The problem of low wages in our industry is a problem of the low bar to entry into this line of work. In most states no formal training is required to start a business. This has ill effect on several factors and the key one being the general populations belief that this is an unskilled labor category. We need to continue to pressure our governing organizations to promote professional arboriculture to the masses and to support legislation that requires licenses to operate. I see the future of this industry as being a highly regarded professional occupation.
I agree and many want regulation to help promote their own interest but then vote for supposed free markets and less government. The premise is usually in the desire of public safety but then I have a hard time figuring why it takes such licensing to be a hair stylist.
IMO, in the case of pushing for regulating and licensing of the arborist, it needs to be done in the interest of the trees that are the real helpless victims here.
Increasing regulations and licensing will tend drive up the cost of trees and tree care. As these costs increase the attractiveness of trees to a property owner will decrease. I know it's just one factor, but it should be considered.
Price controls of all kinds, minimum wage, rent control, the, ahem, whole farm bill, have many disadvantages, but shares the advantage of another highly questionable idea, the flat tax, namely simplicity. It's hard to explain to someone working 3400 hours a year split across 3 jobs (ie no full-time, no benis) for $25k a year that any increase in wages could be bad, and trying to talk economics with people who aren't interested is like talking about soil remediation mixtures and the relative merits of biochar with your significant other. People's eyes glaze over while you're drawing the price and quantity axes, never mind getting to the supply and demand curves. For example, I think the income tax should be calculated using a continuous function; you could set the marginal tax rate with the the first derivative curve and get a pretty good idea of how progressive the tax code is looking at the second derivative curve, but that is not pithy enough to pitch.
What these people protesting for a higher minimum wage are really angry about is income inequality. Long term fixes are better education for everyone (that's simple and easy...), better childhood development support (also super easy... er...), and removing distortions and externalities from the labor market (piece of cake), but no matter how well we improve things for dem chitlins, there are so many who have already been left behind, and I'm not saying that some of them don't work hard or game what supports we do have in place, but you'll never convince me it's all their fault; without loving parents, a stable home and lower-middle class resources, I wouldn't even be a tree guy. It's our responsibility to bring them with us, somehow, an whether we pay for it in higher taxes, lower profits, or some other way, it'll be expensive.
As far as our industry goes, the increasing professionalization of the labor pool is taking us (slowly) in the higher wage direction anyway. I personally don't think we should fight that. We should be charging clients more to do scientifically-informed, high-skill, safe work.
I totally agree with charging the clients more. Standards of living are higher along with fuel prices and so on. The problem is when you raise your prices to compensate for the increased overhead expenses, some cut throat wanna be tree business will get the job. Clientele needs to be educated. Insurances in place? Is the company professional? Or is it two guys and a pickup with a saw? I tried this with the roofing trade but the client often goes for the cheaper price. Now I get a lot of repair work and sometimes have to replace the roof because the install is so bad it's beyond reasonable repair. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink.