Raising the Minimum Wage

In my state of Minnesota, we passed a law last year that would gradually increase the minimum wage to 9.50 for large employers by August 2016.  I consider this to be a good thing, as for the longest time I’ve noticed that the bare minimum wage of 7.25 is not nearly enough for people to survive on one job alone.  I do work only one job right now, but I’m lucky to have great parents who continue to support me.

So when politicians started discussing the minimum wage increases, I was quite happy.  But there were a lot of people out there who were against it, which confused me.  It’s more money for workers.  Why would anyone be against it?

One of the arguments I’ve heard against minimum wage is that it will be detrimental to small business owners, causing them to close their doors because they can’t afford to pay their workers.  Well at least in Minnesota, the wage change I mentioned is specifically only for large business owners.  So things like corporations, retail stores, and places like that have to bring their minimum wage up to the state’s standard.  Mom and Pop stores, I imagine, would be exempt from that.

Besides, that argument is bunk because numerous financial experts have studied the situation and have come to the conclusion that raising the minimum wage will not have any detrimental effect on businesses.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg.  There’s one argument I’ve heard time and time again when it comes to this topic, one that has incredibly insidious undertones to it.

It goes something like this: why should McBurgerFlipper get a raise?  They don’t deserve it.

This argument is sometimes also prefaced with some talk about how someone in the military earns such-and-such amount of money.  This seems like a fair enough point…until you look deeper.

Military service people get all kinds of benefits.  Often, their rent is paid for them.  They can get up to more than 200 dollars in food allowance money.  The army will also help pay for a soldier’s college education, offering money in the form of scholarships, grants, and education benefits.  So basically, even though an army solider might not be paid all that much, it’s made up for with the benefits they get, which is not comparable to a fast food worker, who gets basically nothing.

So back to McBurgerDoodle.  There seems to be this very nasty stigma surrounding fast food workers in this country.  People tend to consider them as lazy slobs who have no dreams or ambition.  At least, that’s what the attitude around them getting a wage raise seems to tell me.  Why else would people be so vehemently against it?

It points to a recurring thought process in this country that greatly worries me.  And that’s the idea that if you’re poor or having a hard time making ends meet, it’s obviously because you’re lazy and didn’t work hard enough.

In other words, those in poverty deserve it.

Maybe this argument would make a little bit of sense if the wealth gap in this country wasn’t absolutely enormous.  And considering that the wealthy elite often pay less on their taxes than those in the middle class do, I find it ridiculous that people still adhere to this line of logic.  “Well they should have worked harder,” they’ll often say.  Yeah, because it’s all about hard work in this country.  Being born into a rich family does nothing for your status in life.  Starting off in a greater economic position has no impact on your ability to make money.

Oh wait…

This is the thing I really don’t understand.  How can people be so damn callous?  These are your fellow human beings, people who share the same basic DNA as you.  And all you have to say to their condition is “they deserve it”?  Does it somehow make it easier to live your life if you just ignore the simple idea that they might not have any other choice in life?  Does it make it easier for you to sleep at night if you just think that McBurgerNugget is a lazy, self-absorbed waste of space who chooses to do nothing with their life?

I’ve never worked in a fast food place in my life, but I’ve known several people who have.  In fact, my roommate of nearly three years at my last apartment used to work at Taco Bell up here in Duluth.  And you know what?  He once quit and tried to find a new job, only to end up going back there because the job market in this country is in a bad state right now.

And he hated it.  How else would you feel if you had to stand on your feet for more than eight hours in a single day?  How would you feel having to memorize every single menu item by ingredients and exact weight?  How would you feel having to run the drive-thru in the dead of winter when it gets down to twenty degrees below zero?  Because these are all things he did, all things that he had to do.

It’s easy to look down on the McWhopperWorkers of the world (yes I know that the name keeps changing…just roll with it), especially when you’ve never worked in a fast food joint.  There’s a reason I’ve avoided working in places like that.  Everyone I’ve known who worked in a fast food place couldn’t wait to move on and find a new job.  Sure, it’s a decent job when you’re in high school and need experience, but later in life it’s not enough.  Living on your own and working a minimum wage job like that is nearly impossible.  But of course, those are sometimes the only options people have.  It would be so easy if all of us could get a full-time job that paid at least fifteen bucks an hour, but the current job market doesn’t allow for it.  I have a four-year bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota, and I still found myself applying at places like Kohl’s and Target.

The point I want to make here is that its easy to look down at the people who are serving you your value meal or what have you, but empathy goes a long way.  Maybe they didn’t have a choice, and maybe they can’t afford to move anywhere different because they can’t save up enough money.  It’s a trap people often fall into because that’s just the way things seem to work these days.

And it’s not going to get any better if we keep snubbing people who live below us on the wealth line.  So please, just stop.  Some of us are just worse off than others, and that’s a fact that they often cannot change.  When did the idea of just being sympathetic toward our fellow human beings become so obsolete in this country?

The first step towards solving a problem is recognizing that there is one.

 

Well that’s all I have this time.  Tune in next Wednesday for another post, and have a wonderful week everybody.

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