A House Republican group — specifically, the Republicans on the Education and Labor Committee — tweeted Friday acknowledging a $15 wage as a need for workers. However, they still refuse to mandate a wage increase, instead claiming that the free market will do that on its own.
As businesses try to reopen after COVID-19 shutdowns, they’re finding that there’s a shortage of employees available for the offered wages. The reasons for this are hotly debated, but as Forbes points out, wages are a serious factor.
“The clearest sign yet that there are no widespread labor shortages comes from data on wage growth. If companies cannot hire people because there is a worker shortage, it would only be a shortage at current wages. There are obviously a lot of people out of the labor market or unemployed, many of whom would be willing to work at higher wages. Higher wages will entice workers, who are currently out of the labor force, to return to work since they can more easily pay for childcare, for example. Wage growth then should accelerate if employers are really facing worker shortages. But wage growth in general has slowed, in part because more low-wage workers are being rehired and in part because employers are not raising wages.”
In fact, several stories have circulated about companies that couldn’t find workers, raised their offered wage, and suddenly had resumes pouring in. MSNBC covered one such story, about an ice cream parlor that was “flooded with job applications” after raising their starting wage to $15, a move the owner says has not hurt their bottom line, despite an endless stream of claims in right-wing media and politics that businesses would be forced to close if they paid a living wage.
The House Committee of Labor and Education, chaired by Virginia Democrat Bobby Scott, tweeted this story, pointing out that employees want to work when they make enough to live.
It’s almost like if you pay workers a living wage, they want to work… https://t.co/6DxJ3OJ9Le
— Committee on Education & Labor (@EdLaborCmte) May 19, 2021
However, the Republican House Labor & Ed members didn’t like that assessment and tweeted back that this story was proof that the free market will provide for workers’ needs without government interference if allowed to do so.
It's almost like if you let the free market work, companies will meet workers' needs without government interference… https://t.co/UlQRXHL9OU
— House Ed & Labor Republicans (@EdLaborGOP) May 21, 2021
The backlash was immediate and expected, from voters, workers, and social media users who pointed out several salient facts, including that this didn’t happen without government action, that the power to refuse a job isn’t always in an employee’s hands, and that other regulations have been necessary to protect workers, too.
How ludicrous! Was Amazon meeting their worker’s needs when they were applying for Welfare and food stamps? The federal govt won’t meet the needs of the lowest ranking service members because their families qualify for food stamps too. So peddle it elsewhere. https://t.co/MvxeweHfoJ
— SCG (@SCG1009) May 21, 2021
Meanwhile, right-wing politicians and pundits continue to complain that increased unemployment payments, stimulus checks, and other social safety nets are permitting workers to make choices about returning to their jobs. Business Insider recently reported on 16 Republican governors who want to stop unemployment checks, so that people will return to work.
To put that clearly, these Republicans believe that receiving money (intervention) from the government enabled workers to stand up to employers and insist on a living wage (and they want to put a stop to it). That seems to clash with the notion that the “free market” can be counted on to raise wages just because it’s a need (and, in fact, a need acknowledged as a need in the same tweet).
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Steph Bazzle reports on social issues and religion for Hill Reporter. She focuses on stories that speak to everyone's right to practice what they believe in and receive the support of their communities and government officials. You can reach her at Steph@HillReporter.com