled to make ends meet. It's virtually impossible to do so on $7.25 an hour in NY, without govt assistance.

Taxpayers should not be subsidizing the workers of fast food joints, so their parent corporations can pay them slave wages, whilst making millions selling junk on a dollar menu.

Aug. 01 2013 10:22 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.