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Retail jobs are treated as a temporary bridge to something better, but why? (npr.org)
36 points by hhs 18 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 76 comments



Probably because they are? A 2014 survey of more than 5,000 owners, operators, and current and former restaurant employees found that 97% of restaurant managers and 94% percent of shift crew employees had advanced to higher-paying jobs in the industry.

What's more, 90% of operators under 35 and 87% of operators between 35 and 44 said their first job was entry-level.

https://www.qsrmagazine.com/ladder-success


This wasn't the case just a generation ago. When I was little, in the '80s, it was common for people to work in retail for decades, often in the same store, and those salespeople tended to like their jobs because they got to help people and make a living without a ton of stress. Similarly, I had a friend, and both his parents were janitors the whole time he was growing up. They were happy with their lives and eventually saved up and bought a house, was rural Minnesota.

Sure they weren't going to change the world or anything like that, but there are plenty of people who want to be comfortable, spend time raising their children, and interacting with friends and family. For them, that's enough.


Isn't that the wrong direction to think in? If one employee in a team of 10 gets promoted to be their leader (because the former one retired or got promoted themselves) then the other 9/10 don't get promoted.

And those people won't ever have reasonable chance to be promoted because the same problem exists one layer up where their team leader only has a 1/10 chance to get promoted over their own colleagues


Well yes, every industry has an organizational pyramid. There are just simply more fryer and cashier positions available than regional manager positions. But the fact that 9 out of every 10 operators started out at the fryer seems to indicate that there is clearly upward mobility.


But it doesn't, though.

If 9/10 of every fry cooks ended up owning a restaurant, you'd be correct in your claim about upward mobility.

But what you're claiming is that 9/10 owners started out as fry cooks.

Those are wildly different claims.

It could be the case that only 0.002 of frycooks end up owning a restaurant and there is only an infinitesimal amount of mobility, and your claim could still be totally true.


It means that upward mobility is possible for those who are the best (generally, obviously it’s not always purely skill). Not everyone can be hugely successful in any given field.

And you’re arguing a silly point. Do 80% of accountants become CFOs? Upwards mobility doesn’t mean that everyone rises up — it means that those who are highly skilled do though.


I appreciate the feedback, even if I don't agree.


That's assuming that people are promoted based on merit, and not something else, like the Peter Principle, or being a tall man who socializes well (aka drinks alcohol and does drugs with his boss).

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_principle


But that goes completely against the point that those jobs are supposedly only a bridge to a better one, when for most people (like you said) that simply can't be true


It seems pretty obvious that most of the folks owning/operating retail or restaurants come out of the industry.

What's being argued isn't that point: rather, it's the question of how many workers move to better positions in that industry.

Even if 100% of the people running restaurants/retail come from within the industry, that fact has nothing to say about how many within the industry make that move to owning operating.


It is in the best interests of the owning class to perpetuate myths of upward mobility. If your employees are making minimum wage because they are “young artistic types who just need some extra cash”, or “it’s just a non-skilled/temp/entry level position”, then it is much easier for the owner, the management chain, the customer, and the media to justify how terribly leaf-nodes on the org chart are treated.

This leads to the mast majority of jobs becoming temp, “gigs”, part-time, commission-based, no benefits, no reward for loyalty, no reward for seniority, and with the only hope for mobility is becoming a manager over the other poor souls you would crush in an instant for an extra $4/hr (less in practice!)

If we had a strong set of myths about taking pride in ones work, mutual respect, venerability, and craftsmanship, I think we would not put up with it. I personally cannot even walk into a Macdonald’s because the environment behind the counter is so obviously demeaning; it disgusts me that we would eat in front of people who are constantly under survaeilance, slaves to beeping mechanical masters, and that they get $8.25/hr, less than the price of a single person’s order.


McDonalds DID make for an awesome starting job, in my experience. I worked there as a teen and had a host of positive life experiences in that first role. I made a bunch of new friends with people my age. I got my first paycheck and it put cleanly into focus the value of money and how HARD it can be to make it if you work....at McDonalds.

Was also exposed to the workings of possibly one of the largest business machines on the planet. It's automation incarnate and kind of a beautiful thing.


I'll tell you what, my first actual jobby job was managing a number of printers, plotters, copiers and PCs at 2 locations. At 16.

I was paid twice the average wage. It taught me making money is easy.

2 years later I was earning 10x the average wage doing affiliate marketing in a country where few even heard of it. Money was no issue. Spent it all, there's always more, right? 2008 was a very rude awakening and to be honest I've never recovered from that.

Wish I could've worked at some factory first.


> McDonalds DID make for an awesome starting job, in my experience. I worked there as a teen and had a host of positive life experiences in that first role.

What year did you work there as a teen, if I may ask?


Agreed, I wonder what kind of entry level job the parent poster had. Maybe none.


The difference was you knew you would never be there too long.

It was a transitory job.

Now, it a career for many people.


It's only a career if you make it a career.

There's plenty of jobs and ways to move up in the world, if people are unwilling to make the sacrifices needed to take those opportunities that's on them and them alone.


Higher and higher pushes for min wage has been decreasing the number of available transitory jobs as well, thus likely hurting more people than it helps.


Exactly. I found myself in retail jobs after 20 years in tech and a large % of colleagues had 2-3 jobs and were in their late 20s-mid 30s. Managers tended to be in their early or mid 20’s and one GM left for academia. Nobody asked how I found myself there in my mid-30’s and seemingly inexperienced in retail, thankfully I pass as pretty young. There isn’t a clear path out for most. I’m educated but have other issues blocking me from getting another professional job. In theory anyone can start their own business with all the new tech available, but in practice few seemed to have the time to take care of themselves properly much less start much of a business while learning the tools as well. It would be quite an investment and few had the budget for it, so to speak. The kitchens especially were packed with career service people well into adulthood.

Service is a career. Not meaning to sound judgemental, quite the opposite is true. Do mean to say that there aren’t many paths out and there is probably a lot to the business that even an educated person requires experience to learn and adapt to. Management usn’t for everyone either, like with coding it may not be the right career track for most but people do it for the pay bump or as a stepping stone toward corporate and IMO the whole team suffers.


I worked at Lowes one summer in addition to my dev job. There was no upward mobility at my dev job, so I made a little extra money that way. I had a customer ask me about college for some reason (maybe an old t-shirt I was wearing). I also had a few coworkers and customers ask me about my other job or make a comment about how there are some good opportunities in some field. It was kind of funny to see their reactions when they I'd tell them I'm a software developer with a Masters degree. Although it's also depressing to see that the best way to make more money isn't to work harder and get promoted, but to find an easy second job.


> Nobody asked how I found myself there in my mid-30’s and seemingly inexperienced in retail.

How did you end up there, after two decades in tech.


"...no reward for loyalty, no reward for seniority, and with the only hope for mobility is becoming a manager..."

Sounds like my job as a developer.


In fact, McDonalds uses the numbers of employees who are no longer employees as validation that they are offering some sort of bridge into the workforce. To hear them spin it, the McJob is a sort of stepping stone, by magnanimous design.


While also working as hard as possible to automate every task in the system and remove as many of these "stepping stones" as possible.

Semi-relatedly, I don't think a lot of people yet realize how many McDonalds went "dark" and nearly fully automated in the last two years. There are entire McDonald's now that are Delivery Only, the Delivery is outsourced to one of the providers like DoorDash and presumably the number of staff working inside the McDonalds is down to two or three people, tops.


I agree now as an adult.

I avoid any establishment that is filled up with cheap labor. (I guess it's not PC to say that, but I just look around, and it doesn't take MFCC in psychology, to reconigize miserable low wage employees. Safeway is the exception. I can't afford to shop anywhere else.)

My brother loved working at MD's as a teen. It bought his first car, and CB radio. Plus--he knew it was a transitory job, and not a career. (My brother got lucky in life. He kissed my father's arse when he was dying, and ended up with a million dollar home. Money from 3-4 generations going to my brother. If all likelihood, he would probally be dead, or homeless, without it. I told my brothers story because it's very common America, but won't last.)

America used to fill these positions with teens, and semi-retired folks.

Now---corporations know they can pull in adults who really need the job.

Yes, that seems to have changed since Covid, but I don't think it will last.

No one wants to be homeless, and watch how companies will advertise their lousy jobs in the next few months.

That whole, "Get your side hustle on while we offer a chit part time job, and one day you will be a American Success."

The Republicans started the mantra before Delta, with the whole, "Work brings self worth. A hard days work build character. You don't want to be a slacker."

And it's always from the same politician, or poloticians, whom are nursing a hangover, burping up that steak dinner, with the famous father's last name, has a company that was investigated by federal government for wage/employment violations, who state is near the bottom in every conceivable metric.

So go out there and get your side hussle on. Don't get sick. Wear our app on your wrist, and remember we are always watching.


This article doesn’t seem to make any clear claims about “why”. The point seemed to be to say “they don’t have to be”. I would have expected to see something about tight margins in retail, and the low barrier to entry for the work.


Its a real joy when you find a stop assistant that actually knows what they're doing and can provide useful advice. In most places though a retail assistant just means someone who knows how to operate the checkout.


I once interviewed for a shop assistant position in a chain that sells consumer electronics and computers as I thought my technical knowledge would be applicable. Turns out the company didn’t actually want me to help people, they just wanted me to sell as much as possible.


This is the typical response. OK what are you looking to spend? Ok for that price you can buy this one - gee thanks.


I seek out smaller, focused shops for this experience. Any kind of chain/big box store will be lacking vs. a niche retailer where the staff is invested in the business ( high end camera equipment, for instance ). Although sometimes that experience can also be pedantic and condescending to a novice.


Because we're replacing them with machines. Labor is expensive in some countries. So expensive that as a business owner you want to avoid hiring as much as possible.


