Minimum Wage, Maximum Outrage [By Alissa Fleck]

Yesterday, California raised its minimum wage to $9 up from $8. Minimum wage will continue to rise in the state in coming years. San Francisco recently raised its minimum wage to $10.74, while Seattle plans to hit $15 by next April.  California, Washington DC, Washington state, and Oregon rank among the highest minimum wage-paying states in the country.

strike-CST-042513-07.JPGCertainly this comes as good news to entry-level and unskilled laborers, though some, like Roger Niello, president and CEO of the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce, stand by the age-old argument that higher minimum wages mean fewer jobs and a decreased ability to find jobs at the entry level. Ultimately, this results in fewer people being able to enter the workforce, according to Niello.

Last year I spoke to several fast food employees throughout New York City, during a nation-wide fast food strike over minimum wage and the possibility of unionizing without retaliation, about their ability to live on minimum wage. The consensus was that they couldn’t and often had to find other means of supporting themselves and their families. In New York, where cost of living rivals that of San Francisco, minimum wage will not hit the $9 mark until 2016, making these local workers’ complaints as relevant as ever.

We can talk about minimum wage from an economical and theoretical standpoint, but perhaps most important is putting faces to these minimum wage earners, so as to imbue this ongoing debate with a more humanized component.

Read about the individual fast food workers who last year told me they were unable to live on minimum wage. I would be interested in conducting follow-up interviews, but I also imagine some of these workers jumped ship as soon as (and if) possible.

One response to “Minimum Wage, Maximum Outrage [By Alissa Fleck]

  1. I wonder if it might be better if the minimum wage was geographically linked to the cost of living. Then places with a higher cost of living would have a high minimum wage.

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