Wage slavery is never cost effective except for the slave owner. That's what makes it an unstable system which can only be perpetuated by government collusion, or lack of willpower by the employees to break out of slavery. e.g. Detroit used to have slave-level wages. Henry Ford decided to set up shop there and paid his factory workers much more than the prevailing wage. He accidentally discovered that when he paid people a fair wage, not only did their productivity increase, but they used those wages to buy the very product they were helping build. The resulting feedback loop multiplied his company's revenue and turned the Ford Motor Company into the behemoth it is today. No longer were cars affordable only to the privileged elite; the average middle class worker (by Ford factory standards) could afford to buy one.
If the only options you see are being a wage slave or starving to death, then you haven't really tried. A location where the people are being paid slave wages or starving is ripe for a new company to set up shop and hire willing employees for less than they'd have to pay at well-established locations. As more of these people become employed and spend their wages on local merchants, the economy picks up. There are fewer unemployed, resulting in wages increasing. This is how the market equalizes geographic wage inequality. If this isn't happening, then there are fundamental problems with the region not caused by slave wages. Maybe the location is too far from markets, or the highway/railroad access is poor, or people just don't want to live in that location. Unless the government is intentionally keeping business out, low wages are a symptom not a cause.
And yes I've had a rent check bounce. A rent check a tenant gave me. I was stupid and deposited it directly into our payroll bank account since it almost exactly topped off the amount we needed to make payroll. Normally I transfer the payroll money from our primary checking account, but I was lazy and decided to save a little work by depositing the checks directly into payroll. As a result I got charged a bounced check fee, but more importantly a bunch of my employees' paychecks bounced, causing more bounced check fees for both them and myself. The whole thing was a disaster. I called in each employee who was affected, apologized to them in person, and told them to bring in their bank statement so I could reimburse their bounced check fee (or fees if they then wrote checks which bounced). The ones who needed the money immediately, I paid in cash out of my own pocket. All told it was over $1300 in bank fees incurred because I was stupid/lazy, and because the person who wrote the first check did so knowing he didn't have enough money to cover it but thought it would be easier turning his problem into my problem.
It's cliche, but it's true. Your employees are your most valuable asset. A good business will do everything it can to protect them and to retain them. A business which pays slave wages is just ripe to be squeezed out by a business which will pay better (fair) wages. The only way a slave wage business can stay in business is if the government is blocking competing businesses, or if people like you have so discouraged others with your gloom and doom hopeless corporate feudalism talk that they don't even bother trying to start up their own business to compete.