It's treated as a bridge for those who need some life skills before moving onto something else. A lot of jobs requiring responsibility don't want to hire a kid who has no experience other than smoking dope and video games, and retail will give them some proof they can deal with some progressive responsibility.

Not a bridge for others. It's fine that it's a bridge for some and not one for others. If stores decide retail is a career job, then they will pay career ladder wages, otherwise market forces make retail as a bridge a self fulfilling prophecy.

The issue is if the government dictates a certain minimum wage for retail workers, then they've just outlawed any jobs that provide less value than that wage. You don't gain jobs by outlawing jobs, and those desiring the bridge to something more will be hurt the worst.


> make retail as a bridge a self fulfilling prophecy

And what if that prophecy is not fulfilled?

What if, because you work 50 hours a week but make poverty-level wages, you can't bridge your way out?

What if, because you're considered "part-time" at three different jobs, you don't have any form of healthcare or savings (because hey, we decided for you that this isn't a "career job")?

What if you spend four years of your life being treated as disposable trash, and for some reason that has an impact on your self-esteem and work ethic?

You are looking at this from a purely individual standpoint. It is irresponsible to acknowledge that there are not systemic factors at play here. Markets are doing what markets do, and that is maximize profit, not optimize for human life.

Edit: if people tell you (as they are telling everyone!) that they're miserable in retail jobs, that they can't pay their rent, that they can't support a family, and your response is, "don't worry -- that's the system working as intended! it's supposed to be a bad job! just bridge your way out!" that is a bad response.


>And what if that prophecy is not fulfilled?

If you've gained no skills vs a fresh person with no experience that you can use to gain a better paying job, then you're doing the best you don't benefit financially from your job being outlawed.

>What if, because you work 50 hours a week but make poverty-level wages, you can't bridge your way out?

If you work 50 hours a week in a capacity where you are offered the most available to you and you are incapable of starting a business that offers any more value, then you're doing the best you can. Many people strive to earn the most they can, and if that is dead end retail that's ok.

In my youth in the wake of the 2009 recession I used to wake up drunk out of a ditch and show up at the day labor agency with a completely unverifiable employment background (read between the lines there) making $17/hr alongside felons and drug addicts moving drywall for the oil worker camps, but I guess there are a lot less enterprising people than me out there -- but I don't think their job should be outlawed. I know there are some people out there that can't even be bothered to wake up drunk out of a ditch and walk to the day labor agency and move some drywall.

>What if you spend four years of your life being treated as disposable trash, and for some reason that has an impact on your self-esteem and work ethic?

What if you choose to find meaning in life somewhere other than work, like your family or friends. What if you find one of the other 10,000 employers also offering shit wages and work for them instead. I used to work at a taco shop for $7/hr, and even though the job sucked the boss at least was pleasant and offered me a shot of tequila at the end of the night. What if you take pride in yourself for not your job or earnings but by engaging with the community, or playing with your children, or worshipping your chosen deity or playing basketball on the corner. What if you sign up to be apprentice roofer, a job always hiring even in the worst of economic times and offering full time plus benefits.

> Markets are doing what markets do, and that is maximize profit, not optimize for human life.

And yet there has been unprecedented life expectancy, total wealth of society, educational offering and attainment, and medical breakthroughs in the past 200 years thanks to markets that optimize for profit.


There was a time when corporations didn't have revenues to rival big countries, when they couldn't just buy laws at will.

Unfortunately that time is over, and life expectancy has been going down in the US for years now[1]

[1] https://img.datawrapper.de/2wczw/full.png


No surprise you are getting downvoted. Nobody wants to hear anything about personal responsibility these days. The second you highlight that someone’s life position might be due to in part to some of their own decisions, you get downvoted. Today, everyone is seen as infallible by nature and surely their current lot in life is entirely unfair and based on some history of prejudice/luck/system failure.

It’s a completely toxic mindset, but one that has taken hold culturally and only time will illuminate how detrimental it is. Belief that ones circumstances are entirely outside of their control (even if mostly true) is a surefire way to kill the determination and motivation of even the most driven individual.


I know few people that believes that all of the "unfairness" in life is based entirely on history of prejudice/luck/system.

I do know many people who believe that prejudice/luck/system has a very strong influence on one's lot in life. To deny that reality is just as toxic a mindset.


> To deny that reality is just as toxic a mindset.

It's not actually. One produces individuals who constantly complain about any perceived injustice. And another produces people who strive to improve themselves in the face of adversity.


One produces individuals who will fight to fix an unjust system. And another produces people who will sacrifice their health for a job that does not care about them and still end up poor while feeling guilty because it supposedly is their own fault.

FTFY


Just because a system produces different outcomes doesn't mean it's unjust. For example, people complain about taking out $100k+ loans for some degree, and then they complain that they can't get a job. Meanwhile other degrees or even people coming out of bootcamps are able to get great jobs. Is that an unjust system? Do they bear any responsibility in this case?

> And another produces people who will sacrifice their health for a job that does not care about them and still end up poor while feeling guilty because it supposedly is their own fault.

