Restaurant industry insiders stunned legislators last month by revealing a brewing generational war: working teenagers versus their own grandparents! The revelation came in a mid-March hearing at the House Committee on Economic Development, where two legislators were developing bills designed to raise the minimum wage: H.B. 197 (by Lon Burnam) and H.B. 327 (Senfronia Thompson). Thompson’s bill would raise the state minimum wage (for workers not already covered by the federal minimum standards) to the federal level of $5.15 per hour. Burnam’s bill would link a state minimum wage to the actual costs of housing in different regions in the state.
Texas Restaurant Association lobbyist Glen Garey blew the lid off Burnam’s hidden assault on Grandma and Grandpa. “Look at what this does to those on fixed income. If you tie the minimum wage to rental rates, the market will respond to that, and that means rental rates will creep upwards. But [seniors’] fixed income doesn’t. So you’re effectively driving people out of their apartments,” Garey told committee members, who were struck dumb by the bombshell. Garey also told members that minimum wage increases drive inflation, pushing the generational war into the grocery store, where Social Security checks will buy less and less food – all to feed the gastronomic habits of twentysomethings working in low-wage jobs.
Gray Panthers lieutenant Alison Dieter was caught completely offguard by Garey’s revelations. Nevertheless, she said, the low-wage generation’s plot is not likely to succeed. “Social Security is indexed to the cost of living and inflation,” she said. “So recipients get a raise when the cost of living goes up.”
Who is behind these explosive bills? In an exclusive interview, Garey told The Back Page that the culprit is not just teenagers, but also irresponsible workers trying to raise families on the minimum wage. “The minimum wage was never intended to support a family,” Garey said. “What is he doing with children anyway? Why isn’t his wife working?” Garey exclaimed. “[Trying to raise a family] is like you or me buying a $200,000 house right out of college,” Garey said of the greedy workers, many of them in the fast food industry.
David R. Pinkus of Small Business United of Texas predicted the strategy would backfire. “Almost all studies show that raising the minimum wage hurts the people it is meant to help,” Pinkus said. Pinkus pleaded for reconciliation: “We’re all on the same side on this; we all want to get rid of poverty.”
Take the case of Levi’s moving from El Paso to Mexico, Pinkus told the committee. “The average wage at the Mexican plants is $1 per hour…. That’s what these low-wage earners that we’re trying to help have to compete with,” he said. Later The Back Page asked Pinkus his solution to the dilemma. “Our organization has always advocated abolishing the minimum wage,” he told us. If you let the market set wage rates in areas of high unemployment like El Paso, wages will bottom out at their natural level, Pinkus said. Would Levi’s still be in Texas? “Well, you’ve still got your environmental regulation and all that to consider.” A lobbyist’s work is never done – but it does pay considerably better than minimum wage.
His work may be done for this session. Pinkus reassured worried seniors who might be concerned about greedy teens taking food off their plates: “These bills aren’t going anywhere.”
(Editors’ Note: As The Back Page is occasionally home to parody, please be advised that all quotations above are authentic and documented. We can’t top these guys.)