This Minimum Wage Conversation is Not a Hypothetical -- I Have It All The Time

Don Boudreax writes:

Here’s a project for all unemployed young people – say, ages 18 through 21 – in America today.  Go to a nearby supermarket or restaurant or lawn-care company or pet store and ask for a job at the minimum wage.  If you are denied, offer to work for $4.00 per hour.  The owner or manager will almost surely decline, saying that it’s against the law.

“Would you like to hire me at $4.00?” you ask.

“Well yes I would” is the answer you’re likely to get in reply.

“So, hire me at that wage.  I’m an adult, I’m sober, and I have no mental issues.  I’m willing to work for $4.00 per hour.”

“You don’t get it, kid.  I can’t hire you at that wage.  I’ll get fined, or worse.  Go away.”

“Ok, I’ll leave.  But no one – including you – will hire me at $7.25 per hour.  What am I supposed to do?”

“Look kid.  That’s your problem.  I’m sorry.  I don’t make the laws, but I gotta follow them.  Go away now.”

I know that this is a realistic scenario because I have this conversation with employees all the time.  Except in my case, applicants are generally not 18 years old but 70 years old.

A bit of background:  My company operates campground and other recreation areas mainly using retired people who live on-site in their own RV's.  Few of my 400+ employees are under 65 and several are over 90.

There are several reasons this conversation occurs:

  • As my employees get older, and perhaps sicker with various disabilities, their work slows down to the point that it falls under our productivity expectations.  Employees may come to me saying they want to stay busy but they know they don't work very fast but they would be happy to work for $5 or $4 an hour if they could just keep this job they love.  (There is a Federal law that allows waiving of minimum wages for disability situations.  We tried it -- once.  The paperwork was daunting and the approval came 7 months after the application -- 2 months after the seasonal employee had already gone home for the year).
  • Many people like to stay busy but face wage caps where they begin to lose their Social Security.  They want to keep their total income under the wage cap.  We try to create some jobs that require fewer hours so they can get their wages down that way, but in many cases we have a limited number of on-site living spots and a fixed amount of work such that each person occupying a living spot must do a certain amount of work to make sure it all gets done.  So at some point we can't give them fewer hours, and then they will ask for lower pay.

I frequently have to tell people I simply cannot pay them less.  They ask if they can sign a paper saying they want to be paid less, and I tell them something like "no, the law assumes you are a gullible rube and that I am evil and infinitely powerful so that if you sign a paper, it just means I forced you to do it."  Which is all true, that is exactly the logic of the law.

People look at me funny sometimes when I say the minimum wage law limits employee rights by putting a floor on what they may charge for their labor.  This is an odd way of putting it for them, because minimum wage laws are generally explained in the oppressor-oppressed model, but it makes perfect sense from my experience.


  1. Hairy grifter:

    This maybe a stupid question how does the minimum wages laws don't violate the first amendment "freedom to assembly"

  2. slocum:

    Could you offer them an unpaid internship that provided room & board (e.g. a place to park their camper and so much a week in groceries or a per-diem meal allowance)? it would be pretty awesome to have an 85-year-old intern...

  3. Earl Wertheimer:

    In reality, few people would actually want to work for $4.00 per hour, since they can probably get more in handouts from the nanny state. Subsidized housing, food and medical care. Why work?

  4. Craig L:

    That's true at wages higher than $7.25, too.

  5. DemFromAZ:

    Here's a more likely scenario without a minimum wage.

    "Would you like to hire me at $4.00 an hour?"

    No - I just had a guy come in and he's willing to work for $3.00 an hour. You see, he's from Mexico and the economy is so crappy down there that they come up here and live 20 to a house and share the costs of living. So, tough luck kid. Go get an apartment with 20 of your friends and hope for the best. By the way, have any idea why my sales are continually declining?

  6. mesocyclone:

    Yep. If you're willing to break the minimum wage law, you're probably also willing to hire illegals.

  7. Russ R.:

    "minimum wage laws are generally explained in the oppressor-oppressed model".

    It will help you to understand that ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING on the left is viewed in the "oppressor-oppressed model".

    Facts are irrelevant, results even more so. The only thing that matters is how convincingly you can claim victimhood.

  8. perlhaqr:

    Are there legal requirements for the minimum amount you're allowed to hire someone for in a salaried position?

  9. irandom419:

    Says you're a dem, so you forgot to mention the wonderful diversity that unvetted illegals bring. Actually, you probably wouldn't want them to work and just buy their votes directly with welfare. Can't understand why having a $4.00 hour and partial welfare is worse than fully on welfare for commiecrats.

  10. ganganelli:

    I'm a dem that opposes immigration. In fact, I would reduce legal immigration if I could. But I also don't pretend that there isn't a bunch of white people sitting in their trailers in Kentucky collecting welfare and disability.

  11. Guest:

    If only ALL labor forces could be entirely federally subsidized, so that all workers were trying to keep their wages low on purpose.

    Do you hear yourself sometimes?

  12. Another_Brian:

    I have good news for you. Since you operate some facilities in California, apparently Arabian princesses can get away with paying their employees less than $0.50/hour as long as they also provide them with Internet, TV, and cell phones. Might be something you want to look into.

  13. JW Ogden:

    Interestingly I see companies that pay below minimum wage. One is a business that is right across from my office, it is called Vector Marketing. They sell Cutco knives. They pay on pure commission and most people who work for them make well below minimum wage, many actually loose money. Another business that pays below minimum wage around here is the company that delivers phone books most of their workers net out below minimum wage, they do it by paying by the job and you drive your own car.

    So the minimum wage does not even protect people from working for less than minimum wage only from working by the hour for below minimum wage. It seems to me that it pushes people into even worse pay.

  14. Patrick G:

    Minimum wages have deteriorated in real terms during my adult life. In my area the going rate for teenaged baby sitters is $12.00 per hour.
    Here is a way to determine a minimum amount to pay an employee. Find the rate for a one bedroom apartment rental in your area, a place you could dwell in, not a rat infested hell hole with no bathroom. Multiply times 4. That is a minimum monthly salary. If the rent is $500 you pay $2,000 per month, or $24,000 per year for the unskilled entry level person. If the person can talk, read and write you will have to do better.

    Employee performance remarkably improves when they are not worried about the utilities being turned off. The current minimum wage is much worse than when I was young. $4.00 per hour was pretty bad then but a new basic car was $2,500, and rents around $100.

  15. Barry "the country" Soetoro:

    Smart thinkin