Does striving to improve yourself only include mindlessly working a job detrimental to your health? Is there any scenario where an individual is responsible for their own lot in life?


Which one of these are you?


Does it? How?


Most people I know seem to believe in a mixture of personal responsibility and circumstantial luck.

There is an abundance of evidence that those born into a poor family do not gain the same opportunities as those born into a wealthy family.

Blaming the poor for their condition has a long tradition. Blaming shop-workers for their lack of “personal responsibility” seems to be the current thinking of many selfish people: “it is their choice to be poor”.

Note that I find your writing to be disturbingly black and white thinking - absolutely a signal of a toxic mindset to me. “Nobody wants” and “everyone is” just show your own prejudices and are completely non-factual.

https://www.socialworkdegreecenter.com/10-common-misconcepti...


Real life is somewhere in between. Some people are lazy and expect $150k/yr jobs for doing nothing, but many people work their ass off to barely get by because low wages, or cutting hours deliberately to pad the bottom line, and many other nefarious reasons. It's the latter most people are concerned about.

If you don't go through high school and into college in a specific degree, chances are, you're hosed. There are of course outliers, but most people with just a high school degree, or even a college degree in something that isn't in high demand are hosed for life. That wasn't always the case.


Those latter people have avenues to growth they likely just don't know about or don't understand are near sure fire ways to advance. A local fast food chain pains its store managers 1.5x the median household income in my state. Anyone who can run a construction crew can earn real money. In my city you can't find anyone to put up fencing for any price.

And your comment points out the real villain in our economy. Institutions that happily accept 20 year loans from students in exchange for a degree that will never earn them a dime. How evil to sell a degree program as a pathway to a successful career, knowing the opportunities to actually make use of that degree are statistically zero.


>A local fast food chain pains its store managers 1.5x the median household income in my state. Anyone who can run a construction crew can earn real money. In my city you can't find anyone to put up fencing for any price.

What you said is true, but for every manager, there are 20 people under him that don't make a good living and that's just the nature of the pyramid structure. All of those 20 people can't be managers or foreman, so 19 out of 20 are stuck every cycle, until the manager quits or moves or whatever.

It's like the lottery, anyone can win the lottery and be rich, but it doesn't mean everyone will.

It wasn't always like this, but business practices moved to squeeze every dollar out of every resource in the name of efficiency regardless of the human cost in most cases. That's certainly a cause.


Absolutely.

I agree completely that the current economy only serves a smaller and smaller subset of the population. Each decade that passes seems to squeeze the middle class tighter and tighter. It’s emblematic of a totally derailed system.

That said, I don’t think we should be downvoting into oblivion everyone who calls for some notion of personal responsibility and growth. You need to believe that life isn’t stacked against you to have any chance of succeeding in this word. We shouldn’t be ostracizing someone because they propose that another’s position is due to their own lack of work ethic. The truth may be somewhere in the middle between character and circumstance.


>That said, I don’t think we should be downvoting into oblivion everyone who calls for some notion of personal responsibility and growth.

Agree. People downvoted mine to oblivion as well. All it does is devalue the voting system, stifle rational discussion, and push groupthink. It's the internet and HN isn't immune to that sort of thing, so it is what it is.

It's not like I get to turn in karma for an eraser or anything, so to hell with the down voters.


> Belief that ones circumstances are entirely outside of their control (even if mostly true) is a surefire way to kill the determination and motivation of even the most driven individual.

Wait, so people shouldn't believe something that is mostly true? Genuinely asking. I agree that we we shouldn't absolve people of all personal responsibility, but rhetorically the quoted statement appears to suggest people shouldn't believe things that are true.


There are countless examples in life where choosing optimism over pessimism will serve you well. Sometimes, being pessimistic is the “realistic” and “right” outlook, but entirely destructive to personal growth.

So yes, there are times when you should choose ideals that support a healthy mind, like believing for example that life is not entirely random, that your circumstances ARE malleable, and that despite whatever histories suggest your disadvantage you can’t let it control your destiny.

As a collective culture we have swung way too far toward this idea of explaining away everyone’s situation based on factors outside of their control. I’ve heard it used to justify some truly disgusting behavior. The truth is that someone’s lot in life is some blend of chance and self determination.


Your fallacy is in your statement “choosing optimism over pessimism”.

Have you ever tried to help somebody “choose” optimism? Have you ever struggled yourself to choose to have some trait you desire in yourself?

Have you ever had an intimate friend struggle with low self-esteem, and did you manage to help them? If you succeeded, do you think that the majority of us have that ability to help others?

I watch my friend teaching/helping the unwell, and I understand just how difficult it is to change what appear to be the most simple and obvious patterns of damaging behaviour. We all have our own flaws that we struggle with.


I think you're using phrases like "sometimes" and "mostly" and "some blend of" to advocate for a position that fundamentally promotes toxic positivity.

