Raising the minimum wage is about uplifting low income workers to do better.
by Dylan Lee.
From fast food service to grocery store employees and every odd job in between, minimum wage workers are the backbone of this country. As radical as that statement may seem, Americans’ comfortable and convenient everyday lives depend on the services offered by minimum wage professions. Without these essential services and the people who perform them, our economy would collapse, and yet there still exists a stigma that these jobs hold little value to society. In fact, society holds minimum wage labor in such low regard that their employees live below the poverty line.
The federal minimum wage has not been raised since 2009 when it rose from $6.55 to the $7.25 Americans still have today. In the span of the last 12 years, costs of living have risen 20% alongside drastic increases in costs for housing and healthcare. In California, an individual would have to make $36.96 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment, according to a 2020 report from the NLIHC.
At $7.25 an hour, one would have to work multiple jobs to stay afloat, which is a lifestyle that is not only physically but mentally demanding. It takes a huge toll on your mental health and it’s destructive to your social life. It’s just not reasonable to say that people should be devoting their entire lives to working when we could find a way to raise the minimum wage.
President Biden’s proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2025 has also met its fair share of criticism and opposition. Many of those who argue against raising the minimum wage claim that it will only stand to raise the cost of living. In areas like Seattle, San Francisco and New York, the wage increase to $15 an hour actually could be an economic boost because the wages in these areas of the country are very high and the consumers do not mind or don’t notice as much the increase in prices for goods and services. However, a universal minimum wage of $15 an hour can be disastrous for places where income levels are low across the board; Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, West Virginia, and many rural areas of the country.
Despite this, the cost of living continues to rise regardless of the 12 stagnant years without a raise to the minimum wage. Who is responsible for it, the minimum wage workers who need a few more dollars to get by, or large corporations who refuse to pay their employees higher wages without increasing the price of their products? In American society, the people have been conditioned to put the responsibility for these issues on the shoulders of the average citizen. In reality, it is the multi-billion dollar companies who should be taking the blame. Most of these companies are paying as little as they can for the sake of maximizing profit.
The reality is that closing the wage gap is a lot more nuanced than simply raising the minimum wage. In fact, raising the minimum wage is only one step towards a solution. In order to truly improve the lives of workers in our country, reduce poverty and revive the middle class, America needs to make a lot of changes. While the country waits on President Biden’s next move, minimum wage workers continue to band together for what they deserve. To advocate for or learn more about the $15 minimum wage, visit the Fight for $15 movement website. As difficult as making these changes may be, it is truly a cause worth fighting for.