Regarding the June 11 editorial “Outlawing business”:
Retail workers in our city are three times as likely as others to live in poverty, because many work at wages that hover close to the minimum wage. These are not teenagers earning extra dollars to go to the movies. Most retail workers in the District are adults working full time, yet they struggle to pay rent and support their families. That is why the D.C. Council should support legislation on Tuesday that would require large retailers to pay a living wage of at least $12.50 an hour.
A living wage would benefit not only individuals but the city as a whole. Thesedollars would go right back into the local economy, and workers would rely less on taxpayer-funded services. At $12.50 an hour, many parents would be able to leave welfare entirely.
Costco, whose parking lot at its recently opened store in Northeast always seems full, understands the benefit of paying living wages to its workers, who are the public face of the company. Its starting wage is $11.50, and company officials report an average wage of $20 helps keep good employees and prevents high turnover.
Many national retailers want to be in the District because of our thriving economy. The D.C. Council should act to ensure their workers can afford to live and thrive in our city, too.
Elissa Silverman, Washington
The writer is communications director and workforce policy analyst at the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute.
The Post correctly described as “harebrained” the District’s soon-to-be-enacted increase in the minimum wage to $12.50 for retail businesses with corporate gross earnings of $1 billion or more. The editorial provided many valid, anticipated negative consequences, but several others need to be added.
It’s basic economics that price controls are counterproductive. And minimum-wage legislation is just price control on labor, which disproportionately affects low-skilled, young minorities. It forces the cost of hiring them above the market clearing price that would be established by a free market. Above this equilibrium point, labor supply increases and demand for labor decreases. Or to paraphrase my conservative hero, Calvin Coolidge, unemployment increases and therefore the true minimum wage is zero.
In any case, the District’s lawyers may need to re-read the Constitution regarding due process and equal protection if they plan to apply the minimum increase only to big retailers such as Wal-Mart, especially given the planned exceptions to accommodate labor unions. A hint for those lawyers: Check the 14th Amendment.
Angelo Mirabella, Silver Spring