I agree with certain aspects of what you say, such as that it's inappropriate to justify disgusting behavior (which I assume you mean assaulting/harming others) and attribute it purely to circumstance as a way of avoiding consequences. I however vehemently disagree with the notion that a healthy mind is a mind that ignores basic facts of reality, such as how much influence randomness and luck have on our quality of life.

There are going to be circumstances in which people's lives objectively suck in a way that isn't their fault and they can still be optimistic about it in a way that acknowledges basic facts of one's living circumstances. There are going to be circumstances in which people's lives are objectively awesome in a way that they didn't do very much work to achieve and acknowledging that has nothing to do with whether or not they're an optimist.


It's treated as temporary as part of a justification for lower wages. This idea has been explicitly stated by those who oppose a $15 federal minimum wage, arguing that people making current minimum wage, or close to minimum wage, are not actually poor, or won't be in the long-term, because their current wage is temporary (the Cato Institute makes this exact argument and gives the example of "working students").


It's a shame. I'm guessing it wasn't always so? I have memories as a kid of Home Depot staffing older, knowledgeable people. And going to a department store with my mom and seeing the sales ladies help her with every little thing.

Today both places are very much 'good luck, youre on your own' and staffed by people who seem like they very much don't want to be there.

Did they use to pay better, comparatively?


1) Yes, they did. The competitiveness of minimum wage has been in decline for the better part of the last 70 years.

2) Another piece of it, speaking to your example, is that women in the workplace were much more often "second-earners" 50 years ago. This is much less true today.


No the argument is that if you outlaw all jobs under $15, then you've just outlawed employment for anyone who can offer less than $15/hr in value, and relegated that person to unemployment and cut their ability to climb the wage ladder.


I am, almost word for word, citing the Cato Institute.

> First of all, one consequence of federal minimum wage hikes can be job or hours loss for low‐ wage workers, as we’ve seen, which can create poverty. Second, a lot of people who earn the federal minimum wage or just above it are not poor, or will not be poor in the longer term (think of working students, or second‐ earners in relatively affluent households working part‐ time).

https://www.cato.org/commentary/case-against-15-federal-mini...

EDIT: Before you reply with what I know you will, the reason the first and second argument above are lumped together are because the are both essentially myths (for example, see the original article), and the Cato Institute cites no actual data that either are, generally speaking, true.


>one consequence of federal minimum wage hikes can be job or hours loss for low‐ wage workers, as we’ve seen, which can create poverty.

If the minimum wage has no effect on unemployment, then why stop at $15? Make minimum wage set at 20 pounds of gold per hour. Lets maximize our wealth.


HN is not a place for this kind of talking past each other... There is a reason they are in the same paragraph.

EDIT: No one said it had no impact of employment (just as no one said there were no "student workers").

There is nuance to the cost/benefit of given minimum wages...


Glad to know you think anyone who can offer under $15/hr in value just a "nuance" worthy of unemployment.


1) I feel like you know that is an oversimplification, and therefore you are not arguing in good faith... Something I would really like to not do here.

2) Even if we assume that a $15 minimum wage would eliminate a notable number of jobs, elimination of jobs is not equivalent to unemployment. We, as a society, are okay with, going by your own argument, eliminating all the $5/hour jobs (with state minimum wages being $7.25+) because it does not lead to significantly less overall employment. Do you have evidence this would not also be true with a $15 minimum wage?


>1) I feel like you know that is an oversimplification,

No it really is this simple. Jobs that have negative economic value (wages do not cover value) are not maintainable in a free market for anything more than a short period of time. I'm sure some exist but jobs with negative economic value are not in any way plentiful compared to ones with positive or break even value. If I have a job that gives me $14/hr in value it does not make sense for me to offer it under a $15/hr minimum wage.

The ones actually acting in "bad faith" are those who fail to disclose to the ofter marginalized people working low wage jobs that their policy goals are to eliminate the only jobs available to these marginalized people, forcing them to operate on the black market or let their skills and work history decay in unemployment. The farther you slide the minimum wage bar right from zero, the more people you eliminate from the labor market: the nuance being if it is low enough it only destroys the earning power of the most marginalized that some of us are happy to forget about.

> We, as a society, are okay with, going by your own argument, eliminating all the $5/hour jobs (with state minimum wages being $7.25+) because it does not lead to significantly less overall employment

Well it does lead to significantly less employment for anyone who cannot provide minimum wage in value. But what happens is a mixture of elimination of those jobs and the pushing of those jobs to the black market, where those persons (including many illegal immigrants) just have to work in the shadows without any unemployment insurance or labor protections and have to live in constant fear the IRS will find out and also get them for unreported income. So they're definitely a lot worse off.

>elimination of jobs is not equivalent to unemployment

It is if there is no alternative job because you can't offer enough in value to make the minimum wage cutoff.

>Do you have evidence this would not also be true with a $15 minimum wage?

Do I have evidence that employers will have to eliminate jobs if the position doesn't create enough value to cover the wage? One example is when QFC had to close a couple Seattle stores due to mandated 'hazard pay' [1]. Simple logic tells you the jobs generating under $15/hr in value will either become black market or be gone, if it's illegal.

