Thursday, August 29, 2013

Fast Food Protests

Today in Kansas City, and I imagine throughout the United States, there will be protests by fast-food employees related to minimum wage.

I'm personally not a proponent of minimum wages because they are arbitrary figures, much like the $15 an hour wage those protesting today will be advocating.  I do, however, want everyone to make as much money as they can, wish everyone could have complete happiness, and would love a world without tears.

If they can get raises to $15/hour, more power to them.

Recently, though "Business Week" produced a graphic of the impact of $15 an hour wages in different industries.
I've written on this blog before about election workers, who, if minimum wage was raised to $9, would be making less than minimum wage.

And, again, I have no quarrel with the crusade for $15 an hour.

But it's worth pointing out what jobs don't pay that much and then stressing that we actually have staff members who don't make $15 an hour.  Those are full-time staff members, not  temporaries, who do most of the heavy lifting at the election office and are our unsung heroes.  They are paid comparable to baristas at Starbucks.

One of the great things in election geekdom over the past few years is the emphasis of election administration among college degrees.  Auburn University and the University of Minnesota, I believe, now have election administration tracks in their Master's of Public Administration programs.

But elections administrations nationwide consistently make considerably less than their government peers.  There are a few factors that are the causes, including the fact that elections historically have been led by women and women, further, historically have been paid less than men for comparable jobs.

Our election workers make $110 for about a 14-hour day ($7.85 an hour) and another $15 for three hours of training.  We split that for administrative reasons, though, so, really, they make $125 for 17 hours ($7.35 an hour, 10 cents more per hour than today's minimum wage).

The real point of this brief post is just to put in context how society values elections compared to other industries.  I'm actually not sure society "values" elections in that most people haven't consciously put a number to it; most of us probably haven't thought about what hotel desk clerks make, either.

But still, elections, which are the foundation of our free society, are put on at nearly minimum wage.  There may have even been a day when being an election worker was easier than working fast-food, but I'm not so sure anymore.  I definitely think it's more stressful to be an election worker than a fast-food employee.

Lest I am insulting a fast-food worker reading this, I worked in fast-food at Captain D's in high school and college for basically the same amount of time as I've been in elections.  I have a pretty good basis of comparison, and I still hope to find time to write the eventual best-seller, "Everything I Learned in Life I Learned at Captain D's."  

I will give fast-food workers the fact that my clothes don't smell greasy when coming home from a polling place, so there's that.

Still, it's interesting the jobs we conjure when thinking of minimum wage and very few would think of election workers.  I often say they are paid just enough to feel guilty for not showing up, which might be the point of the fast-food protests today.