Some small businesses, especially young ones, simply cannot offer living wages

The "Working Should Keep You Out of Poverty" response by Hatz of Americorps VISTA in the May 19 Xpress [letters to the editor] is a wonderful ideal and one every small business should strive [to provide] for their employees. The reality is many small businesses, especially if in their formative years, are not in a position to provide the living wage endorsed by her and others. Many businesses struggle to make their expenses, repay loans to go into business and make a living wage for themselves. Fifty percent of businesses do not last five years.

Small business also creates over 60 percent of jobs in the U.S. To just [patronize] businesses that are Living Wage Certified is to be elitist about deciding who has a chance to succeed and to cut off uncertified businesses' chances of providing new jobs and better wages for their workers in the future, as well as potentially dooming them to failure.

Having a small business does not automatically equate with wealth of owners, but rather, often means years of a lot of hard work, long hours and sacrifice at every level. And with government laws, it keeps only getting more difficult to succeed.

Support all small businesses who perform good, effective service and who provide respect to customers and employees.

— Margaret Stephan
Asheville

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12 thoughts on “Some small businesses, especially young ones, simply cannot offer living wages

  1. cwaster

    “Support all small businesses who perform good, effective service and who provide respect to customers and employees.”

    mm, taste that respect. It sure puts food on the table and pays for health care….

  2. kim

    As a small business owner, I wouldn’t consider paying anyone who works for me less than $10/hour. If I can’t pay someone enough so the can pay their rent and feed themselves, I have no business having employees. What a disgrace to live in a country where you can work full time at Walmart and still qualify for foodstamps.
    Business who strive to to raise the quality of life for the working class have my full support. But I quess I am just an elitist.

  3. xvelouria

    “If I can’t pay someone enough so the can pay their rent and feed themselves, I have no business having employees.”

    Exactly! I think it’s more ‘elitist’ to assume your employees are independently wealthy enough that they don’t need the wages you pay to support themselves. If you’re starting a business, don’t hire employees until you can afford to pay them a livable wage.

  4. JWTJr

    “If you’re starting a business, don’t hire employees until you can afford to pay them a livable wage.”

    So, X, you’d rather someone not earn at all until they can make what you think they need to live?

    That is a paradox wrapped in a conundrum. Try again so we can all understand.

  5. Carrie

    What is the “livable wage”? If you say it’s enough to pay rent, eat etc. do part-time employees get paid twice as much as full?

    Really, what is it exactly in $$?

  6. Piffy!

    I agree with JWTJr. Who are these people who would prefer to NOT work and NOT earn ANY money, then to work and earn a little less? Sure, it’s not ideal, but $8 an hour is more than $0 an hour, right?

    I’m not sure if the problem is that wages are too low. It may be that rent and other living expenses have increased at a much higher rate than wages. 10 years ago in Asheville, you could rent a room for maybe 200 dollars. Today, it’s double that.

    Considering this is part of a larger national trend of balooning house prices, perhaps its that with the housing bubble we have created a cost of living that no small business’s wage could ever hope to cover.

    You cant force businesses to increase wages without the cost of goods and services to increase. One could do just fine in asheville washing dishes for 6 or 8 an hour when rent was reasonable. Sure, you werent getting rich, but you could cover expenses. Today, you would have to work full-time in the same job to barely cover rent and a few basic bills.

    I thin this may be one of the big problems with our magical house-flipping economy.

  7. Piffy!

    [b]Really, what is it exactly in $$? [/b]

    Carrie, i’m sure there is a more specific definition out there, but it is generally figured based on a full-time, 40 hours a week position.

    “…this standard generally means that a person working forty hours a week, with no additional income, should be able to afford a specified quality or quantity of housing, food, utilities, transport, health care, and recreation.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Living_wage

  8. Piffy!

    [b]If you’re starting a business, don’t hire employees until you can afford to pay them a livable wage. [/b]

    You just put EVERY farm in the area out of business, ms veloria.

    You’ve never run your own business, have you?

  9. Just Me

    There are people who don’t need to earn enough to pay all bills all by themselves and small businesses starting out should fit that bill nicely. But larger companies who continually realize dividends and profits that mostly benefit the very top management and largest shareholders (sometimes the same people) can afford to re-evaulate their wages. But, they have no pressure to do so.

  10. Mickel

    Just Me alludes to a neglected aspect of this argument: “There are people who don’t need to earn enough to pay all bills all by themselves”.

    We should think about more people than just our immediate selves lest we overlook the complexity of our very own slice of the job market. There are a wealth of different circumstances that facilitate the employer/employee partnership. What about the partially disabled worker? Many people receive pensions but also find fulfillment in working and being out in the community. What about the teenage worker who still lives at home, or any other dependent that doesn’t necessarily need to make as much money as an independent individual does?

    These are instances where a lower wage doesn’t spell poverty and we shouldn’t overlook them. Lower wage jobs can (in the absence of exploitation) still be productive and valuable components of our local economy.

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