If you're in retail and can't find anyone to pay $15/hr, and think you are worth that, why not try it on the open market? You can come to my border city, where mexicans engage in retail without any boss whatsoever selling retail snacks and elotes. If you can really produce over $15/hr in value then go ahead and do it for yourself. I'm sure many of these street retail street vendors make more than that, and at least in my city the police don't care at all if you have a license or not.

[1] https://www.supermarketnews.com/issues-trends/kroger-s-qfc-c...


I apologize, I guess I mistook your misunderstanding as bad faith.

I feel like I must point this out, but no one is arguing that "jobs that have negative economic value" would somehow exist.

> Do I have evidence that employers will have to eliminate jobs if the position doesn't create enough value to cover the wage?

This is actually not at all what my second point was asking... The ask was, if we assume for a minute that a $15 minimum wage simply eliminates jobs (as opposed to bringing extracted employee value more in line with employee compensation and reducing employer profits), whether eliminating the jobs that cannot pay $15/hour would actually increase unemployment in such a meaningful way as to offset the potential benefits it would offer... The context being that we, as a society, have already decided that the benefits of eliminating (see assumption above) $5/hour jobs was worth whatever effect it had on unemployment.

With this is mind, it's obvious that QFC closing two stores is completely meaningless because it provides nothing close to an objective view on A) the effect on overall unemployment, nor B) the positive or negative effects it had on the employees whose jobs (according to QFC) were eliminated. That's not even to mention the fact that QFC has a vested interest in blaming regulation, or the fact that a single anecdote is not at all representative of the job market.

I'll just also add that it's very hard not to take what you're saying as simply constructing a straw man (as opposed to misreading or misunderstanding), given how completely unrelated anything you wrote was to my other comment.


>we, as a society, have already decided that the benefits of eliminating $5/hour jobs was worth whatever effect it had on unemployment.

We have eliminated some, but others we've simply relegated them to the black market so that those engaging them either do it entirely without unemployment insurance and other labor protections, or they do it as an independent business or contractor. Now a good deal of those jobs are instead taken by illegal immigrants (and I'm not judging these immigrants at all here, just noting what the effects are). What we really "decided" was it was worth making those jobs black market or self employment jobs -- and that is an opinion held by the tyranny of the majority against those who suffer under this regulation.

>With this is mind, it's obvious, that QFC closing two stores is completely meaningless

Somehow I doubt it was meaningless to the individuals who had the choice of move to a store not offering the hazard pay or lose their job. But meaningless from your priveleged perspective of not being immediately affected by the loss.

>I'll just also add that it's very hard not to take what you're saying as simply constructing a straw man (as opposed to misreading or misunderstanding), given how completely unrelated anything you wrote was to my other comment.

Rich from a person leading off with the straw man attacking Cato with the false argument that they had somehow claimed there weren't poor people making minimum wage.


> We have eliminated some, but others we've simply relegated them to the black market so that those engaging them either do it entirely without unemployment insurance and other labor protections, or they do it as an independent business or contractor.

Do you have any evidence that this occurs at any meaningful scale? This theory, while occasionally toted by conservative/libertarian think tanks, seems to rely on only 1 example (a New York city car wash that was already cutting jobs through automation), which was covered/written by a libertarian think tank.

> Somehow I doubt it was meaningless to the individuals who had the choice of move to a store not offering the hazard pay or lose their job. But meaningless from your privileged perspective of not being immediately affected by the loss.

No, the article you linked is meaningless specifically because it tells you absolutely nothing about those individuals (and also because it's purely anecdotal). When discussing wage increases (or hazard pay in this case), we typically care about the outcomes for workers. Not to mention the fact, as I said, that QFC has a vested interest in blaming regulation.

> Rich from a person leading off with the straw man attacking Cato with the false argument that they had somehow claimed there weren't poor people making minimum wage.

I literally linked the exact quote. They made two arguments, the second of which was that (verbatim) "a lot of people who earn the federal minimum wage or just above it are not poor, or will not be poor in the longer term." The entire point of the original article was that this is not true...


>It's treated as temporary as part of a justification for lower wages. This idea has been explicitly stated by those who oppose a $15 federal minimum wage, arguing that people making current minimum wage, or close to minimum wage, are not actually poor, or won't be in the long-term, because their current wage is temporary (the Cato Institute makes this exact argument and gives the example of "working students").

In particular, note you said that the Cato makes the argument that those making minimum wage are not "actually poor." In fact they make no such claim that there are not poor working a minimum wage job. Yours was a straw man.

>No, the article you linked is meaningless specifically because it tells you absolutely nothing about those individuals (and also because it's purely anecdotal). When discussing wage increases (or hazard pay in this case), we typically care about the outcomes for workers. Not to mention the fact, as I said, that QFC has a vested interest in blaming regulation.

