Sosa: Good enough to serve you? Good enough to earn a living wage

Columnist Zoami Calles-Rios Sosa discusses the effects of minimum wage on the company and its socioeconomic influences on society. 

Zoami Calles-Rios Sosa

We have all heard the arguments against increasing the minimum wage. They go something along the lines of:

“Higher minimum wages will put businesses out of business.”

“Minimum-paying jobs weren’t meant to be lifetime careers.”

“If they can’t even get my order right, why should they get paid more?”

While there are some kernels of truth to these arguments, these are fallacies and are not valid.

These arguments have been passed down by the elite who do not wish to pay their workers more, and many people have just decided to believe it. The idea that the current minimum wage is correct is wrong. The irony is we are arguing about something (the minimum wage) set by the government — by people who don’t believe the government should have that much say. If that’s the case, perhaps we ought to do away with the minimum wage law and all the protections that ensure companies treat their workers right?

The federal minimum wage has not changed since 2009. That was 12 years ago. By now, we have:

  • Gone through the great housing crisis
  • The rise in the cost of living and inflation
  • The worst oil spill experienced by the U.S.
  • Terrible floods in the Midwest
  • Deadliest natural disasters in our history
  • Sandy Hook Elementary massacre (along with countless other shootings)
  • Terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon
  • The person behind the Sept. 11 attacks was killed
  • The appointment of a Supreme Court justice to the bench a couple of weeks before the new president was elected
  • An insurrection
  • The death of George Floyd
  • A global pandemic
  • And many other things that would take us a whole year to talk about.

All of these have happened, and the minimum wage has not risen.

The truth of the matter is the majority of the 39 million workers that would be affected are women. In fact, 59 percent of those working and underpaid at the current minimum wage are women. More than half of all the employees work full time, and 43 percent have some college experience. Only about 10 percent of all minimum wage workers are teenagers.

The times when flipping burgers were not seen as a career are over. Many people perceived the service jobs as not good enough. I should remind everyone that these have traditionally been seen as women’s jobs (that’s why they still make up the majority of the minimum wage industries). Women in the past have mainly stayed at home. Their job was to make sure the house was clean, the children reared and food was ready for the husband — all service-oriented tasks.

In a country where women are still valued less than a man (on average, earning 82 cents per every dollar that a man earns), it makes sense that we would have minimum wages so low, but this is wrong.

In a recent study, single men outspent single women from $35,018 to $33,876, respectively. This may seem significant until you realize that these women earned $10,000 less than men. Imagine where all that extra money would go if we had it? Unlike mega-rich people, regular people spend most of their money buying things. This means the more money they have in their pockets, the more the economy can grow and benefit their communities and everyone around them.

Some businesses may struggle to meet newer minimum wage requirements and will go out of business. Rest assured that McDonald’s won’t be one of them. It may be smaller, mom and pop shops — but not necessarily. Being in business is all about adjusting to problems and new ways as they come. Will it take some time to figure it out? Of course, but it doesn’t mean businesses have to go out of business. 

New Zealand is changing its minimum wage from $18.90 to $20 per hour, and you can still get a cheeseburger combo from McDonald’s for $8.64. The McDonald’s near me is hiring and has been forced to raise their starting wages up these last couple of years as they can’t find people to work. Their current lowest starting wage sits at around $12.50, plus sign-on bonuses.

Will the prices of everything else go up if the minimum wage does too?

Of course other things will go up, but if wages go up, it should not be a problem. It will only be a problem for those companies who want to keep the same percentage of profit as before.

The cost of living keeps going up and up. It should not be the case that someone working full time makes less than the cost of living. We are all trading our time for money. Do we really want other people to sell their lives away and not even make ends meet?

Not everyone has the luxury to be born rich or to have a family that supports them. Not everyone has the luxury of being surrounded by people who propelled them forward or have the innate ability to push themselves out of their circumstances on their own. Many people struggle and can’t find their way through life for some reason or another. I don’t want to punish them by having unreasonable wages that force them to continue working their entire life and still need food stamps.

I believe raising the minimum wage is a must in this time and age. If someone wants to make a living working at McDonald’s, then that should be perfectly acceptable. Not everyone is cut out to be sitting at a desk inputting information on a spreadsheet or answering emails.

Trading our time for money is the primary means by which we make a living. If we are going to trade 40 hours each week, regardless of what the job is, it should, at minimum, cover living expenses without having to resort to government help like food stamps. If we are good enough to buy our lunch from McDonald’s (or any other place that pays federal minimum wage), then the workers that made that happen are more than good enough to get a decent living wage for their service.