Due to a 2004 amendment to the state constitution, Florida’s minimum wage increased from $6.79 to $7.21 an hour Monday. This puts Florida over the current federal minimum wage of $6.55 and a few pennies shy of the pending federal raise to $7.25 that will go into effect at the end of July.
At a time when the federal government is quick to print stimulus checks and bail out large corporations, it’s no surprise that Congress isn’t shying away from giving the lowest legally paid workers a bonus — and with good reason.
The minimum wage debate is rooted in differences of economic theory and social justice. Proponents of minimum wage increases cite rising costs in food, energy and health care as reason enough to give an increase. Classic economic theory states that raising the minimum wage could cause unemployment.
Given the rising unemployment rate, it would seem unwise to continue with the increase. However, some empirical studies show that a reasonable increase of the minimum wage has no detrimental effect on the unemployment rate.
According to the US Department of Labor, since the amendment was passed in 2004, Florida has shown a lower unemployment rate and a stronger economy than national averages.
Perhaps the stronger argument for a minimum wage increase isn’t rooted in statistics, but in compassion and philanthropy. Nearly every business in America is plutocratic — the business owner makes more money than the employees and controls compensation, benefits and work conditions. Every good employer regulates his or her employees to the most profitable degree possible. This may be the most fundamental principle of not just a good payroll system, but the free labor market in general.
Unfortunately, injustices often arise from a completely free market, as globalization has made evident. Thousands of workers are paid poverty wages while multinational corporations rake in additional profits as a result of lower overheads. It could be argued that without these corporations and the jobs they provide, these workers would be even more impoverished. However, the intention of such corporations should be to compensate laborers fairly and justly rather than focus on a singular profit. Human empathy should not be discarded because dollar signs are involved, and business does not necessitate a disregard for altruism.
Though the “bleeding heart” appeal doesn’t translate as dramatically to minimum wage laborers in America, the case for regulating wage fairness at home is still strong. It is not charity— it is a matter of regulated reciprocity between the employer and employee. After all, without labor there would be no product or service to sell.