Only if you're oblivious to the fact it tells you exactly what happened to the individuals, which is that they were forced to either lose their job or compete for hours with the established staff at other locations. Were you looking for a theoretical paper? I found a long one with all sorts of mathematical scribble about probalistic black markets and unemployment but I thought it would bore you and the lack of concrete examples wouldn't be terribly interesting nor convincing.

>Do you have any evidence that this occurs at any meaningful scale? This theory, while occasionally toted by conservative/libertarian think tanks, seems to rely on only 1 example (a New York city car wash that was already cutting jobs through automation), which was covered/written by a libertarian think tank.

One example of those who end up engaging in independent contractor / self employment for less than minimum wage is gig workers, who often earn less than minimum wage and yet voluntarily choose to do so anyway [1]. Presumably if jobs numerous enough for the number of people working these gig jobs existed that offered them employment protections, many would choose that over independent contractor status where they are on their own if anything goes wrong.

[1] https://illinoisepi.files.wordpress.com/2021/01/ilepi-pmcr-o...


This is my last reply. I'm done with this conversation, we've gone way too far from the initial discussion, and we're too far off on what "convincing" evidence is, or what is self-evident, for a productive text-based discussion.

> In particular, note you said that the Cato makes the argument that those making minimum wage are not "actually poor." In fact they make no such claim that there are not poor working a minimum wage job. Yours was a straw man.

I said "people making current minimum wage, or close to minimum wage, are not actually poor, or won't be in the long-term," they said "a lot of people who earn the federal minimum wage or just above it are not poor, or will not be poor in the longer term." I guess, for some reason, you assume the difference is "people" vs. "a lot of people," and that I therefore mean "all people." Your assumption does not make it a straw man.

> Only if you're oblivious to the fact it tells you exactly what happened to the individuals, which is that they were forced to either lose their job or compete for hours with the established staff at other locations.

This is an assumption. The ones that transfer to other locations now receive hazard pay, and, those unemployed workers potentially make hazard pay at new jobs, both of those are potential net positives... The article does, in fact, not discuss actual worker outcomes. Once again, even in the oversimplified world where jobs are simply eliminated, job loss is not equivalent to unemployment.

> Were you looking for a [...] paper?

Preferably, yes. "Concrete examples" are also called "anecdotes," and are not at all convincing of large-scale, job market-wide, patterns or effects.

> One example of those who end up engaging in independent contractor / self employment for less than minimum wage is gig workers, who often earn less than minimum wage and yet voluntarily choose to do so anyway [1]. Presumably if jobs numerous enough for the number of people working these gig jobs existed that offered them employment protections, many would choose that over independent contractor status where they are on their own if anything goes wrong.

That is another assumption. You "presume" that gig workers would choose non-gig work if given the option... With no actual evidence of that being the case at a meaningful level. People work "gig" jobs (e.g. drive for Lyft) for extremely varied reasons (some even do so in addition to other jobs, in fact, your source says most Uber drives do this).


>This idea has been explicitly stated by those who oppose a $15 federal minimum wage, arguing that people making current minimum wage, or close to minimum wage, are not actually poor,

Again, you claim was that it was said that those who make minimum wage are not actually poor. I am quoting you verbatim. Apparently you suffer from amnesia or disconnection from reality. Cato did not say this.

> People work "gig" jobs (e.g. drive for Lyft) for extremely varied reasons (some even do so in addition to other jobs, in fact, your source says most Uber drives do this).

Ignoring all your disengenous obliviousness to your straw man and refusal or indifference at any source that shows concrete effect of wage regulations, I'm glad at least you've come around to admit that many people working low wage jobs are doing it in addition to other jobs and for extremely varied reasons, one of which may be to use the job as a bridge. Which is exactly what Cato was saying. You've at least admitted now that Cato was correct.

>Preferably, yes. "Concrete examples" are also called "anecdotes," and are not at all convincing of large-scale, job market-wide, patterns or effects.

So where is your citation that minimum wage is good for people who cannot offer value reaching minimum wage? I've seen nothing at all from you showing these people who can't offer enough value to gain a minimum wage job benefit at all from raising the wage.

>That is another assumption. You "presume" that gig workers would choose non-gig work if given the option... With no actual evidence of that being the case at a meaningful level. People work "gig" jobs (e.g. drive for Lyft) for extremely varied reasons (some even do so in addition to other jobs, in fact, your source says most Uber drives do this).

I said I "presume" that many would choose. Not all would choose. In fact, I don't even have to presume at least one would choose because I was a gig worker once that would have liked to make minimum wage but at the time had nothing to offer yet that got me a minimum wage offer. I absolutely would have liked employment protections but did not get them, although after several years I was awarded some money in a class action lawsuit along with many others who made the same claim as me that we wanted and believed we should have been afforded employee status. So I guess I didn't presume at all, as it was born out through claims in the court system. Would you like a picture of my check as part of the class action of the many who wanted to be classified as employees?

Your constant dismissal of evidence whenever it suits you is little more than the dictatorial activity of a narcissist, a lying one at that who makes false claims about the statement of Cato.


