Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Let’s talk about wages.  We all get up every morning.  We all try to be productive and maybe even earn some money at it.  There comes a time when you have worked for a number of years and noticed that prices of everything you buy have risen but yet you are still making the same wage.  When is the  time  to complain, to revolt, to ask for more money?  It is an age old dilemma That has gone on throughout history . There  has  always been a debate over who deserves a higher wage.  Should you get more pay for simply holding on to you a job for a long time or should wages be determined by how many skills you have?

100 years ago in 1914 there was a  very  important change for American labor.  In January of 1914 Henry Ford and his car company was the most important new story in the Detroit journal which was a very important newspaper at the time.  The headline read,” Henry Ford gives $10,000,000 in 1914 profits to his employees. “ I don’t remember hearing anything like that in my lifetime..  Yes, on January 5 he decided to share profits and double the wages of all his employees making his cars.  Their previous wages were $2.34 a day that was now increased to $5.00 a day.  Imagine if your employer   doubled your wage today?

Even the boy who swept the floors got that much money.  Many other business owners   were angry at Ford for shaking things up in the wage department of the business world.   But Ford had his reasons  for  doubling the pay of his employees.  He felt that  higher wages would ensure employ loyalty to his company.  He also wanted his employees to be able to afford to buy one of his own cars   for  themselves.  Within days of that very public announcement, thousands of people gathered in front of his auto  factories looking for jobs.  Suddenly Henry Ford was the best boss who had the best jobs and made the best cars for everyone to afford.

The next big headline in the financial papers came a year later when they reported that Ford profits rose to $60,000,000 in one year. The  chief owners share of the earnings was estimated at 34 million dollars.  The output was an outstanding 500,000 cars.  The result proved that profit sharing plans is good sound business.  How did America  forget  that this happened?  It  seemed  to have worked out well for every one.  Even though the voluntary act of doubling wages was made by just one company, it helped legitimate ideas of the still controversial notion of a uniform minimum wage.  Yes there was not any minimum wage salary at that time.

Finally in 1938 Congress approved the Fair Labor Standards Act establishing the first nationwide minimum wage of 25¢ per hour.  That seems like nothing for 1938 so there has been increases throughout the  years.  Our  minimum wage has recently increased from $ 7. 25 per hour to seven dollars and 40¢ per hour.  According to labor advocates that still falls  short of the rate of inflation.  Yes people cannot live on $7.40 per hour these days.  Business  groups  argue  that increasing the rate even more would discourage hiring more  employees yet 69% of Americans want the wage base to be raised higher.  Yes Henry Ford has   been dead for a long time and I don’t think we will find another employer as generous as he was.

According to recent polls, many Americans want the wages to be raised to nine dollars per hour even for the guy who sweeps the floor.  As of January 1 2014 many minimum wage laws have voluntarily increased in many states.  21 states have enacted a higher minimum wage of their own.  Washington State tops the list at $9.32 per hour.  Do the math and that adds up to $74.56 per 8 hour shift.  That’s almost 15 times Henry Ford’s $5.00 a day.  God bless America.  I hope we can find new ways to make a decent  days pay and afford to feed our  families and pay for our homes.  I don’t think our wish is greedy.

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