Minimum Wage Blues at the YMCA

It is too bad that businesses and non-profit organizations didn’t speak up louder and more often about the minimum wage.  Perhaps the politicians wouldn’t have passed the bill, if everyone clearly understood that the price of food and clothing would go up if the minimum wage was increased, and that some non-profit organizations would be forced to cut their services.

 I just received a letter from the YMCA, informing me that even for Y members, there will now be a $20.00 per class charge for swimming classes.  The reason for this increase was that the labor costs at the YMCA were going up, due to the minimum wage.  Guess what?  Some people will now drop their YMCA memberships, and the YMCA will be less able to serve the community. 

Nearly all of the swimming instructors there are part time, and there has been an adequate supply of excellent instructors.  I suspect that most of them are not really doing it for the money, although the extra few dollars they earn is nice.  Let’s not be surprised if some of them lose their jobs, due to decreased demand for classes at the increased price.


13 thoughts on “Minimum Wage Blues at the YMCA

  1. Yea, it’s the increase in the minimum wage. It has absolutely nothing to do with the price of gasoline, heating oil and natural gas going up.

  2. Hi Sean,

    First of all, welcome to my blog.

    We know that the prices of those things have gone up too. But think about it. A large portion of the operating costs of the YMCA is their payroll, which is primarily part-time workers. And the swimming classes (which are the only ones getting the extra charge) are particularly labor intensive.

    If the YMCA, which does not have a profit motive, says in their letter to their members that personnel costs are the reason they have to take this unpopular step, then I am inclined to believe them.

  3. Looks like your blog is now the target of Sean. Good Luck. Sean loves to make the blog rounds to irritate clear thinking individuals such as yourself.

  4. Thank you for the welcome. The rise in minimum wage is just an easy scapegoat. The pool is probably the most expensive part of the Y’s budget. The insurance, maintenance and heating costs for the pool are probably higher than for the rest of the functions combined.

    Are you aware the YMCA of America spent over $700,000 lobbying politicians in 2005? And $500,000 in 2006? Chances are they did make their make their interests known. That amount does include what individual Y regions spent either. Maybe if they spent that money on salaries instead of on trying to influence legislation they wouldn’t have had to add the surcharge.

    But look on the bright side. With the increase in the minimum wage maybe some people who couldn’t afford swim lessons for their child can now.

    As far as James comment I have to say he has me at an advantage, because I am not familiar with his blog. Nor do I remember sharing my likes and dislikes with him.

  5. Sean,

    If James is who I think he is, he has a nice blog that rarely ventures into politics, so I suspect he would not attract your attention. But I am sure he has had a chance to read your opinions in a variety of places.

    Considering the size of the YMCA, that number for lobbying costs is quite low. That is way less than $1.00 per YMCA member. Given their size and prominence, I would expect them to have input into the legislative process, particularly in the area of non-profit law, liability law, and employment law. In any case, if you do the math for about 1 minute, you will find that their lobbying expenses would not even begin to cover the aquatic surcharge.

    It is true that some people who can’t afford Y swim lessons may be able to do so now. However, it is also true that some people will be thrown out of work by the minimum wage increase. Historically, minority youth suffer the most when the minimum wage goes up.

    There is one other comment you made that I have to deal with in a separate comment.

  6. Sean, you said that “the rise in minimum wage is just an easy scapegoat.” This comment troubles me.

    In my original post, I said that the YMCA sent a letter telling us that the reason for the aquatic fee was that payroll costs for the aquatic programs went up. This letter was signed by the Gerry Vandermerwe, CEO of the YMCA of Greater Erie. He has a name, presumably a family, and a reputation.

    You strongly implied that he was lying when he wrote that letter. You said that the increase in the minimum wage was “just an easy scapegoat.” I am nearly certain that you have not looked at the balance sheets at the YMCA, to know if your statement is true. From your comment about the lobbying costs of the YMCA, I know that you don’t always think hard enough about numbers to be accurate with them.

    Now, do you believe that Gerry Vandermerwe was lying when he wrote this letter to YMCA members? If so, what is your evidence?

