A maverick CEO raised the minimum wage at his company to $70K and now he's doing it again
via Twitter / Leo The Dragon King

The federal minimum wage in the United States is a paltry $7.25 and it hasn't gone up since 2009.

"It's not acceptable," Holly Sklar, CEO of the advocacy group Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, told CNBC. "The whole point of the minimum wage is to have it go up regularly. It shouldn't sit still every year when the cost of living is going up. The minimum wage is losing value."

Data shows that in 1968, the federal minimum was equivalent to $10.90 in 2015 dollars, nearly $4 higher than today's rate.

Opponents to an increase in the minimum wage often claim that only teenagers make minimum wage; therefore, there's no need for it to be raised.


However, nothing is further from the truth. According to The New York Times, the average minimum wage earner is is 35, and 88% are at least 20 years old. Half are older than 30, and about a third are at least 40.

via AFL-CIO / Flickr

A low minimum wage keeps people living below the poverty line and increases the need for public assistance.

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According to the Economic Policy Institute, roughly 60% of all workers in the bottom tenth of wage earners (those paid less than $7.42 per hour) receive some form of government-provided assistance, either directly or through a family member.

So basically, the taxpayers are subsidizing employers who refuse to pay workers a living wage.

Back in 2015, Dan Price made headlines for raising the minimum wage at his Seattle-based company, Gravity Payments, to $70,000 a year. It all started after an employee making $35,000 challenged him for paying market rates.

"You brag about how financially disciplined you are, but that just translates into me not making enough money to live a decent life," the employee said.

The move doubled the pay of about 30 of his workers and gave an additional 40 significant raises. After drastically improving his employees pay, productivity and worker retention rates skyrocketed.

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"I want the scorecard we have as business leaders to be not about money, but about purpose, impact, and service. I want those to be the things that we judge ourselves on," he said at the time.

Now, Price has done it again.

Three years ago, Price's company acquired ChargeItPro, in Boise, Idaho and it was recently re-branded Gravity Payments. At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Price announced that the new Boise office would also have a minimum wage of $70,000.

"This morning we cut the ribbon on the new @GravityPymts Boise office AND announced that all of our employees here will start earning our $70k min salary," Price announced on Twitter. "I'm so grateful to work with this amazing team and to be able to compensate them for the value they bring to our community."

While this sort of generosity seems like nothing more than an outlier story, the idea that the bottom line shouldn't be a company's main focus is gaining some steam.

The Business Roundtable, a group of chief executive officers of nearly 200 major U.S. corporations, issued a statement in August with a new definition of the "purpose of a corporation."

Americans deserve an economy that allows each person to succeed through hard work and creativity and to lead a life of meaning and dignity. We believe the free-market system is the best means of generating good jobs, a strong and sustainable economy, innovation, a healthy environment and economic opportunity for all.

It also said:

Investing in our employees. This starts with compensating them fairly and providing important benefits. It also includes supporting them through training and education that help develop new skills for a rapidly changing world. We foster diversity and inclusion, dignity and respect.
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When Molly Reeser was a student at Michigan State University, she took a job mucking horse stalls to help pay for classes. While she was there, she met a 10-year-old girl named Casey, who was being treated for cancer, and — because both were animal lovers — they became fast friends.

Two years later, Casey died of cancer.

"Everyone at the barn wanted to do something to honor her memory," Molly remembers. A lot of suggestions were thrown out, but Molly knew that there was a bigger, more enduring way to do it.

"I saw firsthand how horses helped Casey and her family escape from the difficult and terrifying times they were enduring. I knew that there must be other families who could benefit from horses in the way she and her family had."

Molly approached the barn owners and asked if they would be open to letting her hold a one-day event. She wanted to bring pediatric cancer patients to the farm, where they could enjoy the horses and peaceful setting. They agreed, and with the help of her closest friends and the "emergency" credit card her parents had given her, Molly created her first Camp Casey. She worked with the local hospital where Casey had been a patient and invited 20 patients, their siblings and their parents.

The event was a huge success — and it was originally meant to be just that: a one-day thing. But, Molly says, "I believe Casey had other plans."

One week after the event, Molly received a letter from a five-year-old boy who had brain cancer. He had been at Camp Casey and said it was "the best day of his life."

"[After that], I knew that we had to pull it off again," Molly says. And they did. Every month for the next few years, they threw a Camp Casey. And when Molly graduated, she did the most terrifying thing she had ever done and told her parents that she would be waitressing for a year to see if it might be possible to turn Camp Casey into an actual nonprofit organization. That year of waitressing turned into six, but in the end she was able to pull it off: by 2010, Camp Casey became a non-profit with a paid staff.

"I am grateful for all the ways I've experienced good luck in my life and, therefore, I believe I have a responsibility to give back. It brings me tremendous joy to see people, animals, or things coming together to create goodness in a world that can often be filled with hardships."

Camp Casey serves 1500 children under the age of 18 each year in Michigan. "The organization looks different than when it started," Molly says. "We now operate four cost-free programs that bring accessible horseback riding and recreational services to children with cancer, sickle cell disease, and other life-threatening illnesses."

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