After getting laid off and being unemployed for five full months, Kwame Jackson was ready to hear some good news.*
It came this week, when he heard about a new study on the minimum wage prepared by a leading Ivy League-trained economist, Dr. Bertrand Hopkins. The study was consistent with the latest groundbreaking research on the subject, and added to a growing body of evidence that minimum wage increases are in fact good for workers–contrary to what the libertarian purists at the Heritage Foundation might have you believe.
Objectively titled “Go Figure: Increasing the Minimum Wage Helps Minimum Wage Workers,” the study focused on low-skilled workers in the foodservice industry across multiple states that had a minimum wage increase scheduled. Researchers compared employment and wage data from prior to the hike to comparable data one year after the hike took effect.
They found that after the increases went into effect, all low-skilled employees had higher average hourly wage rates. Even more impressive, Dr. Hopkins and his team calculated that the total increase in wages earned by employees who kept their jobs was “considerably larger” than the amount of wages lost by workers who inexplicably stopped being employed during the course of the study. In turn, this meant that wage hikes increased aggregate demand, leading to the report’s conclusion that “not only is raising the minimum wage good for families and workers and children, it’s good for the entire economy.”
Unfortunately, the benefits have not fully reached Kwame Jackson, 32, who recently moved back home with his parents to help make ends meet. Until a few months ago, Jackson was employed as a server at a Chili’s restaurant in Spokane, WA. The problem is that Chili’s, like many national restaurant brands, has started to aggressively deploy new “labor-saving” technologies, including low-cost tablets at each table that let customers order and pay for food without interacting with a server.
According to industry professionals, the tablet innovation in particular has been very popular in states like Washington where tipped employees like servers are still required to be paid a minimum wage before accounting for tips. (Most other states have a modified and lower minimum wage standard for tipped employees.)
Allegedly, these new technologies in restaurant industry are being implemented to help protect the business from cost increases associated with large number of minimum-wage hikes occurring around the country. However, objective experts like Dr. Hopkins told The Daily Face Palm that these decisions are really part of a neoliberal plan to “increase the profits of the 1% at the expense of the little guy.”
Whatever the motivation, the tablets ultimately cost Jackson his job. His local Chili’s still retained several servers, but each one could cover more tables now that many customers were used to using the tablets for part of their experience. As a result, several waiters and waitresses had their hours reduced and were ultimately let go entirely. At his restaurant, the terminations were chosen based on seniority. Since he’d only had the job for four months at the time, he was one of the employees chosen to be terminated.
Jackson confided to The Daily Face Palm that it was a major setback for him. In previous years, Jackson had struggled to hold down steady formal employment, failing to find work that interested him. He had also had several run-ins with the criminal justice system which had complicated things further. Although all of his charges were for nonsensical crimes involving the possession of an illicit plant, they proved to be a major blemish on his record for potential employers. Most of the resumes he sent out, even for entry-level and minimum wage positions didn’t even get a callback.
As bad as it sounds, Jackson’s experience may not be all that uncommon. According to Brent Mason, one of the notorious corporate shills working at the Cato Institute, this is one possible drawbacks to raising the minimum wage. “When employers have to pay the same wage to a candidate that has a spotty employment history and a criminal record as they do to a candidate without those negatives, they’re going to choose the candidate with a clean record almost every time,” Winters told The Daily Face Palm.
Since losing his job, Jackson said he’d been having an even harder time getting employers to bite on his resume. He also expressed some concerns that his unemployment benefits were going to expire in a month. But learning about Dr. Hopkins’s new minimum wage study had Jackson feeling optimistic about the future, “When I read that the demand for low-skilled labor was highly inelastic, I knew everything was going to be okay.”
*All of the individuals quoted in this piece are fictional in nature. Any similarities between their opinions and the actual views expressed by trolls in your social media feed or real-world experts are entirely coincidental. However, the links within point to actual news stories and resources relevant to the discussion at hand.
Note also that while the study discussed within is fictional, the methodology described is similar to how some real minimum wage studies are conducted–and the outcome of a “net benefit” to workers is something commonly promoted by more sophisticated proponents of the minimum wage.