All across the nation a movement is stirring, and a group is mobilizing. Fight for 15 represents a joint effort by fast food workers everywhere to raise the minimum wage to 15 dollars, what the group defines as a living wage.
As I peruse fightfor15.org, I can’t help but notice the aggressive rhetoric. With claims of being “robbed on the job” and “forced to live in poverty,” minimum wage workers are clearly upset with their current salary. But are their concerns warranted?
As someone who’s made a hamilton an hour, I can assure you that the minimum wage is nowhere near a living wage. The federal minimum wage sits at a meager $7.25 per hour (before tax), and my carne asada fries from Alvaro’s cost $7.29. No one should be living off of minimum wage. And while FDR established the minimum wage as a protection for “decent living,” I believe the purpose of a minimum wage has changed.
Today, minimum wage is supposed to be entry level pay. Teenagers with no previous work experience earn minimum wage. People should not be building a long term career at McDonald’s. Those who need a living wage should not be working a minimum wage job.
Why should a company be obligated to pay you enough to cover your food, rent, health care, and transportation for your work, which requires no unique skills or qualifications? A 16 year old would be more than happy to do your job for some pocket change.
In a world that runs on money, companies will cut corners whenever they can. And while companies like Costco are known to have higher wages, and may have stronger values, you can’t expect the same for everyone.
On the Fight for 15 website, they argue that because “low-wage jobs are the fastest growing jobs in the nation,” employers should raise pay. This is a problem. We shouldn’t be encouraging more and more people to be living off of minimum wage. The rise of low-wage jobs addresses a larger problem in America.
The key to setting yourself up for success is education. Through higher education, the opportunities are nearly endless. College and vocational schools provide the necessary skills that secure a living wage.
Lastly, wouldn’t a $15 minimum wage cause a ripple effect? Currently, dental assistants and auto mechanics make on average between $16 and $17. If a 16 year old can make $15 by frying potatoes, is a mechanic not entitled to a raise as well? Why should I spend a year or two at trade school to be making nearly minimum wage?
A livable minimum wage would help out many struggling Americans, but it’s an impractical dream.