“You try making $15,000 a year and having money to put away as an investment.
Jay Sun

I’m not opposed to the EITC, however, that program is costly. $66.1 billion in 2014, with an estimated 22%-26% of those payments issued incorrectly. Mighty efficient.

How is it better for taxpayers to foot the bill for corporate greed than for businesses to include living wages in their business models? As I’ve said before, I believe in exceptions for small and mid-sized business owners, but wages are not one of those exceptions. If a business can’t keep up with the times, then it’s time for the market to do what the market does — determine that model obsolete. If Wal-Mart can’t afford to pay their employees $15/hour, then they must either cut executive pay, downsize, or go out of business, paving the way for employers like Costco to pay employees current wages for current times.

I’m sorry if you think your peers are poor at managing their money, but empathy is useful here, too. You have no idea what goes on behind the closed doors of their homes. You don’t know what sacrifices they make. I have friends who spend on new clothes, but have old cars and studio apartments. Friends who spend on new cars, but wear secondhand clothes and have small homes. You don’t get to see the full financial picture of what they’re working with. I doubt “so many of [your] peers” have shared in depth about what they do to save for the future. Isn’t it possible you’re placing judgement on something you have no way to really understand? Furthermore, what you see as frivolous isn’t frivolous to the next person. I think material possessions are a pretty frivolous way to spend money in general — we mostly spend our family’s discretionary income on travel and experiences. Someone might look at my possessions and think, “If she wasn’t going on those trips, she could afford to upgrade [item here].” Basically, eyes on your own paper, Jay. And anyway, who says people don’t deserve a little frivolity? Leisure is said to be one of the most underappreciated, but most important aspects of human life. And yet, at the detriment of our collective health, Americans typically put off leisure to our 60s after retirement.

“In fact, most Americans are either working class, middle class, or upper middle class.” According to Gallup, 51% of Americans are middle class or upper-middle class and 48% are lower or working class. So yeah, statistically, just barely. But 48 percent of Americans are struggling or living paycheck-to-paycheck and the middle class is shrinking:



“Let’s use another example because I think you’re imagining me to be one of those asshole diners who are rude, excessively demanding and don’t tip well (I am none of those things, and I tip quite well) and let’s go with a more neutral example: going to a bank to get a loan.

When I go to the bank, I’m not going there to be friends with the loan officer. Unsurprisingly, the loan officer is not going to try and become friends with me. We might exchange pleasantries but neither of us are there to truly get to know each other. We’re just two people on opposite sides of a transaction. That’s it.”

When I meet with people at my credit union, I ask them if they’re having a good day, I notice if there’s a picture of their child on their desk. I am a customer of my credit union because they pay tellers $15/hour. When I interact with someone I know is getting paid minimum wage, I keep those faces in mind when I think about raising the minimum wage. Does Jerry from the grocery store have enough to make ends meet? I don’t make minimum wage. I don’t have a personal dog in the fight except that I know society is better off when everyone is paid enough to live.

Furthermore, the expectation is that if you are in a shitty job, you should go to school and prove that you deserve to be paid more. This places far too much of the weight on the personal responsibility side of the equation and none on our collective responsibility. Someone who graduated high school, for example, and had no choice but to go right to work full time doesn’t have the funds, the credit, or the time to improve their situation.

“Re: Re: the Wagner Act. It might suck that companies purposely schedule workers to avoid paying overtime, but it doesn’t constitute an attack on worker’s rights. Workers have a right to overtime in non-exempt employment if they work more than 40 hours a week. But employers also have a right to schedule employee shifts in an attempt to avoid paying overtime.”

The fight isn’t against scheduling to avoid overtime work. The fight is over nitpicky shit that amounts to billions of dollars in wage theft. Like the Supreme Court case of Tyson vs. their employees who demanded pay for work-related time like security screenings, putting away their equipment, etc. There was a fight against raising the maximum an employee could earn to get overtime pay in 2015. At the time, you were only guaranteed time-and-a-half pay after 40 hours if you earned less than $23,660. That threshold was raised to $50,400. That was a win for worker’s rights, and affected millions. But it wasn’t without a fight. And your statement “Workers have a right to overtime in non-exempt employment if they work more than 40 hours a week” is riddled with semantic exemptions that employers exploit to avoid paying rightly earned overtime.

