Everyone Deserves to Earn a Living Wage

Minimum wage employees are not lesser human beings.

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

When it comes to discussions about minimum wage jobs, there is no shortage of negative opinions. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard people say, “if you want a higher wage, go to school and get a better job,” as if anyone working for minimum wage is somehow a lesser human being.

Another favorite that people like to throw out there is, “those types of jobs are meant for students. They’re not meant to be lifelong careers.”

Just because someone works in a grocery store or a fast-food restaurant (whether by choice or necessity), they are undeserving of a proper living wage? That is so incredibly backward to me.

Not to mention the catch-22 this line of thinking has created. Go to school to increase your skills and get a better job, but students should be working all the minimum wage jobs. For one to go to school in the first place, they will require an abundance of money. Paying people a basic living wage would help significantly with this process.

We’ve created this giant, unspoken social hierarchy that determines your overall value to society based solely on your job description. Of course, the only opinions that matter come from the people who reside at the top of the social ladder, or so they would have you believe.

But let me tell you, schooling is not the be-all and end-all that people seem to think it is, especially in this day and age. Jobs are not exactly plentiful these days, even with a diploma under your belt. I’m not saying that higher education is a bad thing by any means, but it is not a guarantee for a high paying job.

I’ve also heard people state that “a McDonald’s worker should not be earning the same wage as a paramedic.” Perhaps that’s true, but maybe the real issue here is that neither job earns a proper wage. Making a decent salary doesn’t have to be a competition. One person’s living wage shouldn’t come at the expense of the other. We should be focusing on the real issue — that many occupations are not allowing people to earn a proper living wage.

Ultimately, we need to adjust our attitudes. No matter what you do for a living, every job is valid. Period. Everyone is doing their part to contribute to society and earn their keep in the world. Whether you are a doctor or a janitor, your job is important.

If all of these minimum wage workers went off to school to get better jobs as people often suggest, who would be left to serve your food? To clean up after your messes? To do the jobs that no one else wants to do?

People don’t deserve less respect just because they have a lower-paying, lower-skill job than you. I’d argue that they deserve more respect for putting up with all the garbage people spew at them daily.

I’ve worked in a grocery store for the last 16 years. I speak from personal experience when I say that working with the general public is one of the most challenging job duties out there. Some people seem to think that we are beneath them because of our job titles, and they take that as permission to treat us like garbage for no reason. Many times I’ve had to plaster a smile on my face when someone is being incredibly rude or even downright mean to me merely for doing my job.

I will never understand why society, as a whole, has deemed this acceptable behavior.

I find it funny that when the pandemic hit this year, and so many of us became “essential workers,” the same people who used to look down on us for not having “better” jobs were suddenly hailing us as heroes.

Don’t get me wrong, I truly appreciate all of the kindness we’ve experienced this year, but our job descriptions didn’t abruptly change. If we are essential workers now, then we were always essential.

It just took a global pandemic for most people to notice.

People’s perspectives shifted towards us for the first time in years. I think more people need to remember that when the world basically shut down, we were still there to provide them with food, excellent service, and a little sense of normality.

Our system is broken.

I’ll be the first one to admit that I don’t have all the answers, but if our only goal is to maintain the status quo, we’re going to continually increase the societal gap between minimum wage and higher-paying jobs. Society will grow further and further apart, and attitudes toward lower-paying jobs will only continue to get worse.

We need to commit to effecting change for the betterment of everyone.

Written by

I am a 38 year old dreamer who is living with Scoliosis. I’m an avid reader and a total nerd at heart. I like to share my thoughts on things.

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