Friday, August 11, 2006

Sending the Wrong Message

This week's news stories confirmed the obvious -- there is NO limit to subjects that cry out for bloggers to offer their observations!!! Earlier this week I read the press accounts reporting that the Chicago City Council approved legislation mandating a "living wage" to be paid by "big box retailers" such as Wal-Mart and Target:
Chicago passed a law late last month that requires stores that are 90,000 square feet or more to pay a minimum wage of $9.25 an hour and $1.25 in benefits starting next July, rising to $10 and hour and $3 in benefits by 2010.

Now I could focus this posting on "what exactly is a 'living wage'" since I am an opponent of minimum wage laws -- by offering a contrarian argument in favor of mandating a "minimum wage" of $100,000 annually or why not $200,000 annual versus $9.25 per hour. Sadly though the 18 year old high school drop out who can barely read and write is not worth $100,000 annually -- would you pay such a person $9.25 per hour or perhaps less given their credentials? Exactly - less - so why is the government mandating wage rates? This is the same government which in most jurisdictions has 100% control over the K-12 education system which is producing a "product" known as unqualified graduates and then these same governments turn around and tell the business community, "and when you hire these people this is how much you have to pay them......................."

Enough of the basic economics. Let me reflect on my shopping experience this afternoon since I went to my local Target store. Target (or "Tar-jay" of course) is indeed a Minnesota and national retail success story that leaves me with a good feeling after I shop there since I think they are "doing it right" so I wish them continued success. However, as I walked into Target today I noticed a display of screen print t-shirts apparently being marketed to teenage girls. These shirts had the following phrases on the chest areas --

"I didn't do it"

"Blame it on my sister"

When I read these phrases I had an instant flashback to the newspaper coverage of the Chicago City Council vote on the living wage which included a photo of two women wearing trade union and/or ACORN t-shirts jumping up and down cheering the successful vote. Two related points to make here --

1.) The phrases on the t-shirts that Target is selling really seem to undermine personal responsibility -- a key trait to have if you want to succeed in life or choose to simply exist as a "victim"

2.) The women celebrating in the photo are adult versions of what I fear teenagers buying the t-shirts mentioned earlier will become later in life. These women were happy because the new $9.25 per hour wage was being created by their city council versus a world where these two women would have worked very diligently at Target and perhaps pursued additional staff training that they did at home when they weren't working so they would EARN a pay raise by making themselves more valuable in the work place. A quick search on Target's website shows that employees have access to Education Loans and Tuition Reimbursement options as noted at this website --

Why is this important? Because such improved skills would serve these women should they have to move away from the protective arms of the Chicago city government. What if a tornado wiped out Chicago like the hurricane did to New Orleans forcing these women to relocate to Rockford, Illinois where there is NO living wage (none that I can find) -- clearly they would be better served by expending their energy improving their job skills (by studying at night) versus expending their energy rallying/lobbying at the Chicago City Council. This would give them greater freedom and upside potential for higher wages versus becoming recipients of today's version of "government cheese" welfare known as "living wages" handed out by city hall public "servants".

I love Target stores but they should consider the messages they are sending to their consumers with these t-shirts.

Study more, lobby less


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