The challenge is defining who is a “hero“ and who is  “just” doing his job. [Opinion]

The dictionary defines a hero as “a person who is admired or idolized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.” It specifically mentions “war heroes” as an example associated with that definition.

Recently, the city of Coachella enacted an ordinance requiring employers with 300 employees in the firm and at least five employees in the city to pay “Hero Pay” to workers in certain industries an additional $4 per hour atop of their regular hourly wage.

The armed forces of our country uses a basic pay system. That systems pays members a base monthly salary. A typical corporal receives a base monthly pay of $2,400.00 per month. That’s about $28,000 per year and change. These patriots are on duty around the clock all year. They do what they are told when they are told and may be called upon to sacrifice their lives to defend our country. These men and woman are all volunteers.

Most recently they are also helping inject COVID-19 vaccines into those who want and need them, exposing themselves to health risks while helping fellow Americans.

If a soldier goes into a combat zone, he or she likely receives “combat pay” just as I did as a young person who jumped out of planes with a parachute. That pay was noted as “Hazardous Duty Pay” on our Leave & Earnings Statement.

The armed forces has numerous allowances for professional classifications: Flight Pay, Recruiter Pay, meal allowance, separation allowances, housing allowance, etc.

Many of our military members are heroes! They save lives, take great risks to protect lives, and are engaged in combat. The risk taken even in a training exercise isn’t experienced in any other profession.

These brave corporals don’t make the $15.per hour that many want to impose on private sector employers. They make about $13 per hour. They have no union advocating for them. They can’t unionize or go on strike. They don’t get overtime or work a 40-hour week. Nobody is talking about raising pay for the military members who don’t earn minimum wage either.

As America battles the coronavirus, we have been witnessing city mayors and their fellow elected officials creating “Hero Pay.” We are all for paying our heroes and rewarding their service.

The challenge is defining who is a “hero“ and who is “just” doing his job?  Our typical heroes, pre-COVID-19, were our military, veterans, law enforcement, firefighters, and a few other professionals.

Cities are redefining the classification and ordering pay raises for those they deem “heroes.” Apparently, elected officials in cites, towns, and regional governments are now classification experts in the pandemic.

They have left off the “Hero Pay“ list classifications such as doctor, nurse, and a host of medical professionals. They leave out our firefighters, paramedics, sheriff’s deputies, police officers, social workers, garbage collectors, gas station attendants, construction trades, most retail clerks, public servants in city hall and regional governments, and most other jobs, too.

In the pandemic world “we” have correctly expanded the definition of “hero.” It is an earned title by those protecting and serving us in many professions. Those who serve in our medical profession and many professions deserve recognition as “ heroes.”

When city officials decide they will cherry pick a few professions and then mandate pay raises on private firms, they cross the line of what is fair and reasonable. They set pay for city team members who must negotiate those hourly rate and often fight union leaders to deny pay raises.

Those cities that order businesses to pay “hero pay” run the risk of seeing more jobs lost as businesses close doors or lay off workers to make the adjustments to accommodate a mayor’s mandates. We are already seeing this in the grocery industry.

Business owners collect sales taxes for products sold. Cities depend on that revenue to pay for heroes in the fire department, law enforcement, code enforcement, road department  and others in city hall.

Most cities are sitting side by side. Cities that don’t order “hero pay” for private sector workers will likely see increased revenues and business relocation.

With the federal government pushing a $15 base hourly rate, (a healthy increase is needed in the federal minimum wage of some significant amount) and a city adding $4 more per hour we see $19 per hour for entry-level jobs.

All Americans want fair pay for our friends and neighbors in entry-level jobs. But Americans don’t want to pay $4.99 for a hotdog at their AM PM convenience stores, $6.99 for a single cheeseburger at the home of the Golden Arches,  or $7.99 for a bean and cheese burrito at Del Taco either.  That’s where arbitrary and unfair mayor-imposed hero pays takes us.

Unemployment is high. We are still stuck in a pandemic. Employers and employees have been hard hit. The last thing we need to help simulate our local, regional, state, and national economic recovery is local elected officials, good intentions acknowledged here, arbitrarily picking and choosing “heroes“ and ordering just a few businesses to increase wages.

These well-intended officials will likely spend massive amounts of tax dollars defending their right to impose these salary increases on private businesses. That means less cash for city services and more money for lawyers.

Everyone who has reported for duty during this pandemic is a hero in our book. Let’s thank them for reporting for duty in every restaurant, retail outlet, medical offices, dispatch center, farms, ranches, offices, customer service centers, auto shops, loading docks, and on and on.

We are in their debt. They make it happen every day. Those who work in back-breaking jobs and in offices, hospitals, patrol cars, in our military, are everyday heroes.

Let’s get vaccinated and get our business opened up, kids back to schools and our economy back to 2019 record levels. That’s the way our workforce gets pay and benefit increases and city, county, and state governments benefit as well.


Editor’s note: The opinion expressed here does not necessarily reflect those of Uken Report.




Image Sources

  • Hero: Shutterstock