An interesting thing came up in my news feed today.
And I say ‘news’ in the modern sense of the word:
News (n.) – anything we think is interesting enough to make you want to click on our website, including but not limited to cats and ageing celebrities.
And the item on my ‘news’ feed was about something some guy put on his facebook page, and a bunch of people liked it.
(What do they teach people at journalism school these days?)
Anyway, it caught my eye because it was an American paramedic responding the recent wage case in New York that awarded fast-food workers a minimum wage of $15/hr.
And I’m thinking, that sounds about right. That’s what I’d expect an unskilled uni student at McDonalds to earn.
But then I find out that that’s exactly what an ambulance driver in New York earns.
And so this guy has a rant about what it means for paramedics and burger flippers to be earning the same amount.
“Fast food workers in NY just won a $15/hr wage.
I'm a paramedic. My job requires a broad set of skills: interpersonal, medical, and technical skills, as well as the crucial skill of performing under pressure. I often make decisions on my own, in seconds, under chaotic circumstances, that impact people's health and lives. I make $15/hr.
And these burger flippers think they deserve as much as me?
Good for them.
Look, if any job is going to take up someone's life, it deserves a living wage. If a job exists and you have to hire someone to do it, they deserve a living wage. End of story. There's a lot of talk going around my workplace along the lines of, “These guys with no education and no skills think they deserve as much as us? Screw those guys.” And elsewhere on FB: “I'm a licensed electrician, I make $13/hr, screw these burger flippers.”
And that's exactly what the bosses want! They want us fighting over who has the bigger pile of crumbs so we don't realize they made off with almost the whole damn cake. Why are you angry about fast food workers making two bucks more an hour when your CEO makes four hundred TIMES what you do? It's in the bosses' interests to keep your anger directed downward, at the poor people who are just trying to get by, like you, rather than at the rich assholes who consume almost everything we produce and give next to nothing for it.
My company, as they're so fond of telling us in boosterist emails, cleared $1.3 billion dollars last year. They expect guys supporting families on 26-27k/year to applaud that. And that's to say nothing of the techs and janitors and cashiers and bed pushers who make even less than us, but they are as absolutely crucial to making a hospital work as the damn CEO or the neurosurgeons. Can they pay us more? Absolutely. But why would they? No one's making them.
The workers in NY *made* them. They fought for and won a living wage. So how incredibly petty and counterproductive is it to fuss that their pile of crumbs is bigger than ours? Put that energy elsewhere. Organize. Fight. Win.
Off to Bolivia to join the revolutionaries!
Look, I get where this guy’s coming from. And it’s great that he can lift his eyes from his own narrow sphere of self-interest and take a look at the bigger picture.
And I think there is a real problem, in America and also here. And that’s a sense that executive salaries have disconnected from reality. I don’t think people mind people at the helm getting paid more, but when you hear about people earning $8,000/hour, it does start to sound like they’re taking the piss.
And when someone on $22m a year tells their workers they can’t afford a minimum wage, it sticks in the throat. Our ‘Fair Go’ button starts flashing red.
But there needs to be some difference in wages or they lose their motivating power (until humans become less selfish, and I don’t see that happening anytime soon.)
Take what happened to Dan Price – CEO of Gravity Payments.
Three months ago he became the poster-boy of the do-gooder movement when he announced a minimum wage for his company of $70K, slashing his own $1m pay check to pay for it.
He was celebrated as a new model of egalitarian CEO.
But it didn’t work out so well. The New York times reports that Dan’s so hard on his luck now that he’s renting out one of his rooms to help make ends meet. And two of his best employees left.
They say that newer employees, with less skill and making less of a contribution to the company, we’re earning as much as experienced and valuable employees. And they complained that the system “shackled high-performers to less motivated team members.”
They lost their motivation.
What’s the point of working hard if everyone gets the same amount anyway?
And rather than focus our energy at the bottom, why not look at the top? Why not have pay caps for CEOs? If you want to get heavy handed with the market…
Anyway, this is all by the by. But the thing that jumped out at me is that ambo’s in America earn $13-15/hr.
That’s cheap right? The average wage in Australia is $28.75/hr.
And so what’s the take-home? Australia is just an expensive country. Not just wages. Everything.
I don’t think we’d noticed how far ahead we’ve run of the rest of the world.
And this is why I’m looking abroad right now. If you take some of the wealth generated from your properties here, it can go a long, long way in a country like America – where property prices are just a fraction of what they are here.
What’s more the yields are awesome. It’s a fantastic cashflow play.
America is still a crazy place – where ambo’s earn as much as burger-flippers – but it’s still a first world country with a strong rule of law.
It’s still got a lot going for it.
Should ambo’s be paid more, or burger flippers less? What about CEOs?