Make It A ‘Starting Wage’

To the Editor:

There have been several letters to the editor recently with a focus on the discussion of minimum wage. This discussion began with Mr. John Goodrich’s letter which spoke to the impacts minimum wage proposals would have on small business employers. His letter was followed by a letter from Mr. David Scribner which said that Mr. Goodrich was mistaken. For Vermont, the Northeast Kingdom in particular, and similar regions throughout the country, I agree with Mr. Goodrich.

Then, in The Caledonian-Record, 18 and 19 May, 2019 there is a letter from Ms. Amy Brill which appears to be in support of Mr. Goodrich and another letter from Mr. Jeffery Reel which seems to support Mr. Scribner’s position that minimum wage legislation is positive for everyone.

I would like to suggest that minimum wage discussions be refocused to address starting wage rather than minimum wage. Perhaps, when wage advocates are thinking about minimum wages they expect that employers will be required to pay “new hires” the legislative minimum wage. If the new hired person is full time, the employer incurs additional personnel expenses of 30% to 40% or more depending on the benefits available in the business. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. A proposed Federal (and some states) minimum wage is $15 per hour. If this proposed minimum wage were to become required, it seems that it will negatively impact small business hiring practices.

Rather than minimum wage, I suggest the discussion shift to focus on starting wages. Can a starting wage be legislated? Yes, I think it can. Should it be double the current minimum wage? No, I do not think it should. A starting wage is paid to people coming into the workforce for the first time or returning to the work force after an extended absence. “Soft Skills” such as work ethic, communication, teamwork, etc. are as important as job specific skills in many jobs. These skills may take some time to develop in accordance with employer expectations. As an employee develops the required skills for the job (soft skills as well as job specific skills), he/she may expect an increase in wages.

State minimum salaries must equal the Federal minimum wage of $7.25 for workers employed in federal contract work and fed. agency work, as I understand wage rules. Otherwise, states are not required to have minimum wage standards. According to Paycor.com, 22 states recognize Federal minimum wage standards. Some of these 22 states have no minimum wage standards other than those required for federal contract work/fed agency work. 28 states have minimum wage standards which are higher than the FED minimum. None of these 28 states require $15 per hour.

There is also some mention of a “living wage.” I think this is much too subjective for serious extended discussions because lifestyles, by choice or by circumstance, comes into play. A frugal lifestyle requires a smaller living wage than an extravagant lifestyle. Location, rural or urban will influence what constitutes a living wage. Other aspects of lifestyle could impact the determination of a living wage. And who is to make that determination?

So, could we start working on a starting wage rather than a minimum wage? This just might bring more first-time employees into the workforce (summer hire) to the benefit of employees and employers alike.

Norman Legge

Brownington, Vt.

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