We’ve discussed the idea of livable wages here before. There’s a feeling among some people that businesses should required to make that its employees make enough money to sustain a “good” life (I’m not sure who gets to consider what good is). This includes enough pay to support you and your family and generous benefits to cover what your salary doesn’t.
This sounds great on the surface and it can be pretty easy to expect businesses with a lot of money to have no problem shelling out the extra money. The business has the responsibility to the worker, doesn’t it? Isn’t the business is the livelihood of its workers?
Try looking at it from a different perspective. A worker sells his labor to the employer. The business isn’t trying to do anyone any favors by giving people jobs. Selling your labor is no different from you selling anything else. You and the buyer agree on a price and you make the transaction. You don’t need the government helping you set prices on eBay, do you?
Anyway, let’s assume that it is the employer’s job to ensure the livelihood of its employees. How far does that extend? Say you hire someone to cut your grass every two weeks. You pay him $40 to perform the work. You think he does a good job and he’s satisfied with the pay, so you’re both happy. This job, though, is the only employment that he has—you are his sole employer. Are you then responsible that he’s clothed, housed, and fed?
The answer to this will be “Of course not, he’s just mowing your lawn.”
What if he’s just sweeping your floors? What about if he’s just greeting patrons?
Like so many “You should do XYZ,” there’s never a place to draw the line. And no one ever agrees on the spot either.