I wrote this as an answer on Quora May 18th, 2019. The situation was dire even before the pandemic for working families, we cannot ‘go back to normal.’
In CT, a bill just passed in the Senate to raise the minimum wage from $10.10 to $15.00 incrementally by 2023.
This remains a very controversial topic, due in part by an outdated perception of who is profiting from minimum wage earnings.
Many people think of minimum wage jobs “kid jobs”, a short-lived, often seasonal employment opportunity targeting teens in the summer or after school, performed largely for building “experience” — not something meant to become a career or to truly live on. It’s your First Job job, or possibly your job in retirement, for pocket change and something to do. Or, it’s the kind of work that’s meant to give a quality of life experience to the developmentally delayed (think bagging groceries or shredding paper in an office). Meant in many ways as a cursory nod to those with disabilities, clearly such positions are not meant to live on — the expectation that these ‘outlier’ populations deserve a livible wage for work that is considered mediocre is practically unheard of.
As a Caregiver, and more specifically a Homecare worker, my pay rate has been lifted out of the minimum wage ditch. But it hasn’t always been that way. Not many years ago, the people who clothed, bathed, fed, checked for injury/bedsores, and were hired to perform numerous other tasks for an ailing family member of yours, were not even legally allowed to unionize. They were not guaranteed even the minimum wage. Caregiving was dismissed as women’s work, synonymous with being an unpaid stay-at-home parent.
But things are changing. Caregivers are being recognized for the valuable services we provide, and our paychecks are finally starting to reflect that. But it took a long time, because the work was undervalued.
Likewise, those low income positions that will now benefit from an increased minimum wage, still suffer under a tired stigma that devalues the importance of the work.
Sure, fast food may not be essential, but for the 30-something woman salting your fries its a lifeline. It’s a 2nd or 3rd job to help provide for her family.
It’s not her summer job. It’s not her first, or preferred job. It’s what makes or breaks the bank that week.
And c’mon… let’s be real here. You can say fast food isn’t important all you want, but you know if the order is incorrect in any way, some middle-aged woman named Karen is going to march her mom-haircut to the counter and demand to see the manager.
Customer interaction alone is a decent argument for better pay.