“Look, the biggest moves against unions have come at a state level, and most of the ones affected have been unions that are outside NLRB/Wagner Act jurisdiction (government unions, mostly). Private sector unions are going the way of the dodo because they’re an expensive intermediary between employees and employers that doesn’t really add much value.”

“Expensive intermediary between employees and employers that doesn’t really add much value.” Add value to whom? Union decline has been a major cause of wage inequality. According to a Harvard University and University of Washington study, declining union membership and declining demand for workers without college degrees (a consequence of negligent trade deals like NAFTA and the proposed TPP), drove most of the growth of wage inequalities “for union members and nonunionized workers alike” over the past several decades. So I take issue with the idea that unions don’t add value simply because they are costly for business. Thanks to “Right to Work” laws that have been veiled as supporting worker’s rights, many of the lobbyist groups for these regulations were businesspeople with the express intention of fighting unions. With “Right to Work” regulation, yeah, unions become costly and largely limbless entities because, collective bargaining or not, employers can fire employees with almost no cause. When employees discuss unionization, they are threatened with termination or replacement. Union-busting is alive and well, my friend, just under a new guise.

I understand how I wasn’t clear, but I didn’t assume your age — I used the span of time I did because it included someone my age, the same. We graduated at the exact same time. I found a job quickly as well, after working 7 internships and networking, also because “I have a rare skill set that employers value highly.” I don’t hold it against people who had different paths because I understand how privileged my path was. I know that what I considered to be “hard and smart work” on my part was only enough for my situation because I started out ahead of where many begin.

It is imperative that we, as a society, ask for more from businesses who are supposed to serve the people, not exploit them, in their quests for economic gains. We, the people, should demand this: That 40 hours of anyone’s time, regardless of their economic status, education level, gender, age (once they are of legal age to work), ability, etc. is worth at least this much. I think “this much” should be enough to live. If the offer is for 40 hours of work per week to provide a skill or service that the company needs, the minimum threshold of what is offered should be enough to live.

“My decisions in life have not been made lightly or unconsciously. I chose a high-demand field of study at a good public college that didn’t break the bank. I started investing in college with the money I made in summer jobs in-between semesters (because it’s much cheaper to make financial mistakes when you’re young than when you’re old) and learned a lot of lessons at a visceral level when 2008 rolled around.

I’m experiencing upward mobility right now. I have my parents to thank for that, because they raised me to be who I am today.”

Cool story, bro. It’s almost the same as mine. I have my mother to thank for my relative prosperity, not only because she raised me to be “who I am today,” but because she was educated, middle class, and a hard worker and so were her parents. She benefited from the rise of the tech bubble and got out before it burst. She saved. I am responsible for very little of what I have today. My primary job was maintaining inertia and now it is maintaining inertia for my child.

What about the children who grow up never thinking college is an option? What about those whose parents aren’t there to raise them because they’re off making $7.25 an hour, working 40–60 hour weeks in multiple jobs just to make ends meet? Are they responsible for meeting your myopic view of success to deserve living wages? Maybe we should all be software developers and tech marketers.

What happens when automation takes away the jobs of developers and marketers? You understand that both of us have jobs with expiration dates. Turns out, you might have been better off in the long run studying the liberal arts, which are largely timeless, until business decides it has no use for the thinkers, the poets, and the artists. What intangible benefits have we lost because we have commoditized people by their value to business? For example, I studied journalism in college. I have nothing but respect for journalists who maintain their ethics in today’s click-bait climate. Long-form, investigative journalism is on the decline.

While I was in college, our professors and advisors suggested we consider working in marketing given the climate in our field of study. Many didn’t listen and work in fantastic, above-board jobs in journalism today. However, consider the toll private media has taken on our ability to get the story straight as one point of what can happen when every person is valued at a dollar amount based on what they can offer business. Is someone who works to bring clean water to a town of less value than one employee in tens of thousands who manages corporate buying for a retailer? No. They’re paid very differently.

We will never know the powers of the minds we didn’t nurture. We shouldn’t need a business case for doing the right thing.

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