The current federal minimum wage in the U.S. is $7.25 an hour, full time pay less than $15,000 a year, way below the poverty level. Current proposals before congress would raise the floor to $10.10 an hour. This would leave a full-time employee still far below the poverty line but would be helpful.
There is now widespread public support to raise the minimum wage.
That is largely attributed to recent publicity about massive salaries for the Walton's, owners of Wal-Mart, and for executives at McDonalds. Both corporations offer mostly part-time, low pay, no-benefits jobs for their employees. Wal-Mart has even held food drives to feed hungry workers.
The CEO of an S&P 500 Index company made, on average, 354 times the average wage of a rank-and-file U.S. worker in 2013.
But John Boehner, Ted Cruz and others in the GOP say that increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would hurt small business in the U.S. and would cost jobs.
Research by this reporter indicates that this is not true, that, as usual, the GOP is on the side of the rich who fill their political coffers. Academic studies have found that increasing minimum wage has no significant effect on employment levels in this country.
Most Americans work for large corporations whose new job offerings are trending down to a McDonald's level. 80% or so of new jobs created during the last fiscal year are part-time and/or low pay, no benefits affairs.
To get a "ground level" approach to this issue this reporter interviewed, or attempted to interview, corporate executives, small business owners, workers, and job seekers.
Art Ryan, 62, who warehouses materials for manufacturers, is located in Little Rock Arkansas When I asked him about the effect of raising the minimum wage on his business he gave a blunt, straightforward answer.
"I don't pay my boys minimum wage now. Why should I care if it's raised? But suppose they actually enforced it on me. I'd just find way to make my employees work harder, make 'em sweat more. What are they going to do, leave me? Hell no, there ain't no other jobs around here."
When I traveled to Los Angeles, CA, which is sometimes called "the sweatshop capitol" of the U.S. My first stop was on South Hill Street. In that area of town is found contractors in what is knows as the LA Fashion District. Urban Outfitters, Forever 21, TJ Maxx, and other upscale brands rely on the contractors for their goods.
Many "sweeps by the Department of Labor" have indeed found sweatshop conditions in the district and that none of the 20 shops investigated paid anywhere near minimum wage.
I wondered if the situation had changed and what a response would be if the federal minimum wage were to be increased.
Knocking on the Hill Street doors I heard," No hablo Ingles, Senor," "El patron, no esta aqui mi amigo!" "Senior, you come back later," and similar responses.
Well, I had struck out in L.A. So I thought, "well, I just get used to it and call the Koch Brothers.
As the reader probably knows, Charles Koch and his brother David are the richest siblings in the world, worth a combined $68 billion thanks to their oil and chemical refining empire.
I put in the call to Charles Koch's office, told the person at the end of the line that I was a reporter from Esquire Magazine who wanted to interview him about his views on the minimum wage.
"Just a minute," she said.
"Hello," said a warm voice coming from my cell, "This is Charles Koch, what can I do for your sir?"
I stammered that I wanted to make an appointment to see him.
"No need for that, Mr. Stiles, we can talk right now."
Still trying to compose myself, I managed to ask him questions about raising the minimum wage.
"Well, my brother and I are rolling out a national media campaign against it in a few days. Why don't you just watch that? It'll answer all of your questions."
"Well, if you don't mind sir, I'd like to get your personal take on it."
"OK, well David and I want to do a better job of raising up the disadvantaged and the poorest in this country. See, all of these government policies, these subsidies, this cronyism, this avalanche of regulations-these things are creating a culture of dependency," Mr. Koch said.
"If you raise the minimum wage you're just going to make more and more Americans dependent on Big Brother government. Not only that, it reduces the mobility of labor. By the way Mr. Stiles, have you ever run a business?"
He said he wanted to continue with the interview but stated, "Got to go now, I've got a few enterprises to run. But let me wish you the best of goodbyes." You could almost see him smiling over the 'phone.
The deadline for this article halted further efforts to continue with an "on the ground" approach to this issue. With the permission of the editor I'll do a more comprehensive article with further interviews. Meanwhile, let me wish you, the reader, the best of goodbyes.