Lots of us are saying, “Why should any of the unemployed work when they can get more from Uncle Sam by staying home than in wages if they work?”

Then another commonly heard question: “How much higher do salaries need to be to get people back to work?”

I’m tempted to offer a flip answer ... like, maybe, if employers paid a living wage with some benefits, people would want to work at the jobs they’re offering?

But that is glib – a one-liner.  Because the current situation has complex origins and will require equally complex solutions.

At the same time, like all such responses, it has its feet firmly planted in a core truth.  

The fact is, pre-COVID we’d become accustomed to an economy that required the average person to work several jobs and, often, both husband and wife to hold down multiple jobs.  Of course, people did it.  They saw no alternative and scrambled from minimum-wage job to minimum-wage job.  

We accepted that state of affairs as normal.  

We’d grown accustomed to an economy that thought it okay for people to live one paycheck away from disaster.  And disasters happen.  Ours was an American economy in which 42 million people, including 13 million children, experienced food insecurity each year while half a million people were homeless, 30% of them women and children.

This, in America. The land of the free. The home of the brave.  

Then, came the novel COVID virus. You don’t need me to tell you that it knocked our economy – tragically flawed as it was – right off its feet. It also hit the poorest segments of our society most aggressively.

Then, along came Washington’s efforts at kick-starting our economy again by throwing massive amounts of money into it ... an ongoing effort. Most of those dollars, of course, will go into the coffers of the already rich. A lot will be scammed. And, many among your average Joe or Jill, among those who have no clue how to tap into the wealthy veins of the congressional acts, will get enough of this largesse to pay his or her bills for a few more months. 

Do you wonder there’s no incentive to go back to scraping dishes or serving tables and smiling at customers, hoping they’ll give you enough in tips to make up for an almost nonexistent salary?  As for cleaning cabins or clerking in a store for an existing minimum wage? People didn’t want to do those jobs for those wages before COVID.

As a result of where we find ourselves, of course, employers are raising salaries, offering hiring bonuses, getting creative about benefits.  

Will these drop the minute the government stops paying its extra unemployment benefits? I’m guessing not, because this is a complex problem. But, at least, the current rise in salaries is a start. We might even see a day when the minimum wage for full-time employees will be a living wage.

Stranger things have happened.

(3) comments

Dave Sullivan

Minimum wage should be just a starting point. Not a wage to retire on. The problem now days is people have no job skills or education. They want to make wages that take a degree when they don't have one. There are plenty of jobs in Cody that pay enough to live. Walmart is paying stockers $16.50 per hour. McDonalds is paying $12 per hour. Hotels are paying $12 per hour for house cleaning. What is wrong with starting one of those jobs and working their way up? But no, they only want to start at the top. Minimum wage jobs aren't and were never meant to be career jobs.

Scott Weber

What a column written with the liberal agenda in mind.... As a business owner, when a union or a government mandates a "higher wage", that starts the bad dominoes falling: As a business owner I will start cutting the work force, I will produce less product, I will not expand my business - rather I will start cost-cutting instantly. And I will demand much, much more of an employee!

Some people's labor is only worth $7 an hour. They don't show up for work regularly, they are lazy, they look at their cell phones all day, they don't stay on task, many are on drugs, many are hungover or drinking on the job, many resent authority and many can't stay in one place for eight hours doing anything let alone work!

As it will always be, the worker will only be paid what they are worth. That could be $6 an hour or it could be $100 an hour. Depends on WHAT THEY PRODUCE AND HOW MUCH MONEY THEY GENERATE FOR THE COMPANY.

I was in education for many years and I always told my students: "Stay in school. Get higher education or apprentice in a good trade like mechanics, electricians, plumbing or high-level construction, etc." Lots took my advice, but those who skipped college to hardy-party or make several children found themselves "stuck". Being stuck in your 20's and beyond is YOUR FAULT. No employer is going to pay you more than you are worth.

First thing I do when I interview someone is find out how well they COMMUNICATE - and that's by reading and writing and research. Can't do that and you won't get hired. Then I check their social media and Google them. I don't want a criminal or some loopy liberal activist that my customers will hate.

Any worker is paid for their own worth. No one is going to "give" you any further wages or benefits.... Not happening.

Todd Valley

You do realize that if a business owner raises their wages they have to pass that on to the consumer to stay afloat. This raise will also raise the price of the goods they sell and thus will cause a loss in business, due to the fact that people aren't willing to pay the prices they are asking. It's a catch 22 situation. If I were a business owner and I had to pay my employees more in wages and benfits, who am I going to pass this increase onto? My customer. There are many people out there who are able to work, but think why should I when I can get it for free! Not only that but in the long run it ends up costing the tax payer more, Because of the increase in those who are too lazy to work.

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