IS IT STILL A DREAM?

MLKThe 1960s were part of an era when men and women would stand in front of a live audience and speak words that could inspire others to action. It was a time before sound bites came in 30-second doses and left our consciousness even quicker. The March on Washington received little fanfare in the days leading up to August 28, 1963, the day after; every newspaper in the country carried the story under the front-page headline banner.

Right from the very beginning, Dr. King remarked how one hundred years passed since the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation and still “the Negro was still not free.” Now, another 50 years have gone and we continue to contemplate whether the dream of equality and justice has been fully realized. It has been a long and wearisome journey, the road seems to never end and the movement is glacially slow. Today people of all races play together, work together; live, love and pray together. The progresses we have made are obvious and undeniable, but it feels as if we still have a ways to go. Every time an incident such as the Trayvon Martin shooting, we are reminded of just how far we are from that dream. We are reminded of the persistent poverty and ignorance that exists in segments of the African-American community. We are reminded of the growing economic gap between those that have and those who do not.

When it comes to race relations, my children live in a better world than the one I grew up into, which was better than the one my parents experienced. The legacy we pass on is one of hope and perseverance; one that does not obliterate or ignore the past, nor wallow in it either. Dr. King, rightfully so, also noted an “urgency of the moment”; it is that urgency which seems to have dissipated. There are no riots, no marches, no moving speeches; just the sense that we are mired in a state of almost there.

~ Richard

Is Raising the Minimum Wage Good for your Business?

Most small to medium sized businesses, which employ 52 percent of all U.S. workers, cannot afford to employ a phalanx of lawyers, accountants and economists to decipher the long and short-term impact of raising the minimum wage on profits. The current debate on raising the floor of minimum wage is often centered on just that issue. One side argues that raising the rate will help the working poor less dependent on social welfare, become active consumers and get closer to a middle class standard of living. The other side argues that the domino effect would be to force other salaries higher, which would in turn cause employers to scale back on workers at the lowest end, thus leaving a zero sum gain for the very group the raise is intended to help.

Both arguments seem reasonable and equally likely, so what direction is best for your business? The answer may not be as complex as you may think. Start by considering your company’s values and ethics. Nearly all companies have these two ideals as part of their statement of purpose, slogan or best practices advisory. If they are part of yours, then ask yourself whether it is ethical to maintain full-time workers at a salary level at which they cannot support themselves, let alone a family. I know they are those that would argue that how my employees support their families is not my concern; you pay a “fair wage” for the work they provide. The truth is, you would be right to feel that way, but you would also be correct in thinking about your business in relation to the community it serves and inhabits.

A higher living wage for workers means that they will become less dependent on the social programs, which your company is forced to subsidize through higher local and federal tax rates; it means they will be able to sustain themselves and support their families and possible relieve some stress, thus freeing them to be more productive and stable at work. In short, they’d be happier. Workers who remain at an unlivable wage level become, at best, indifferent to the fortunes of their employer; they cycle though a series of occupational locations as indentured servants, never feeling that they are integral part of the company….and their work will reflect that feeling. After all the research has been done, statistics assembled, rhetoric made and sides chosen, a company’s owner will have to look at the cost of increasing their minimum wage workers salary by one to two dollars an hour and ask themselves what they are willing to sacrifice and what they are going to get in return. The answers to those questions are less likely to be in the collective, but rather the individual and personal circumstance of each company.

For those SMBs who are fighting to compete against the rising corporate tide of the Wal-Mart’s of the world, there may be an opportunity to distinguish your company from those competitors who simply go along with the status quo. There is a market for those that stand for bettering the lives of their people and society as a whole. If you knew that raising the minimum wage at your company by a couple of dollars per person would increase sales, productivity, moral; along with improving your standing in the community and provided an avenue for free advertising, would you wait for someone else to force you to do so, or allow a competitor to beat you to the punch? Would you be willing to take a smaller bonus as CEO? Would it be worth it to know that your children and your children’s children would not have to grow up in a society increasingly stagnated by economic disparity and diminished opportunities? Consider your personal values and ethics, and whether they are exemplified in your business practices.

~Richard

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