Cities must not come between small businesses and their employees

Maureen Hatfield Articles

By Todd and Maureen Hatfield

For the Hatfield family, McCall served as more than a place to buy groceries, purchase gas, dine by the lake and grab ice cream before an evening stroll.

Those things added to our almost 20-year experience, and while our business continues to operate in Valley County, our time raising four wonderful children was so much more. McCall freed us from the hustle of city life, and liberated our family from the concerns that often accompany metropolitan living. We like to think many of our friends and neighbors also treasure that freedom.

Yet, there’s a plan about that would chip away at the unbridled life so many value: a proposal to let City Hall decide how much workers can make.

Geoff Burns, a leader of the Occupy Boise movement that pitched tents across from the Capitol a few years back, is pushing an effort to allow the government to set wage levels for all workers in McCall city limits.

The intentions of the former Occupy Boise leader might seem noble, but the stratagem is wrongheaded for so many reasons.

First, let’s look at the principle Burns’ effort would further erode: workplace freedom. High wages are optimal, but government mandates aren’t the way to ensure families can make it. Government bureaucrats will add another layer of book auditing while subtracting productive hours from business operations. This further complicates the lives of anyone who wants to live, work and raise a family in McCall.

Don’t we have enough government red tape? Small business owners, those who risk it all with the dream of bettering their lives and communities, deal with enough regulations from Boise and Washington, D.C. Let’s give them a break, for a change.

Next, we’re firmly convinced government-mandated wages won’t actually help anyone. University of California-Irvine professor David Neumark, a top voice in his field, offered this take in the Wall Street Journal a while back:

“Despite a few exceptions that are tirelessly (and selectively) cited by advocates of a higher minimum wage, the bulk of the evidence — from scores of studies, using data mainly from the U.S. but also from many other countries — clearly shows that minimum wages reduce employment of young, low-skilled people.”

That’s curious. Fair Wage McCall purports to want to help low-income service workers, but there are stacks of evidence suggesting government-mandated wages destroy opportunity for those Burns says he wants to help.

Why should we make the cost of labor so high businesses have to raise their prices, thus passing the expense on to the consumer? Or, the business becomes reticent to hire a low-wage employee and does the work himself or herself.

And, most importantly, how many young people won’t be able to lift themselves out of poverty because a first job didn’t exist due to government wage controls. The solution isn’t to take away that first job, it’s to ensure the higher-skilled careers exist. When McCall went from a producing to a service economy, the collapse began. Lifetime work, the logging backbone that sustained McCall, has been forced out and we see the result.

Folks, this isn’t about left and right, and it’s certainly not about pitting business owners versus  radical activists,workers and City Hall.

Let’s not destroy opportunity and let us continue McCall’s long legacy of a picturesque and independent mountain town.

This opinion piece was first published in the McCall Star.Todd and Maureen Hatfield lived and raised their family in McCall for nearly 17 years. Todd continues building homes in the area and Maureen works for the Idaho Freedom Foundation in Boise.