County considers exemption for regional minimum wage at Six Flags America

Posted Tuesday, January 14, 2014 8:38 AM | Contributed by Jeff

An effort is underway in Prince George’s County to carve out an exemption to the much-ballyhooed “regional minimum wage” increase passed by lawmakers there, in Montgomery County and in Washington, D.C., last year. County Council member Derrick Leon Davis is expected to introduce a bill Tuesday that would let one of the county’s largest employers, Six Flags America, continue to pay its seasonal workers at the lower rate of $7.25 per hour instead of the wage that would increase to $11.50 per hour by 2017.

Read more from The Washington Times.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014 8:08 AM

Bakeman31092 said:
Two thoughts:
Also, I'm sure most of these places offer unlimited access to the park for their employees during their off hours, as well as cheap on-site housing. Those perks have value that is separate from wages.

I'm not sure that access to the product is that different from many other companies. Those who work in a sports fitness center usually get access to the equipment when not working. Those who work in the movie industry often get access to specials in their field, etc.

From the cheap onsite housing, that is a perk, but that also is a perk many college co-ops and interns get depending on the size of the company, and it often is free.

On thing from an economic standpoint that is missing from this discussion is that usually, the shorter term someone does something, the more expensive it is. Companies that hire contractors pay more for them to do work on an hourly basis than full time employers because of the short nature, etc. Would the seasonal nature of the amusement park actually require a higher salary to attract good workers?

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014 9:19 AM

Vater said:

I mean the idea of having a minimum wage at all sucks. It goes against a free market system.

(snip) The higher the skillset or experience required, the higher the wage would naturally be. Period.

Not exactly, because that completely ignores the idea of market power. If I run a company that requires highly-skilled workers, but I am *the only game in town* - then the market would bear very low wages despite the job requiring a specialized skill-set. One of the main arguments behind healthcare reform was that insurers held all the cards...so "the market" corrected by demanding legislation that allowed consumers to pool resources and share risk to help hold skyrocketing premiums in check. A "free market" is more of a fiction needed for illustrative purposes than anything you find in the real world...it's not something on which you base sound fiscal or economic policy.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014 9:51 AM

Truly free markets are an ideal. It's a good ideal, but like most things, there are nuances and variables that make it impossible to adopt in a wholesale, all or nothing way. I would agree we could do without minimum wage if we also did without the subsidies and entitlements for the poor, but history has shown that this in the long run puts the wealth and power into the hands of a very small number of people. When that happens, without fail in human history, this leads to a destabilization of that society and it plunges into chaos. It isn't sustainable.

That's not an endorsement of full-on socialism or communism, which are failing extremes at the other end, just an observation that there are logical places to set limits like minimum wage. Look at the state of Washington, with the highest minimum in the US. That's a state that, in my opinion, is thriving, and nothing bad happened to the many giant companies that call it home.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014 12:03 PM

CP Chris said:

I could almost support your idea, but only if we charged (taxed) the employers hiring people for $2 an hour what their employees cost to the rest of society. Companies like Walmart pass untold billions of dollars in costs onto the taxpayers, who have to support their woefully underpaid employees through things like food stamps and medicaid.

What you're essentially saying is that it's Walmart's fault that Joe Sixpack has no discernible, marketable skills beyond stocking a shelf.

Walmart isn't passing anything onto the taxpayer. Joe Sixpack's lack of ability/education/usefulness is.

We shouldn't be pissed at Walmart. We should be pissed at Joe Sixpack.

Of course, I'm sure your response would be that we should just eliminate all government handouts (but only to private citizens, corporate welfare can stay). Because eliminating food stamps and lowering wages will somehow make the person who is already working 70 hours a week between two jobs get off their lazy butt and find a "real job."

Ooooh. So typically snarky...

...and so typically incorrect. (winky)

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014 12:14 PM

Most of the arguments against minimum/living wages assume 2 things:

1) That there is no underemployment. Or, everyone with a degree can get work that requires such a degree. That every adult has or can get a job that pays a "living wage." Gotta side with Jeff, here: "Free" Markets are an ideal, not a reality. (Example: a smarter kid born to a poor family not able to get the education that a less gifted kid born to a rich family gets simply as a matter of birth. The "Free" Market creates, at least in these instances, a greater demand for less talented but better educated people based not on skills, but simply on birth and inherited advantages.)

2) That people making less than a "living" wage do not require food, shelter, medical care. Although "Free" Marketeers would say "Sucks to be you" and/or start to rationalize why EVERYONE not making a "living" wage isn't trying and/or deserves, that is, of course, a false proposition. And "Sucks to be you" is simply a morally wrong attitude.