  7. Those figures were for the YMCA of America. Each individual region has their own lobbying expenses. I’m kind of surprised that a non profit organization would have that much money laying around to engage lobbyists. $700,000 would have gone a long way to serve the community.

    “I know that you don’t always think hard enough about numbers to be accurate with them.”

    How do you know that? Is it because their actual lobbying expenses for 2005 was $770,000?

    The rise in the minimum wage would affect the YMCA across the board. Are you saying only the swimming instructors make the minimum wage? Shouldn’t the rise in the minimum wage make all of the YMCA’s personel costs go up across the board?

    “Sean loves to make the blog rounds to irritate clear thinking individuals such as yourself.”

    First James decides what I love, now you tell me what I believe.

    “Now, you you believe that Gerry Vandermerwe was lying when he wrote this letter to YMCA members?”

    Tell me then, what am I thinking now?

  8. Nice blog!

    One question, though. Do you not think those folks who teach swimming and have other roles at the Y deserve a decent paycheck? You can’t expect people to teach classes for a couple dollars an hour — especially if they need to be certified with lifeguarding and anything else the Y offers.

  9. Hi Sean,

    First of all, I meant to write “do you believe that Gerry Vandermerwe was lying when he wrote this letter to YMCA members?” It was intended as a question, not a statement, but I didn’t proofread what I wrote, so it came across wrong. So I will re-phrase it as a question.

    Do you believe that Gerry Vandermerwe was lying when he wrote this letter to YMCA members?

    I said you were inaccurate with numbers, because you seemed to think that the approximately $700,000 that the Y spends on lobbying in the entire country, which amounts to less than $1.00 per YMCA member, would cover the amount of their additional charges for swimming lessons, which is $20.00 per class. ( I am going with your original numbers.) Your statement would only work if only 5% of Y members took swimming classes.

    As for other personnel costs, the letter said that the swimming program was the hardest hit. This makes perfect sense, because coaches of the various sports are volunteers, and the full time help (janitorial staff, program directors, etc.) is not paid minimum wage. So it would seem natural that the swimming program is hardest hit by the increase in the minimum wage. That is what the letter said. Do you have evidence that it is not true?

  10. Hi Busta,

    Welcome to my blog. I do visit yours occasionally.

    The issue of what the Y should pay does not depend very much on what I think. It depends on what the YMCA management is willing and able to pay, what the YMCA members are willing and able to pay, and what the potential employees are willing to work for.

    First of all, as far as I know, all the swimming instructors are part time workers. Many of them are kids, and if they were not at the Y, they would be at MacDonalds or some similar place. Very few if any of these people are trying to support a family on this job.

    I will add that the value of a job is not purely monetary.
    Even though a paycheck is nice, and in many cases necessary, most people work for more than just a paycheck. If you are a swimming instructor at the Y, you have to like the job. You probably even have to like kids, and like teaching kids. There is not a theoretical monetary value that we can place on this job, and then say they have to be paid that much.

    As I said above, the YMCA did not appear to be having trouble finding good instructors at the old minimum wage, so the market was working fine.

  11. To put in my 2 cents (far below minimum wage), most economists agree that minimum wages actually keep wages lower. If minimum wages were abolished and wages were left to the principals of supply and demand, many of the lowest paid positions would experience wage increases (thus maybe allowing them to quit one of their 2nd or thrid minimum wage jobs) and higher positions would decrease.

    And btw, I know a number of YMCA employees – many who are swim instructors. They have well-paid full-time jobs and use their jobs at the Y as incentive to exercise. In addition to their “lowly” wages, they get a free Y membership.

  12. This is kind of an old topic, but I am in child care at the YMCA, and I know that where I am, it is not about the community. I stayed as long as I have for the kids, and you’re right, I did not accept the job for the money at first. I am leaving now, because I could make much more elsewhere and it makes no sense for them to want college educated people working for minimum wage while they charge more for child care than any of the competitors in the area. Not only that but they feed the children the tiniest, cheapest snacks and work to death any employee who tries to be dedicated to the point of exhaustion….I do enjoy volunteering, but not when someone is making a profit off of it. The Y is full of shit, and so is this article for suggesting that people should have to become certified to work for nothing.

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