Wouldn't you rather have a token (sorry, "Note") that's worth 1.0 of itself that we can make arbitrarily more of and give out to our corporate friends any time we want?


maybe enough "Notes" to pay my stay out of jail money, and the rest in hard currency :)


If eating a sandwich is good, when why stop at one? Eat fifty sandwiches for every meal! A hundred!

...Or maybe there are things that can be good to increase some, but not good to increase arbitrarily.


This is a separate and more reasonable argument, but doesn’t directly hold much water at the moment. There aren’t many jobs that aren’t worth mechanizing at $15 an hour but are at the current minimum wage. And people aren’t hiring more people than strictly necessary to run their business regardless, so they can’t just drop lower-performing employees due to a wage increase.

The related concern that is real is that businesses that are solvent at current minimum wage might not be if they had to pay their employees 15 dollars an hour. The question is if we think it is more valuable that people get paid a more liveable wage for their effort, or if we value the jobs/services that businesses that pay under 15 dollars provide more than that. Second question is if the destruction of employers who rely on low wages to exist would also open up room for less exploitive employers to take their space in the business sector. A third question countering that is if lowered profits to business has a stifling effect on money-funded innovation. And then there are questions beyond that, that ultimately sum up to “Economics is complicated, and just looking at first order supply and demand effects never tells the whole story.”


Won't somebody please think of the Job Creators? https://www.epi.org/blog/wages-for-the-top-1-skyrocketed-160...


I assume it has something to do with the fact that retail jobs don't require any qualifications, whereas the jobs that are "something better" do.


So you can justify low wages and no benefits


I worked retail for about 3 years, first just weekends and bits of overtime during school holidays all through 6th form, and then for nearly a year basically full time afterwards, and then a couple of the holidays during uni. I've also worked as a waiter, a factory hand/labourer in a bottling plant, and a telephone fundraiser. None of these were great jobs but they were there when I needed the money and I'm grateful for the experience they gave me.

Still, for me these were all temporary bridges to something better, because I was fortunate enough to have other options open to me after university. That isn't true for everyone: plenty of people go through their whole working lives in low paid, low skill jobs, and there are all kinds of reasons why that happens.

So why do privileged people like me see retail as a temporary bridge to something better?

Most fundamentally, the pay is shit[0]. I mean, really shit. My first job paid £2.16/hr in 1992. It's maybe a bit better now but minimum wage is still minimum wage. And they're not very interesting jobs. I mean you can get bored of any of them really quickly. And there isn't much you can do to make more money or make them more interesting, so there's also that.

Let's talk about the pay issue in more detail though, because it's pretty easy (and totally justifiable) to moan about, but I think it's also worth thinking about why pay is so low. Think about it though: ignoring the economics of supply and demand (there are plenty of people who can do low-skill work), even if (bricks and mortar[1]) retail companies wanted to pay more, could they afford to do it?

I can't speak knowledgeably about the state of (bricks and mortar) retail in other parts of the world but, here in the UK, large swathes of it are beyond hosed. In the best of times retail firms make 10% margins: compared with product firms that might make 40% or more. These are not the best of times. Retail operates on razor thin margins and nowadays you're doing well just to stay afloat.

In the last couple of years alone we've seen sub-sectors like fashion and department stores get an absolute pasting. Here are some of the chains that have gone under, just off the top of my head: Debenhams, Beales, Arcadia Group (including Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and various other brands), Karen Millen, along with countless independent stores taken down as collateral damage of the pandemic.

And why are the margins so thin, especially given the huge markups that are typical on clothing? Several factors: high rents, outrageous business rates... and then there's the small fact that the buying public don't want to spend, or don't have the money to spend, more on clothing. Hence the prevalence of low-cost fast fashion brands, including online brands such as Boohoo and ASOS (who are amongst the few brands doing particularly well at the moment).

I.e., pay is low basically because we don't want to pay more for goods, and retail has long since turned into something of a volume game in terms of both customers and goods shipped.

So for everyone who has the option of a different career, it's always going to be a temporary bridge to something better.

I haven't really talked about online retail, which may be something of a different can of worms. Could, e.g., Amazon be a more fulfilling place to work than it is at the moment? Could it be better than bricks and mortar retail? I'm talking here specifically about roles at similar skill levels to normal retail, not highly paid software engineers, etc. Amazon makes huge margins by the standards of retail so, arguably, they could make it a better for warehouse workers. I haven't done the sums to figure out what real terms difference it would make to an average warehouse worker if they, say, reinvested 50% of what is currently profit into pay and conditions improvements, or whether that would be enough to make Amazon warehouse worker a desirable career option (I suspect possibly not), but it would certainly make a positive impact on those who have few other options available to them.

[0] I know in the US you allegedly can make decent money from tips as a waiter but this is the UK and, most places, that's never really been true here, especially not if you're a gawky and slightly awkward post-teen.

[1] This bricks and mortar versus online distinction is important. Most of what I'm talking about here is bricks and mortar retail, since this is the main topic of the article, but I do touch on online at the end.




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