Smith: How wages are being politicized

Smith: How wages are being politicized

April 14th, 2014 By Robin Smith in Opinion Columns

Robin Smith

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

The new political "crisis" is the minimum wage.

Before addressing a few points, let me make personal observations about employers who pay workers less than their value to a company: You're a thief, and you're greedy. If you intentionally use others for financial gain without commiserate compensation, you're dishonorable, as well.

The need for a minimum wage and the origin of labor unions have resulted from such abuses.

Now, on to the minimum wage.

That's exactly what it is ... a wage paid as entry-level compensation, often for new hires or in service industries where tips and gratuities are often part of employment.

Taking a job at the federal minimum wage, currently $7.25 per hour, one agrees to the terms of employment for that wage.

Please note, if you want to increase your earnings and get promotions you must address those goals at hiring. If you choose not to inquire about the possibilities of upward movement on the company ladder, that's not the fault of your employer.

As a new graduate, I interviewed at major hospitals in Atlanta, Birmingham and Nashville. While the starting salary at the hospital in Birmingham was less, I was encouraged by the response to my questions regarding promotion.

I chose the lower starting salary and took required additional training, eventually meeting the criteria to be night charge nurse within six months after my hiring. Within a year, I moved to day-shift charge nurse with greater responsibilities and salary.

I asked about opportunities. I was given the answers. I made the choice. Then I had to work to meet the criteria to earn a promotion and a bigger paycheck.

Had I failed to do any of the above, it would not have been my employer's fault.

Years ago, I earned minimum wage as an umpire. No joke.

I made myself available to work more time during the summer, covered games for those taking vacations. I earned more money because I gave more effort.

Today, employers are limiting hours available to many workers due to slower business needs and to simply meet the newly defined work

week by Obamacare: less than 30 hours worked per week. By exceeding 29 hours per week, an employee is deemed "full-time" by the IRS, which enforces the new health law.

A sad fact is that many in the workforce, regardless of wage, show up on time, do their job, leave as soon as the clock permits and expect a raise or a bonus.

Understand, if you meet expectations at work, that's what you were hired to do. If, however, you meet expectations of work and your company does well, a one-time bonus is most likely in order.

To move the needle on recurring increased wages, effort that exceeds expectations in the workplace is necessary.

Now, to those of us who've grown up working and have started our own businesses, all of this makes sense.

But, to those whose motivation is to rescue the disgruntled or those who exert the least amount of effort to get the maximum gain, the "bad guy" is the employer.

In life, you typically get what you give, otherwise known as the law of the harvest.

Robin Smith served as chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party, 2007 to 2009. She is a partner at the SmithWaterhouse Strategies business development and strategic planning firm and serves on Tennessee's Economic Council on Women.