Television host Mike Rowe, who is set to debut a new program, “Six Degrees with Mike Rowe,” weighed in on the minimum wage debate currently brewing in Congress, suggesting that minimum wage jobs are valuable but that they should be treated as a bridge to success and not a final destination.
Although Rowe is not political, he has weighed in with practical advice on a number of controversial political issues, and late last week, the Discovery Channel host connected the hot-button minimum wage debate to larger goals of training more Americans for skilled jobs that are, currently, going unfilled.
Speaking to Fox Business, Rowe called minimum wage jobs “rungs on a ladder” — ways to learn valuable skills on the way to bigger and better things.
“I want everybody who works hard and plays fair to prosper,” Rowe told the network. “I want everybody to be able to support themselves. But if you just pull the money out of midair you’re going to create other problems, like there is a ladder of success that people climb and some of those jobs that are out there for seven, eight, nine dollars an hour, in my view, they’re simply not intended to be careers.”
“They’re not intended to be full-time jobs. They’re rungs on a ladder,” Rowe added.
“[Those jobs] are ways for people to get experience in the workforce doing a thing that might not necessarily pay you as much as you’d like, but nevertheless serves a real purpose,” the former “Dirty Jobs” host said.
Congress is currently considering ways to increase the federal minimum wage, a number that sets pay standards across the country, including in states and local jurisdictions that do not outline a specific minimum wage for workers. Initially, Democrats tried to include a minimum wage hike, which would have raised the federal wage to $15 per hour, in a COVID-19 relief bill.
Eventually, though, they were forced to drop the provision because it prevented the bill from passing on “reconciliation,” a special procedure that allows Congress to pass “budget-specific” measures by a simple majority vote rather than by a sixty vote “supermajority.”
Rowe told Fox Business that he is also concerned that paying people high wages for unskilled labor prevents people from pursuing skilled jobs — jobs that present opportunities for growth and that more closely resemble careers.
“I worry that the path to a skilled trade can be compromised when you offer an artificially high wage for, I hate the expression, but an unskilled job. So to me, the brightest line needs to be drawn between skilled and unskilled work. We need to encourage more people to learn a skill that’s actually in demand,” Rowe said.
Mike Rowe has made a television career by showcasing so-called “dirty jobs” — jobs that many Americans take for granted, but which are necessary to daily life. His new show, “Six Degrees,” takes the same format and applies it to history, encouraging viewers, he says, to take a “shared” look at “major moments in American history.”