Upping the paycheck

Prioritizing the needs of essential workers when it comes to minimum wage is essential

Thomas Begley, Staff Writer

 

Workers put their blood, sweat and tears into the dedication and services they provide for customers. The least we as a society can do to show them appreciation is to boost their pay in order for them to provide basic needs for themselves.It’s clear that the current minimum wage isn’t sustainable for most workers.

Essential workers such as grocery store clerks and other service industry employees have always worked hard for little pay, but in the last year, they have continued employment during a worldwide pandemic.  They weren’t offered the opportunity to work from home like many other workers were. Instead, they continued showing up to work each day, putting their own health on the line, in order to put food on their table, even if those jobs didn’t financially provide what they should have.

In 1938 the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) established the national minimum wage at 25 cents per hour.  Since then, the minimum wage has slowly progressed to its current rate of $7.25 cents per hour.  A high school student, making just over seven dollars per hour may seem appealing; who doesn’t want extra money for gas, clothes, and food?  

But the reality is for adults trying to earn a livable wage, there is no way they can actually survive on this amount. If someone worked a minimum wage job full time, they would only earn just over $15,000 per year. When considering the cost of housing, food, healthcare and other necessary living expenses, cash would run out real quick. 

Consider this; for a family of four, the United States poverty line is $26,200 annually. So an adult with children working a minimum wage job would be $11,120 under the cut off for living in poverty, making it impossible to be financially independent.  

Even being single, the poverty line is $12,760 annually.  So working that minimum wage job goes over living in poverty.  The federal minimum wage should be at least $15 per hour, giving workers the basic right to get necessities for themselves and their families. As a country, we should value all workers as they are, and show their importance by providing them with a livable wage.

Some claim that the minimum wage increase isn’t in everyone’s best interest, and that it would only result in job loss, in addition to companies’ prices going up. This is entirely untrue, however, as The Department of Labor data from the past eight decades shows that there is no relationship between job loss and wage increase.

The Senate recently rejected the chance to increase minimum wage through the Covid stimulus package. While it is encouraging to see that representatives recognize the need for support to address the financial needs of Americans during the Covid 19 pandemic, they need to see that people wouldn’t be struggling to the point that they are during difficult times had they been earning enough to begin with. 

As a high school student working a part time job, I earn over the minimum wage and am grateful for the opportunity to earn money for things, such as extra spending and college tuition for the future. I don’t have to worry about paying my rent or buying food. Unfortunately, many Americans face that reality daily.  The time for America to support its workers by providing them a livable wage is long overdue, and essential workers deserve better.