|A minimum wage employee at this Pine Bluff, Arkansas|
Days Inn says she was fired after telling a reporter
her minimum wage salary doesn't cover her expenses.
This all started when Washington Post reporter Chico Harlan stopped at the Days Inn to talk to people about an upcoming 25 cent increase in the Arkansas minimum wage. He was working on an article about the subject.
Harlan interviewed Patel, who then suggested the reporter speak with Shanna Tippen, a minimum wage employee, about the paltry pay increase coming her way.
Tippen told Harlan that the increase would help a bit, but wouldn't lift her above the poverty line. Harlan dutifully reported all these facts.
In a column in Monday's Washington Post, Harlan reports he's learned that Patel fired Tippen for talking to him. Remember, Patel was the one who suggested Harlan and Tippen have a conversation.
From Harlan's column Monday:
"'He said I was stupid and dumb for talking to (the Post),' Tippen said. 'He cussed me and asked me why you wrote the article. I said, 'Because he's a reporter; that's what he does.' He said it was wrong for me to talk to you."
At that point, she was summarily fired.
There might be more to the story, of course. Maybe Tippen wasn't totally innocent, but this whole thing looks bad.
On the day in which Harlan talked to Tippen about being fired, Patel called the Post because he objected to having been (accurately) quoted that he objected to that 25 cent minimum wage hike.
To be specific, Patel said the tiny 25 cent minimum wage increase was "bad for Arkansas. Everybody wants free money in Pine Bluff."
Yeah, there's nothing worse than somebody who works 40 hours a week and actually expects to make enough money during those 40 hours to put food on the table and pay the rent. How selfish!
Harlan said he tried calling Patel for comment about his firing Tippen, but Patel sounds like a belligerent scardy cat.
"A man who sounded like Patel, reached recently at the Days Inn, declined to comment in several separate phone calls. On one call, the man said he'd never met Herry Patel and did not know who he was. On another call, he threatened to call the police if 'you keep bothering us.'"
Hours after Harlan's story on Tippen's firing was published, there must have been blowback down in Pine Bluff because Patel called Harlan back, finally.
In an update to his Monday Washington Post piece, Harlan wrote that Patel disputed Tippen's version of events. He said she walked out on the job after a disagreement. Patel said he'd approached Tippen to ask about her past criminal record, which was outlined in the previous Washington Post story.
Tippen stood by her story, and said Patel didn't bring up her criminal history during the hiring, and only spoke heatedly to him after she'd been fired.
The parent company of the Days Inn in Pine Bluff, Wyndham Worldwide, seemed to wash its hands of the situation.
The company said in a statement, "While we do not control or oversee staffing decisions at our franchised locations, we do require that each independently owned and operated hotel comply with all local, state and federal laws, especially as it relates to employment practices."
Way to sidestep things, Wyndham. Labor laws are weak in Arkansas, so Patel probably was complying with Arkansas law. Federal law is pretty hands off in this area, too.
Ever think to look into whether or not this firing was ethically OK, even if it was legal?
Look, I get it. Raising the minimum wage probably affects prices for all of us. But NOT raising the minimum wage does, too.
I'm not happy with the idea of paying taxes for government assistance so that people who are working 40 or more hours a week can survive.
I'd much rather pay an extra nickel or whatever for a Big Mac or a cheap toy at Walmart so that people can make a livable wage.
I also get it that the CEOs of these big corporations ought to be making much more money than the chambermaids, the hamburger flippers and the gal behind the register at the mini-mart.
Still, I don't think making it a little easier for people to make ends meet without government assistance will ruin the frickin' economy.
With the income gap in this nation putting us into another 1890s Guilded Age, maybe it's time to put a little dignity back into working for a living. That means paying people fairly when they do work, and not kicking them aside if they object to NOT being paid fairly.
I know my little screed here won't make any difference on this topic. But the more we all say it, and the more often, the better off everybody will be.
Including the ultra-rich CEOs. After all, employees who are treated fairly tend to do a better job. And maybe make more money their employer, too.