News

Three dollars and forty nine cents

By: CHRISTINA CLARK
Columnist

“We’re hiring! $10.74 per hour!”
If you’re looking to be a high-powered lawyer you might not want to take that wage (though getting your foot in the door at a good firm sometimes takes sacrifices), but imagine making that wage in an entry-level position. You wouldn’t sniff so much at it then.
According to raisetheminimumwage.com, $10.74 per hour would be a reality if minimum wage had followed inflation over the years. An increase of $3.49 per hour would be all it takes to catch minimum wage up with inflation. Yes folks, $7.25 an hour is a little low, even for “just flipping burgers.”
Al Jazeera America’s Dominica Lim went out to speak to some strikers in New York City, and found a handful willing to speak to the press about their reasons for striking. A couple of people that they interviewed really stood out to me, as I have worked in the food industry as well.
Justin McQueen and Rynwetta Bennett, co-workers from a Wendy’s restaurant, spoke about the lack of mobility in their current positions.
“There are no chances to move up,” Bennett told Al Jazeera. “Raising the wage to $15 an hour will allow me to make what I deserve, because I know how to do every position. I have many skills, but I only get a 10 cent raise every six months.”
Bennett adds that she gets a lot of motivation from work. According to the article, she’s has been working in fast food for almost seven years.
Having such a personal interview with strikers gives a very different view of these people. I hear many brush off minimum wagers with phrases like, “If they wanted to make more they should have worked harder,” or “Why don’t they want to get ahead in life? Go back to school.”
I think what is lost is the fact that once upon a time, not too many years ago, minimum wage was also a living wage.
It reminds me of a day I joined the Occupy South Bend movement on the pavement in downtown South Bend, and a man yelled at me to “get a job.” If I hadn’t been so incensed by the demeaning manner of his voice, I would have let him know that, at the time, I was working three jobs and was still barely making ends meet. I had a professional license in the beauty industry and was on the road to re-enrolling at IU South Bend, but was facing funding issues.
“Get a job?” How offensive.
There is great pride in one’s work, no matter if others’ perceive it as “lowly” labor. There is a certain level of pride in work done on any level. In America, working is having a purpose, a place to go during the day to support the life one wants to live during the rest of their time.
The term “minimum wage,” we have come to believe, means earning enough to make the minimum acceptable living standard in America. But if working minimum wage isn’t enough to eventually move ahead with careful financial planning, then how might one advance in society?
The recent strike for $15 per hour seems extremely high to some of those I know, and I understand that, especially being a worker in the salon industry where commission pay is standard. (When you’re busy, money is great. If there is a lull, there is no pay.)
I think the point of the strike is that there needs to be a recognition of the dedication and hard work of people, and to give them a better quality of life. If it is a matter of respect, even a slight increase would at least be a nod to the hard work put onto some of our least paid workers.

Categories: News

1 reply »

  1. I question the lack of upward mobility. I worked at McDonald’s in high school and I got into a management training program. My wife worked at Wendy’s from the time she was 15 until she got her cosmetology license. She worked her way up from a minimum wage position to an assistant store manager and made a pretty decent living at it. If this is true that there is no chance to move up at this guy’s particular store, he should try a different restaurant. The purpose of minimum wage jobs are to gain skills to get a little better job at that establishment or another. They are not meant to be a career.

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