To the extent that society believes that starvation, death by hypothermia or curable disease is unacceptable, the costs of dealing with those things must be born. Should they be born entirely by taxpayers or by those who chose to divert money from wages to personal profits?

Which should take precedence: Morality or the "Free" Market? If the "Free' Market, why should the strong not enslave the weak, like they did way, back, when? Or, why should not the weak band together and take wealth from the no longer strong. Wouldn't that be the "Free" Market?

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014 1:08 PM

The other thing to consider is that somebody has to do the crappy jobs. Talk about skills all you want, but even if everyone could be a doctor, someone has to drive the garbage truck. I can't entirely blame Joe Six Pack for that.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014 1:14 PM

Morality... Is it more moral to give a man a fish or to teach a man to fish? That's debatable. I certainly have no issue with either.

However, when it comes to government intervention, I'm of the latter mindset because to give a man fish means the government must forcibly take fish from other men who caught those fish on their own. That, to me, is immoral.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014 1:38 PM

What if the man can't fish?

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014 1:41 PM

What if "teaching a man to fish" doesn't feed him for a lifetime? Then what?

Again, Jeff is right, "Free" Markets are theoretical ideals, not reality.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014 4:03 PM

The other problem with "free market" is that the rich tend to hold all the cards, not because they are more skilled, but simply because they are already rich.

Large corporations have a huge amount of weight to throw around in the labor market (i.e. they can definitely afford pay crap wages and miss out on a few very good employees) and the average Joe who isn't unionized really has no options (take the crap wage or starve).

People who have extra disposable income can invest it and make even more money, get out of debt to avoid paying interest and fees, afford an education which increases earning power, afford nice clothes for an interview, etc.. I'm not saying this is immoral or wrong, but it does beg the question, "Do we want our country to be a place where an average skilled rich person gets richer while and equally average skilled poor person gets poorer?"

tl;dr - The free market doesn't make the skilled rich, the free market makes the already rich, richer.

Last edited by ApolloAndy, Wednesday, January 15, 2014 4:11 PM
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Wednesday, January 15, 2014 4:54 PM

Ah, yes, income inequality...this month's buzzword. But wait, with income inequality currently at the highest levels we've seen since the 1920's, how can we blame the free market system when it's overburdened with regulations more than ever before?

The issue I take with this mentality is that it assumes the economy is made up of one big pie of which everyone takes a slice, and that for someone to get more of the pie, others have to give up some of theirs. But in a free market economy, many of those people who have a larger slice of that pie are business owners who create jobs, which add more to the pie than what was there originally. So while rich people do get richer, more people overall are lifted out of poverty. And the proof is seen when we talk about "poverty" in this country, which, as we've discussed in the past, is so far above the levels in other countries--as well as this country's past poverty levels--making it hard to consider most who supposedly qualify as such in this country "poor". So the income gap, while larger than before, doesn't necessarily mean the poor get poorer.

What if the man can't fish?

What if "teaching a man to fish" doesn't feed him for a lifetime? Then what?

I'm not wholly against government assistance (though I feel it should be left to the states). That said, while I can't find the statistic, I'd love to know the percentage of people in this country who have absolutely zero means to do anything for themselves. It has to be miniscule.

A free market system also allows for people to create businesses or charities that assist people. Like ones that exist today. And the cool thing is, less government intervention (i.e. handouts) would give more people incentive to work for themselves, which in turn would mean fewer people living off the services provided by those private sector businesses or charities.

Hard work is hard. And life does not guarantee never failing at anything.

Idealistic or not, with the current size, overreach, and debt of the federal government--which are in my opinion directly related to the current poverty and unemployment rates--I'd rather err on the side of next to no government intervention than to let the current system continue the way it has been: more expansion, spending, regulations, debt, etc.

Last edited by Vater, Wednesday, January 15, 2014 4:57 PM
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Wednesday, January 15, 2014 6:17 PM

I would disagree that "business owners [are people who] create jobs."

Consumers create the jobs. Supply does not create demand... unless you're Apple.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014 6:39 PM

Jeff said:

The other thing to consider is that somebody has to do the crappy jobs. Talk about skills all you want, but even if everyone could be a doctor, someone has to drive the garbage truck. I can't entirely blame Joe Six Pack for that.

No. I totally agree...and that's why those would be 2nd jobs, part time jobs, first jobs, teen jobs, income supplementing jobs.

You get the idea. Those are not jobs that pay a living wage. There's no reason for them to...unless you're of the idea that no matter what you do, it should provide a living wage. In which case, I believe you're artifically boosting the bottom, because no matter how I slice it, I can't see how flipping burgers equates to a living wage in today's world - from either side of the fence.

