I started Northwest River Supplies Inc. in 1972 with $2,000. Over the last 45 years NRS has grown into a multi-million-dollar company with hundreds of dealers and thousands of customers worldwide. It’s grown not because we were able to take advantage of low-wage labor, but because it became a partnership with its employees. NRS is now 100 percent employee-owned, and I know that its success is largely based on the excellent people who work there.
Treating your employees well isn’t just the right moral choice, it’s the right business decision as well. Valued and well-compensated employees are more productive, less likely to quit, and an asset to the surrounding community. As a businessman, I know that NRS is only as good as its employees and the demand for its products, and that’s exactly why we need a higher federal minimum wage.
Why should our employees pay taxes that support services for minimum wage workers? Employees being paid substandard wages are being subsidized by the rest of us through Medicaid and other welfare services. Our tax dollars are supporting the Walmarts and McDonald’s of the world who pay their workers poverty wages. And at the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, millions of Americans not only struggle to survive, but they are essentially locked out of participating in our economy. Forty-one million workers in the U.S. — nearly one-third of the American workforce — make less than $15 an hour.
In an economy that is 70 percent driven by consumer demand, giving a third of the working population a raise is the best economic stimulus available. Maybe that’s why tens of thousands of small businesses have already come out in favor of a higher minimum wage, or why a recent Chamber of Commerce poll showed that eight out of 10 business leaders support raising the minimum wage. Far from being “anti-business,” as some corporate lobbyists have worked so hard to label it, a higher minimum wage is good for everyone, workers and employers alike.
It’s time for our representatives in Washington to do the right thing and raise the minimum wage for all Americans. Our neighboring state of Washington will raise the minimum wage to $13.50 by 2020; why don’t Idahoans deserve to make as much as someone living across the border?
Democrats in Congress are now calling for raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024. But this shouldn’t be either a Democratic or a Republican issue. It’s an American issue. The proposal to raise the minimum wage has widespread bipartisan support: According to a recent poll, 63 percent of Americans support a $15 minimum wage. What’s more, it has the support of most of the business community.
Since the American people and the business community are united in their support for a higher minimum wage, this should not be a difficult issue. It’s time for our representatives in Washington to stop listening to corporate lobbyists and start listening to the people. It’s time for a $15 minimum wage.
Bill Parks is the president and founder of Northwest River Supplies Inc., and a member of the Patriotic Millionaires.