By Dave Clayton
I want to start off by declaring that all labor is skilled labor, that freedom to me means freedom from poverty, that we all deserve full bellies, shelter and the means to ascend to a higher economic class. I’m not too sure I want a big government to be involved in the pursuit. The question has to be asked. What would President Biden’s executive order raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour look like in the Texas Panhandle where our economy consists of mostly home-grown businesses? I have a suspicion this might not be the bright future that we are all hoping for.
I cannot help but recall the Obamacare rolled out seven years ago. No doubt it has provided health insurance for millions who would otherwise not be able to afford it. With the same breath, when was the last time that you have worked a food service or retail job for over 35 hours? Probably about seven years ago. Small businesses simply can’t afford the financial burden levied against them by a big brother who is mandating these kinds of benefits. The workaround for small businesses and corporations alike has been to cut hours and hire more labor. We don’t have to look very far to see an example of the use of this loophole. Amarillo College’s student work policy is not to allow students to work over 20 hours. This isn’t a corporate greed situation; the college simply cannot afford to pay for the benefits these workers would be entitled to if they worked over the allotted hours. I know many of us today are working multiple service industry jobs due to similar factors.
As reported by Ziprecruiter.com, the average hourly wage for food service workers in Amarillo is between $8 and $11 an hour. I don’t need to remind anyone that we are still in a pandemic. Last year, I saw business after the business closes its doors to never reopen again. Some of these businesses have been in operation for more than a decade. Many businesses in our community are barely surviving as it is and with the added burden of raising wages, this would be a death blow to our celebrated home-grown business community that was thriving for the first time in years before this pandemic.
What I see, is a similar scenario to the Obamacare rollout. I understand that my outlook is grim but this could potentially be to our benefit. What has been proposed is an incremental increase to $15 an hour over the course of four years. It is far more possible that the average Millennial, and our new adorable Zoomers are going to working multiple low hours $15 an hour jobs in the coming years. I fear the day of having one employer is soon coming to an end. I am hoping that our mom-and-pop economy will recover swiftly to meet this new challenge. We will also have to learn new skills to adapt to this new job market or get left behind.