The Two Sides of the Minimum Wage Debate

Infini Kimbrough
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The minimum wage debate rages regularly in America, and its effects are felt acutely by the customer service community. Many customer service jobs pay either the federal minimum wage or the state minimum wage—whichever is higher—and any change to these can result in a major change in the profits of a company or the paychecks of its employees. Employers already on a tight budget due to the recent recession are slow to endorse any hike in wages, and employees still suffering from the massive downturn in the economy during prior years are looking to get back up to a full-time living wage. The minimum wage debate encompasses both sides of this complex issue.

Employers who rely on their customer service representatives need service levels to remain at excellent levels in order to please their clients. While the overall effects of federal minimum wage hikes on the state of the economy as a whole are a hotly contested part of the national minimum wage debate, many employers view the possibility of an increase with dread. The funds needed to pay higher labor costs must come from either the profits or the company or an increase in costs to the consumer. Companies that are struggling to generate any profit at all may fold due to higher wage costs, and those that pass the costs along to customers may find themselves losing buyers due to lower prices elsewhere from organizations with deeper pockets.

For many employees, the math is simple. Workers in states that follow only the federal minimum wage standard will see a direct increase in their paychecks when that standard increases. This means more money for them to buy food and clothing for their families as well as afford many other costs of living. Customer service representatives who work in states that rely on the federal minimum as the baseline are among the most vocal calling for an increase. For many, those extra funds may help them end reliance on governmental assistance programs, which pay out billions to help workers struggling with costs of living.

The minimum wage debate rages on at the federal level, but many states are taking matters into their own hands. Thirteen states expect to raise their minimum wages in 2014, with the changes starting on the first of the year for many. Supporters of the federal wage hike are increasingly turning to state minimum wage changes as an alternative. States may set their own wage floors, which allows each state to individually gauge overall growth and need on a local basis. The outcome of these state minimum wage debate proceedings may have a bigger impact on customer service workers than the effects of changes at the federal level.

Some states have already exceeded the anticipated minimum wage increase planned by the White House, and not yet realized, of $9.00 per hour. Others are approaching the $10.10 per hour rate requested by many members of Congress. The federal minimum may not affect customer service workers in states that currently offer higher pay due to higher state minimums, but the minimum wage debate continues as employers and employees struggle to find an acceptable level.


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