My parents have owned a small business in Pennsylvania for the last 20 years. Not ones to usually pay attention to politics, when Governor Tom Wolf proposed a few weeks ago to raise the minimum wage by almost five dollars, my parents started to listen. It would cause my family’s business to raise the prices of goods, cut the hours of employees, lay off workers, and decrease the quality of service. More than just a policy decision, this hike affects individuals—customers, workers, and business owners.
Governor Tom Wolf announced his $12 minimum wage at a rally at the beginning of February. His goal is to raise it to $12 an hour by July 1, 2019 and then by 50 cents every year until it hits $15 an hour in 2025. This move isn’t unprecedented.
Pennsylvania raised its minimum wage in July of 2009. It increased from $6.55 to $7.25. Back in 2009, my parents owned two small businesses but the minimum wage raise made it no longer feasible to operate two locations since the businesses were in close proximity to each other. They closed one business, fired employees, and cut the hours to account for the rising costs of employment. It wasn’t a decision they made happily but one into which the minimum wage forced them if they wanted to remain open.
Those consequences were due to an increase of 70 cents. What would Wolf’s $4.75 increase do? First, it would financially burden customers. My parents would have to increase all the menu prices, a common practice to deal with minimum wage hikes. Increasing prices to pay wages forces the customers to bear the cost of the minimum wage hike, thereby hurting low-income families who cannot afford these prices. My parents raised the price of a drink by 25 cents a couple years ago and people were upset about it for weeks.
Second, my family would have to reduce staff. They wouldn’t be able to cut enough hours to keep full time workers. Decreasing the hours of all workers in order to not fire anyone risks losing long term, full time employees. A similar situation happened in D.C. in 2014. They raised their minimum wage from $8.25 to $11.50 and it caused almost half of employers in D.C. to either reduce their staff or cut hours.
Third, with a decrease in staffing comes a lower quality of service. When I was younger, we didn’t have the staff we needed and both my parents would have to work day and night. It took longer to get the food out, was difficult for them to keep up with the orders, and left them exhausted, unable to provide the service they hoped to provide.
My intent here is not to stand against a minimum wage as a policy all together. It is reasonable to keep a low minimum that increases with inflation. A gradual increase allows businesses to handle it. Rather, my point is to show that an increase in minimum wage doesn’t help all workers as a blanket rule. Stark increases, while nice for political slogans, put such pressure on business that they must burden workers and customers in order to maintain their service. Politicians must bear this in mind; otherwise, their hope to benefit the worker will only get them fired.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.