The phlebotomist’s tale… and its impact on $15 minimum wage

Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

“It seems to me that poverty is an eyeglass through which one may see his true friends.” Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales

If the Biden Democrats push the minimum wage up to $15 an hour, what’s going to happen to many skilled trades and jobs we need?

For years and years, the left has pushed for a $15 minimum wage whenever and wherever it can. They got the $15 minimum wage passed in more than two dozen jurisdictions around the country.

Opponents of artificially raising the minimum wage have argued that a few things would happen. One, some people would get raises, but, two, some other people would lose their jobs and income, and three, the push to automate low-skilled jobs out of existence would speed up. Robots get a 0$ minimum wage.

Before the ink was even dry on many $15 minimum wage hikes, they were proven right on all three. Some lucky workers did get raises. Others got fired because their employers could no longer afford to keep the same number of workers and pay them all nearly twice as much. Most small business owners aren’t sitting on piles of gold like Scrooge McDuck. They’re low margin businesses that hire what they can afford to hire and not one person more. McDonalds and other fast food restaurants started automating their way out of having minimum wage jobs with kiosks and other technology. This happened over and over and over again.

The Chamber of Commerce opposes the $15 minimum wage. But according to that TIME magazine article about the sprawling cabal to defeat Trump, the Chamber sold out the best economy the nation had ever known and got in bed with the Democrats and Big Labor. What did the Chamber think would happen if the left won the election? Now it’s getting that $15 minimum wage shoved right down its throat. They deserve it. The Chamber has turned its back on small business in favor of woke corporations and it’s apparently happy to go from the Trump years of bringing jobs back to America to shipping them right back to China.

The $15 minimum wage will do that. Mark my words. Jobs that survive automation will increasingly be shipped to China, where there are no unions and the communists imprison and even kill anyone who gets out of the slave assembly line.

The $15 minimum wage will also do something else here. It will kill incentives to go into meaningful work that requires professional training and certification, such as phlebotomy.

Phlebotomists? In the era of COVID testing and blood work and lab procedures, they are the Pony Express. Phlebotomy is when someone uses a needle to take blood from a vein in your arm. Have you had that happen recently? They are not nurses.

If working the window at Taco Bell or Wendy’s pays the same amount as a true professional career that requires time in training, what will many workers choose to do? Will they wait patiently through training for their first paycheck weeks or months away, or will they go for the job that will pay them in a week or two? What will too many be able to afford to do — wait, or get paid now? Don’t give the answer that should be the right answer. What will people actually do?

If you work the numbers, a $15 minimum wage comes out to about $31,000 a year. That’s the pay for a salaried position, not a teenage, first job, or side hustle gig. Does someone with no training, on their first day or month on the job, really deserve $31,000 per year for, say, making sandwiches or dishing out tacos?

Employers right now are almost unanimously saying no. They’re not saying that to be mean or cheap. They’re saying that because that’s what the market is telling them. Low skill level means low pay level. Just recently, Kroger said no when the Long Beach city council passed a mandate to force the grocery chain to pay what it called “hero pay” for workers during COVID. Kroger closed two stores, and pointedly said the reason it did so is because those stores were struggling and the forced wage hike forced Kroger’s hand. The city council went against economics. Economics always wins.

The market is also telling employers that jobs that require some professional training should pay more than jobs that don’t. Phlebotomists are a perfect example. A phlebotomist does a very specific thing. They draw and prepare blood for testing. This job requires training, from a few weeks to three months or longer, and it requires maintaining a level of skill and professional cleanliness in their work area. It requires some knowledge of anatomy and psychology. It’s serious, clinical, medical work.

In most areas of the country, a phlebotomist is paid — after undergoing training and obtaining certification — on average about $31,000 to $33,000 per year. Should the untrained sandwich maker earn nearly the same as the trained person who’s drawing your blood, labeling it correctly, keeping you safe by keeping their workspace clean, and ensuring that your blood is tested properly so you obtain an accurate picture of your health and medical needs?

It’s absurd, right? But that’s what the proponents of raising the minimum wage to about double its current level are saying. The untrained should be paid as much as the professionally trained and certified. This makes no economic sense.

What’s the incentive for a high school graduate to spend weeks getting certified without pay to become a phlebotomist versus just getting a job at the local burger joint? They’ll pay about the same thanks to the $15 minimum wage, but the burger joint paycheck will come in weeks to months earlier than the phlebotomist paycheck. Let’s face it: Many people don’t see the future payoff when there’s a paycheck on offer immediately. Especially if the paychecks are roughly equal but one demands a whole lot more work and attention to detail than the other.

In a few years, the person who went with the quicker paycheck, who may have either taken what seemed to be the easier route or it was the only route they could afford at the time, is probably trapped in that job forever and just getting by. If the job still exists. Meanwhile, the phlebotomist has undergone more training. Their outlook is very good. They’re launched on a career. They’ve been mentored by nurses, nurse practitioners, techs and doctors. Some of them will go on to become nurses and doctors themselves.

Over the long run, the left’s drive to push the economically absurd $15 minimum wage will destroy more than a million jobs according to the Congressional Budget Office, and it will create more working poor — fewer professionals, and more who work paycheck to paycheck. That’s a win-win for the left. Fewer jobs means more Americans depending on the government. And the trapped working poor end up wanting and needing more government services too, which the Democrats are all about and are only too happy to provide. The last thing Joe Biden or any Democrat wants is a skilled American populace sustaining ourselves and running our own lives without needing them for anything. There’s a name for such people: Republicans.

The Chamber should’ve seen this coming and never supported Biden. Anyone else who foolishly supports the artificial $15 minimum wage is supporting destroying lives and livelihoods. The $15 minimum wage will create more working poor, whose jobs will soon be automated away or shipped off to China, and fewer skilled American workers we need, such as phlebotomists.

What proponents of the $15 minimum refuse to learn is this simple truth: No matter what the law says, the actual economic minimum wage is $0. If you raise the minimum wage too high, $0 is what many workers who used to make the old minimum will soon make. Because the market will not sustain their wages while keeping the same number of workers employed. It will delete, automate, or offshore those jobs. That’s economics, and economics always wins.


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