Captain Hawkeye said:

What if "teaching a man to fish" doesn't feed him for a lifetime? Then what?

Then he needs to learn to hunt too.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014 7:00 PM

The jobs that you are talking about do not require a $200k four year college education either, but everyone and their brother has had it drilled into their head for the last couple decades that they need this and government sprung to action to solve that problem with loans, grants, etc and the colleges have continued to lap it up. I can't wait until the college bubble bursts.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014 7:09 PM

What do you suppose "unskilled workers" should do? It's not like they can just go to night school on credit while trying to hold down 2 jobs to barely scrape by a living (not to mention things like sending kids to college which, right or wrong, is a near necessity).

From my limited, totally anecdotal observation, it really does seem like more people have to work much harder to barely make a semblance of a living and it's not getting better. As the pie gets bigger, so does the average cost of living, which eats up the increases gained by the lower classes so they're at the same or worse place than before.

Just for example, why doesn't Fort Worth (where I live) have reasonable public transportation? We don't need it because everyone owns a car!...except for the people who don't. If you're an unskilled laborer in Fort Worth and can't afford a car, you're basically totally screwed in every way. (See also: health care, day care, education, decent housing, etc.)

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014 7:23 PM

ApolloAndy said:

What do you suppose "unskilled workers" should do? It's not like they can just go to night school on credit while trying to hold down 2 jobs to barely scrape by a living (not to mention things like sending kids to college which, right or wrong, is a near necessity).

Ideally, they don't get into that situation in the first place. But we know how it goes.

Beyond that it gets more complicated. To offer my own anecodotal evidence, I don't have any more than a formal high school education, but I've managed to develop skills along the way that, with a little initiative and creativity, I have managed to profit from to some degree. Heck, it might not even be a living wage, but combined with one of these 'non-living wage" jobs it gets closer. Add a spouse or family and whatnot and we make ends meet.

From my limited, totally anecdotal observation, it really does seem like more people have to work much harder to barely make a semblance of a living and it's not getting better.

I agree with this.

But I also think our expectations are higher than ever too. We live in a country where the poor have smartphones and HDTV. And yes, that's a generalization, but it makes the point.

What should be guaranteed by a 'living wage'? What guarantees should any of us have as a living human in the US of A?

I believe we have the right to pursue whatever we choose and that success (and failure) lies solely on our own shoulders. I imagine there's a lot of places where even that simple pursuit isn't available.

I don't believe anyone is responsible for me or my well being except for me. I don't expect anything but the chance to do what I do and make my own little way through life.

That's all the guarantee I need and I think if it's good enough for me, it's good enough for all of us. :)

Just for example, why doesn't Fort Worth (where I live) have reasonable public transportation? We don't need it because everyone owns a car!...except for the people who don't. If you're an unskilled laborer in Fort Worth and can't afford a car, you're basically totally screwed in every way. (See also: health care, day care, education, decent housing, etc.)

Then you leave Fort Worth for a place better suited to you.

You can't keep shooting yourself in the foot and then complain that you're always injured. It's the low end version of these kids that get Medieval Poetry degrees and wonder why they're unable to find work.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014 7:51 PM

"Income equality" is just a divisive term used by people who don't have much. Arguing against that perpetuates the absolutes. Again, realistic people can see some people will have more than others.

See my comments about history and middle ground. It's the only argument I have.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014 9:57 PM

I wish I made $10-11 an hour working at SFA years ago while in school. Heck, that was one of the toughest jobs I ever had. I deserved to make more working there than I did at any of the other better paying jobs I've had since.

But really, its hard to imagine paying relatively unskilled workers that kind of wage for what is typically a part-time, seasonal job. Then again, minimum wage is incredibly low and impossible to earn anything close to a living on, especially in an area as expensive as the DC/MD/VA area, so I can see the need to raise that level. The issue is in the end its likely companies will continue in response to raise prices and pass the buck right back to consumers (including their minimum wage employees), so its hard to see a good long term solution.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014 11:30 PM

Income inequality wouldn't be an issue, or a buzzword, or anything, if it weren't for the enormous, and rapidly-growing, WEALTH inequality. Chris Rock got that one right...

Because capital now *pwns* labor in the distribution of economic gains - the situation is going to be exacerbated over time...

Seriously, I really am kind of an expert on this.... ;~)

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014 11:52 PM

I don't know what qualifies as a minimum wage job at Six Flags. I suppose food service and gift shop cashiering would. I certainly hope the ride ops are making more than minimum. It requires slightly more skill to prevent someone's death than it does to hand someone a hot dog.

Either way though, I find this whole thing gross. What, just because Six Flags employs a lot of people in the county, they don't have to pay the state's minimum wage? That's bullcrap.

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