Mica Soellner is a freelance multimedia journalist who has worked at US and UK publications. She has been published by the Independent, i News, Novara Media, spiked-online and has been featured on BBC radio. Mica is completing her Bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri. She is currently based in Washington D.C. interning at Politifact National. She has language skills in Japanese and German and is interested in labor relations, politics and foreign policy.
Debating the impact of minimum wage
While many workers will get Black Friday off, others in the service industry will be working long hours for pay as low as minimum wage.
Last month, Target announced it would raise its minimum wage to $11 per hour. By 2020, the company aims to make provide a salary of $15 an hour for starting employees.
In Missouri, the minimum wage remains $7.70 per hour. In 2015, St. Louis passed an ordinance in an attempt to raise the city’s minimum wage to $11 an hour by 2018, but the General Assembly prohibited the city from creating a different minimum wage than what is set statewide.
Gov. Eric Greitens warned of employment loss and reduced hours for employees if the minimum wage were to be increased.
Saku Aura, an associate professor of economics, said a decrease in employment after an increase in base pay is a hugely debated topic in economics.
"If you think of the government raising (the wage), the benefit is that it will potentially provide more money for low-income workers," Aura said. "The negative effect is that there probably is going to be less employment."
Raising minimum wage statewide, Aura said, "is not a doomsday scenario. It doesn’t immediately kill all jobs, but it definitely has a fairly moderate negative effect on employment."
Kurt Mirtsching, a manager at Shakespeare’s Pizza, believes an increase in minimum wage would make it more difficult for people just entering the workforce.
"It’s really going to be tough for, say, a high school kid who wants to get a summer job," said Mirtsching. "He doesn’t have a lot of skills, doesn’t have a lot of experience, but if he has to be paid $15 an hour, employers like me might forego employing him because we can’t afford the guy."
Mirtsching says Shakespeare's starts off employees at minimum wage, but pay moves up fairly quickly.
MU senior Brendan Krekeler, 22, has worked for almost a year at Shakespeare’s Pizza on Peachtree Drive and makes $9.50 an hour. He believes raising minimum wage would have a negative impact on the amount of available working hours, especially when customers still expect the same level of quality.
"If we have less people, it makes our job way harder," said Krekeler. "People still expect to wait 20 minutes for pizza, and it’ll end up taking us 45 minutes because we have so little people. People would not only have an issue getting a job, but getting hours at their job."
Sparky’s Homemade Ice Cream on Ninth Street starts its workers above minimum wage, and, with time, they can get incremental pay increases, according to Hannah Garrighan 24, who has worked there full time for a year and a half as a manager.
"The minimum wage as of now is not liveable," said Garrighan. "People don’t value service work or jobs or positions where minimum wage is applicable. It’s important to look out for people."
Steve Dillard is in his 19th year as owner of the retail store Tiger Spirit on Ninth Street. Dillard said workers making minimum wage may not realize how available positions in the future may be affected.
"Ultimately, the consumer is going to pay for (higher pay)," Dillard said, "and it might mean more streamlining of jobs, where one-and-a-half persons did the job and now one person does the job. So you may be affecting your labor pool by increasing the labor that you’re paying."
However, Travis Coats, 50, who recently started as a front-end clerk at Lucky’s Market on South Providence Road, said the minimum wage is too low to live on. Coats started above minimum wage due to his previous work experience.
"You can’t live on minimum wage, period," Coats said. "Too many people are suffering. The ones who argue against it are the ones who are not on minimum wage and don’t have to actually live it or realistically experience it."
"Depending on how the economy is," he said, "it’s hard to raise a family on minimum wage."
For small businesses like the ones on Ninth Street, Aura argues that it’s difficult to raise the starting wage because of a smaller economic market.
"(Small businesses) take the state-mandated minimum wage as a given, and especially in a lot of food service and service jobs, you start with whatever the minimum wage is," Aura said. They could start paying higher wages, and very few of them do because the pressure of running a business — it’s hard to be that generous. It’s not really a choice for them."
Originally published by the Columbia Missourian on November 24, 2017