Minimum wage should really be a living wage

Opinion Aug 21, 2017 by James Bow Kitchener Post

It's hard to have sympathy when the most strident critics of Ontario's proposed increase in the minimum wage to $15/hour include Loblaws CEO Galen Weston.

His complaint that Loblaws will be made poor by the minimum wage increase sounds hollow when Weston himself earns a wage of $5 million per year.

But there are other critics of the minimum wage increase striking up internet memes. One shows a self-serve checkout at a McDonald's and crows, "You think you deserve $15/hour? Meet your replacement."

I find these memes repugnant for many reasons. For one thing, it seems vindictive. It seems to say, how dare poor people demand more? Maybe we should replace them with robots and see how they like it!

This ignores the fact that $15 is worth a lot less these days than it was 20 years ago. These people are not asking for a good, unionized wage. They're not asking to make much more than what I made at McDonald's back in 1991 — and let me tell you, I worked my butt off for that money.

Then there is the suggestion that these workers are bringing on automation because of their demands for a reasonable wage. The fact is automated checkouts are happening now when the minimum wage is at $11.40.

And because computers and robots are getting cheaper every day, it's going to make even more sense to automate in the months ahead.

What do these critics say should happen to the minimum wage, in this case? Are they so callous as to argue that people's minimum wages should drop for the privilege of keeping their jobs? How much lower should the minimum wage go before it just makes no more sense to work?

And, if that's the critics' attitude, it's one that's going to bite them in the backside. It's not going to be long before the robots are coming for all our jobs. Google the term "Humans Need Not Apply" and watch the video by CGP Grey that pops up.

This will shake your blasé attitude toward self-serve checkouts. The robot revolution doesn't stop there. The switch to self-driving cars and trucks alone will make millions on this continent not only unemployed, but unemployable through no fault of their own.

What do we do then? It doesn't take too many industries fully automating before we achieve an unemployment rate comparable to that seen during the Great Depression. If we lose the workers in this society, we lose the consumers, and if we lose the consumers, we lose the economy.

So, don't cheer for the automation of fast food workers unless you can think of a good way to keep the people who lose their jobs spending. It's your pocketbook that will be hurt in the end.

Really, the focus in the future should be less on a reasonable minimum wage, and more on a reasonable minimum income for everyone. If we want to keep the economy going after the robots take all of our jobs away, we will need to share the benefits that automation provides.

And that means providing enough money to all individuals in this country to ensure they have food on the table, a roof over their head and some extra cash to spend.

Think of how much computers have changed our lives over the past three decades and remember that the pace of change is increasing. We haven't thought through what robot automation means for all of us, and the future is coming faster than we think.

James Bow is a writer and a father of two in Kitchener, Ont. You can follow him online at bowjamesbow.ca or on Twitter at @jamesbow.


Minimum wage should really be a living wage

Opinion Aug 21, 2017 by James Bow Kitchener Post

It's hard to have sympathy when the most strident critics of Ontario's proposed increase in the minimum wage to $15/hour include Loblaws CEO Galen Weston.

His complaint that Loblaws will be made poor by the minimum wage increase sounds hollow when Weston himself earns a wage of $5 million per year.

But there are other critics of the minimum wage increase striking up internet memes. One shows a self-serve checkout at a McDonald's and crows, "You think you deserve $15/hour? Meet your replacement."

I find these memes repugnant for many reasons. For one thing, it seems vindictive. It seems to say, how dare poor people demand more? Maybe we should replace them with robots and see how they like it!

This ignores the fact that $15 is worth a lot less these days than it was 20 years ago. These people are not asking for a good, unionized wage. They're not asking to make much more than what I made at McDonald's back in 1991 — and let me tell you, I worked my butt off for that money.

Then there is the suggestion that these workers are bringing on automation because of their demands for a reasonable wage. The fact is automated checkouts are happening now when the minimum wage is at $11.40.

And because computers and robots are getting cheaper every day, it's going to make even more sense to automate in the months ahead.

What do these critics say should happen to the minimum wage, in this case? Are they so callous as to argue that people's minimum wages should drop for the privilege of keeping their jobs? How much lower should the minimum wage go before it just makes no more sense to work?

