Minimum Wage and Human Dignity

How do we meet inalienable rights of all and grow our business?

I was recently asked my opinion on the matter of potential minimum wage increases, which have been enacted in many municipalities around the country, and which is proposed in Sacramento as well.  Here is what I wrote:

I do have two things of import to say regarding this topic. I will preface by saying that I am a co-owner of Workforce Equanimity, LLC, I am an organizational psychologist by training and experience, and I am also an ordained deacon in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento. My opinions are formed from those perspectives.

1. The human dignity of the worker is definitely NOT maintained when the worker earns less than is required to maintain even a minimal lifestyle – shelter, food, clothing, transportation, and ability to seek meaning in their life and work. Whatever actual figure is derived for a “minimum wage,” whether that is $15 or $16 or something else, MUST take this into account. Not only is this a personal issue for the worker; but it contributes to a societal issue where parents must work multiple jobs to make ends meet, taking them away from home and their parental obligations there, just to put a roof over their children’s heads and feed them. This leads to under-supervised children who have little recourse other than to turn to mischievous and often criminal behavior to “belong” to an ersatz family and to “earn” spending money and engage in illicit recreation.

2. It is hard accounting that leads to decisions regarding wages and the number of people a company can hire – which directly impacts hours of operation, production, customer service, expansion plans, etc. As an observer of the phenomenon of productivity in the workplace, I can assuredly state that there are ways to trim costs (that can thereafter go into wages) by implementing Lean processes and by raising the level of employee engagement and enablement. The former requires the expertise of Lean consultants and a commitment to that process; the latter requires that leadership, management, and workforce dynamics are based on personal strengths and aligning workers’ capabilities with organizational goals (parenthetically, this is what Workforce Equanimity is designed to do).

Raising wages will not, in and of itself, generate more engaged employees; but it is a step towards acknowledging human dignity of the worker, enabling their strengths, and leveraging their inherent partnership in the innovative growth of all businesses.