The $70,000 Minimum Wage


Plenty of hotel and events workers throughout California were on the front lines when the “Fight for 15” movement failed to convince legislators to nudge the state minimum wage to $15 an hour. As it turned out, they’ll have to wait until next year to see their hourly wage skyrocket by a whole buck, from $9 to $10. Cue the Game of Thrones victory music.

But the latest news out of Washington State has me wondering if maybe “Fight for 15” shouldn’t be aiming higher. A lot higher.

A Seattle entrepreneur named Dan Price, CEO of a payment processing company called Gravity Payments, rendered his 120 employees gob smacked recently by announcing that forthwith, the company’s annual minimum wage will be $70,000.

Not overnight, mind you; Price says it’ll take three years to bring everyone from the lowliest clerks to the CSRs and sales staff up to that level. Nevertheless, no stampede to the door ensued, as you might well imagine.

moneyhappyPrice’s epiphany came after reading about a study by Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton that found that happiness increases with income only until one earns about $70,000, at which point you can’t get the kids to move out.

Just kidding; what they actually discovered is that once you’re earning enough to comfortably afford life’s necessities (food, shelter, HBO), money doesn’t make us any happier, although chocolate does.

“I’m completely blown away right now,” admitted 24-year-old communications coordinator Hayley Vogt, who currently earns $45,000. “Everyone is talking about this $15 minimum wage in Seattle and it’s nice to work someplace where someone is actually doing something about it and not just talking about it.”

Of course, that kind of gesture comes at a price, as Price well knows. To make the math work, he’s cutting his own $1 million annual salary down to the minimum $70K as well. That should suffice for a guy who drives a 12-year-old Audi, snowboards, and whose biggest splurge is picking up the bar bill.

Will such largesse in the face of historic U.S. income inequality spark a sudden sharing spree by corporate America?

I’m pretty sure we’ll see Donald Trump in Jheri curls first.

Photo of Dan Price by Jose Mandojana

Jay MacDonald

Jay MacDonald

Jay MacDonald is an award-winning journalist, author and blogger who incorporates humor and human interest into a broad range of topics. Follow him on Twitter @omnisaurus

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