And, if that's the critics' attitude, it's one that's going to bite them in the backside. It's not going to be long before the robots are coming for all our jobs. Google the term "Humans Need Not Apply" and watch the video by CGP Grey that pops up.

This will shake your blasé attitude toward self-serve checkouts. The robot revolution doesn't stop there. The switch to self-driving cars and trucks alone will make millions on this continent not only unemployed, but unemployable through no fault of their own.

What do we do then? It doesn't take too many industries fully automating before we achieve an unemployment rate comparable to that seen during the Great Depression. If we lose the workers in this society, we lose the consumers, and if we lose the consumers, we lose the economy.

So, don't cheer for the automation of fast food workers unless you can think of a good way to keep the people who lose their jobs spending. It's your pocketbook that will be hurt in the end.

Really, the focus in the future should be less on a reasonable minimum wage, and more on a reasonable minimum income for everyone. If we want to keep the economy going after the robots take all of our jobs away, we will need to share the benefits that automation provides.

And that means providing enough money to all individuals in this country to ensure they have food on the table, a roof over their head and some extra cash to spend.

Think of how much computers have changed our lives over the past three decades and remember that the pace of change is increasing. We haven't thought through what robot automation means for all of us, and the future is coming faster than we think.

James Bow is a writer and a father of two in Kitchener, Ont. You can follow him online at bowjamesbow.ca or on Twitter at @jamesbow.


Minimum wage should really be a living wage

Opinion Aug 21, 2017 by James Bow Kitchener Post

It's hard to have sympathy when the most strident critics of Ontario's proposed increase in the minimum wage to $15/hour include Loblaws CEO Galen Weston.

His complaint that Loblaws will be made poor by the minimum wage increase sounds hollow when Weston himself earns a wage of $5 million per year.

But there are other critics of the minimum wage increase striking up internet memes. One shows a self-serve checkout at a McDonald's and crows, "You think you deserve $15/hour? Meet your replacement."

I find these memes repugnant for many reasons. For one thing, it seems vindictive. It seems to say, how dare poor people demand more? Maybe we should replace them with robots and see how they like it!

This ignores the fact that $15 is worth a lot less these days than it was 20 years ago. These people are not asking for a good, unionized wage. They're not asking to make much more than what I made at McDonald's back in 1991 — and let me tell you, I worked my butt off for that money.

Then there is the suggestion that these workers are bringing on automation because of their demands for a reasonable wage. The fact is automated checkouts are happening now when the minimum wage is at $11.40.

And because computers and robots are getting cheaper every day, it's going to make even more sense to automate in the months ahead.

What do these critics say should happen to the minimum wage, in this case? Are they so callous as to argue that people's minimum wages should drop for the privilege of keeping their jobs? How much lower should the minimum wage go before it just makes no more sense to work?

And, if that's the critics' attitude, it's one that's going to bite them in the backside. It's not going to be long before the robots are coming for all our jobs. Google the term "Humans Need Not Apply" and watch the video by CGP Grey that pops up.

This will shake your blasé attitude toward self-serve checkouts. The robot revolution doesn't stop there. The switch to self-driving cars and trucks alone will make millions on this continent not only unemployed, but unemployable through no fault of their own.

What do we do then? It doesn't take too many industries fully automating before we achieve an unemployment rate comparable to that seen during the Great Depression. If we lose the workers in this society, we lose the consumers, and if we lose the consumers, we lose the economy.

So, don't cheer for the automation of fast food workers unless you can think of a good way to keep the people who lose their jobs spending. It's your pocketbook that will be hurt in the end.

Really, the focus in the future should be less on a reasonable minimum wage, and more on a reasonable minimum income for everyone. If we want to keep the economy going after the robots take all of our jobs away, we will need to share the benefits that automation provides.

And that means providing enough money to all individuals in this country to ensure they have food on the table, a roof over their head and some extra cash to spend.

Think of how much computers have changed our lives over the past three decades and remember that the pace of change is increasing. We haven't thought through what robot automation means for all of us, and the future is coming faster than we think.

James Bow is a writer and a father of two in Kitchener, Ont. You can follow him online at bowjamesbow.ca or on Twitter at @jamesbow.