Thursday, July 30, 2015

Let's Talk About Minimum Wage

Let's look at a picture some of my friends have posted on Facebook recently:

Look familiar? Even if it doesn't, it's something you've probably said, or heard someone else say. But can we honestly talk about how a) classist and b) incorrect this is? Let's. I'm going to start out that I'm not talking about a specific amount when I discuss why the minimum wage should be increased, because I feel that really should correlate with the cost of living in an area. For my area, for example, I think a $10- $11 minimum wage would be an appropriate and liveable wage. Let's continue.

1. If you've got minimum skills, minimum education...
This is probably the thing I take umbrage with the most. You see, I worked in a shitty, minimum wage job once in possession of a nice, expensive degree. Why? Because it was a job. To assume that people working in minimum wage jobs are unskilled and uneducated is classist, elitist bullshit. Sometimes it's difficult to find jobs in your degree field. Sometimes you get let go from a job and you need something to get you by. Maybe you decided you wanted to take a different path in life or are working toward a degree. Maybe you are skilled but no longer able to perform the job you were skilled in. 

2. minimum motivation and provide a minimum contribution to the workplace...
So we're again assuming that minimum wage workers are exclusively lazy, unmotivated ne'er do well's that only function to take up space and oxygen. Great. That in and of itself smacks again of classism, but also racism, but a surprising statistic shows that 77% of minimum wage workers are white, and half are white women. I personally know someone who has worked at a fast food establishment for... god, ages, because she genuinely enjoys her job and her customers. Yes, there are people out there that are content and enjoy what they do, shocking.

3. Minimum wage jobs exist due to demand of service
Like anyone, I get a craving for McDonald's fries and a double with cheese (and extra onions) from Wendy's. Since we don't yet have replicator technology, someone has to make these things. When I go to the bathroom in a public place, you damn well know a robot didn't clean it. And, when I buy something from a gas station convenience store, there certainly isn't a self-checkout. Whether you agree with raising the minimum wage or not, these jobs are necessary. 

4. But EMTs/Firefighters/the Military don't even make that much! Why should fast food workers and janitors get paid the same/more?
Just, shut up. Out of all those jobs, the only ones that make near the minimum wage is a Private (E1) with no experience. EMTs, commensurate on experience, can make anywhere from $14- $24 an hour, firefighters significantly more. Also, by devaluing workers at minimum wage jobs by saying they don't deserve higher wages because they don't save lives or fight for the country is divisive and leads me to my final point...

5. Wage gaps and keeping the minimum wage below a liveable amount is classist.
One day John took me for a drive through Augusta when I  saw a Rite Aid that seemed terribly out of place, not clearly located next to any other businesses or homes, so I said how odd it looked. He turned down the side street and pointed out a medical center, then a nursing home, and going much further down the street, away from view of the main roads, a housing complex, hidden away like a dirty secret. This was one of the pockets where Augusta kept their poor, sequestered and secreted away to stay poor forever. It made me a little sick. The national minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. Let's say I earned that and worked 40 hours every week, that would net me just over $15,000 a year. My rent is $600 a month, so right there, half of my salary would go to shelter alone, which leaves not a lot for car/travel expenses, food, or emergencies. Why are we doing this disservice to our poor, keeping them poor? $7.25 an hour is not a liveable wage for anyone I know.

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