Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Living Wage

   I am thankful for many things in my life, and one of the things that I am (I won't say most, but really, near the top of the list) thankful for is my job. Sure, a checker job is not that glamorous, nor does my job require an abundance of intellect. But the one thing that sets my job apart from other cashier's jobs is that I make a wage that I can survive off of, without the aid of government assistance. To be clear, my job did start me out at minimum wage, and during those times I had to live with my mom and my sister to make ends meet, but my job has a pretty good raise system, and if you don't run afoul of the rules, you eventually come to a point when people are going, "You make how much money??? For being a cashier???" Granted, none of us are rich, but we can survive if we budget right and don't buy things that we don't need.
   But there are a lot of people who are not in that position. They make minimum wage and they have been for years because their jobs don't give raises more then the 10 cent raise every two years, or some similar nonsense, and that makes it hard. Especially because minimum wage is so low compared to our country's cost-of-living. And the first argument to that statement that I usually hear is, "Well, try living in a third world country." Well, I thank God that I don't, but how do you think that this is a reasonable argument? You are comparing one of the richest countries in the world to the poorest? To me, that is like comparing apples and oranges. Yeah, they are both fruit, but other than that, they don't have a lot in common. To me, comparing the United States to other wealthy countries would be more realistic, because all I can say is that I pay over $600 for my built before the 1960's, 700 square foot, one bedroom apartment, and somehow, I doubt that this is the rent in a third world country. If it is, then I have full sympathy for those people, but we still have poor here. Their suffering does not negate our fellow countryman's suffering.
   A second argument is that all poor here have microwaves and the poor in other countries do not. Well, a lot of us do. Microwavable food, in the United States, is often cheaper by far then food that you need to prepare and cook. But not all of the poor have microwaves. Not all of the poor are walking around with Ipods and laptops and other gadgetry. Ever seen a homeless person with a microwave strapped to his/her back? I haven't.
   There is a lot of entitlement in this country, and while I think that government programs need to be in place for people who have hit hard times or are disabled, be it physical or mental, I also understand that there are quite a few people who 'work' the system, and that needs to stop. But barring those people, we have a whole class of the working poor; these are people who work full time jobs, sometimes two, and they still have to utilize these programs because they are not paid a wage that they can live off of. 
   I have heard the arguments that not all jobs deserve a wage that you can live off of, which to me is elitist bullshit. Of course, if you are thinking that, then you are thinking that of course I think that, I am just a lazy cashier, and my job was meant for a teenager. Well, I am not gonna argue what age you need to be to do my job. I have, at a former job, trained a fourteen year old to be a cashier. They couldn't keep him on the register because he couldn't get the hang of counting back change, but  I don't think that this is the norm for most teenage kids. My daughter could do it, I believe. She couldn't deal with the asshat customers that come through my line from time to time. We have had grown cashiers in tears because some giant-walking-turd came through with a chip on their shoulder and decided to take it out on someone just trying to do their job, but really, I digress. The low minimum wage affects more than cashiers and fast food workers and servers, and they do deserve a decent wage, regardless of elitist opinions.
   Would you job snobs say that early childhood education is worthy of earning a living wage? Because a lot of them do NOT (just to provide a different field of work here). My sister is in this field, and she makes maybe a dollar above minimum wage. She is not alone; all of her coworkers are in the position of working a full time, sometimes high-stress job, and needing government assistance to survive. I would say that anyone working with children, teaching them letters, numbers, helping them potty train, and nurturing them deserves a wage that they can live off of without government assistance. They don't get this, at least not in my neck of the woods. And it is not because the company can't afford it, and it's not because prices would raise. This is due to corporate greed, in my opinion. Yes, companies have a right to make a profit, but if you cannot afford to pay your employees properly, then your company has not grown to the point where you should have employees. Or at least not so many of them.
   I am going to go back to my company. I don't have permission to affiliate myself with the company that I work for (not that I have asked, but this is MY blog, and I don't want to place myself in the position where I am having to ask permission for what I write, so try to leave names out of it), but my company is one of the lowest priced stores in the area. Our prices often beat Walmart. From my own inquiries, I believe we are one of the best paid, and we get good benefits. Of course there are flaws and issues, but name a place that doesn't have them. I get paid above what I have seen suggested as a living wage, which is $11 an hour. I make a good amount more than that. People fight raising minimum wage because they say that it will cause inflation, that companies can't afford it, that prices will rise, YET I have just told you that my store pays a good amount of their employees above $11 an hour, due to the raise system that they have in place. Probably over half, because once people get in with my company, they try their best to stay with them, and the raise system in place rewards longevity. I have TWO COLLEGE DEGREES, and I don't want to leave. Because my company pays me well, provides my with affordable insurance and works with me on hours scheduled so that I have plenty of time for my other, more important job: being a mom.
   Federal minimum wage in the U.S. is $7.25( of course we know that this varies from state to state, and here in Washington, where I live, it's $9.19 an hour); that's not enough for the cost-of-living in the United States. Poverty exists in the United States. Need proof, here's two links: Seattle One Night Count and National Center For Children In Poverty. These are links to one organization that is close to my home and one that is the United States in it's entirety. I chose these links because they outline the amount of children in poverty, and in a country as wealthy as this one, I find the amount of children living in poverty appalling. A living wage would reduce that amount drastically. No; this wouldn't get rid of the people who abuse the system, but this would get those who are working and who work hard, out of the welfare system, relieving some of that burden, and the reduction of numbers could ease an overtaxed system with overtaxed workers, which in turn might provide time for said workers to start weeding out the abusers. Make sense? Does to me. Plus, a living wage is the right thing to do. 

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