by Brandon Butler
The CEO Who Raised the Minimum Wage to $70,000: Five Years Later 3/1/2020

Stephanie Hegarty for BBC News, following up on the story from 2015 where Dan Price increased his Seattle office’s minimum wage to $70,000:

Before 1995 the poorest half of the population of the United States earned a greater share of national wealth than the richest 1%, he points out. But that year the tables turned – the top 1% earned more than the bottom 50%. And the gap is continuing to widen.

In 1965, CEOs in the US earned 20 times more than the average worker but by 2015 it had risen to 300 times. […]

After crunching the numbers, [Price] arrived at the figure of $70,000. He realised that he would not only have to slash his salary, but also mortgage his two houses and give up his stocks and savings. He gathered his staff together and gave them the news.

Over the last five years, his company Gravity Payments has doubled in size, home ownership amoung employees went from less than 1% to 10%, 70% paid off debt, and there have been 40 babies born in that time. Employees are happier, less stressed, and devote more energy to their job — because they have more energy to give. It’s amazing what just a little money — about $5,800/month before taxes — can do to transform someone’s life and give them the peace of mind and stability to buy a house and have a baby.

Remarkably, some people complained and objected to the raises. Rush Limbaugh called him a communist (I’m sure Rush is a great guy to work for) and:

Two senior Gravity employees also resigned in protest. They weren’t happy that the salaries of junior staff had jumped overnight, and argued that it would make them lazy, and the company uncompetitive.

The opposite happened. I would love to know where those two former employees are today. What kind of an asshole do you have to be to be upset that your co-workers received a raise?

For many people, it’s not about becoming lazy — it’s about the peace of mind knowing that no matter what happens, you’ll have a roof over your head and food on the table and shoes on your feet tomorrow, next month, and next year. Many, many people in the country don’t have that kind of reassurance.

Price says he is still “tested” by the desire to be a millionaire:

”I’m the same age as Mark Zuckerberg and I have dark moments where I think, ‘I want to be just as rich as Mark Zuckerberg and I want to compete with him to be on the Forbes list. And I want to be on the cover of Time magazine, making lots of money.’ All these greedy things are tempting.”

“It’s not like it’s easy to just turn down. But my life is so much better.”

And the lives of his employees. What a great follow-up to a great story.