Tuesday, January 26, 2016

What Grinds My Gears - 2016 Edition

Someone on Facebook today posted this gem:

Minimum wage= minimum skill/qualification....why are we fighting to raise something that shouldn't be a reward?

I took a deep breath, typed a quick response, and walked away from the computer. But it stuck in my head, swirling around and refusing to leave. Basically a living wage is 15/hour right now. Anyone that makes less than that, in the poster's mind, did not have a skill set to use.

To quote: "America has lost ground on the intent declared by Congress when the Fair Labor Standards Act was enacted in 1938, that workers will receive wages sufficient to maintain “the minimum standard of living necessary for health, efficiency, and general well-being.” The article is Here.

Here's the thing folks - Minimum wage DOES NOT equal minimum skill/qualification.

What it equals is a different set of skills and qualifications. I'll take the one everyone seems fixated on:

The fast food worker. Oh my. First off, if you've never worked it, you should try it at least once. Because I have. Let me tell you something - my IT job now is a lot less stressful. What qualifications do you need to flip burgers?

Well - first off, the amount of training at some of these places are amazingly rough. You need to memorize a lot of different recipes, ingredients, and learn every single position. Not only that, but at all times you need to keep an eye on several different things at once, to make sure everything is working smoothly in your area, food prep and cleanup. And this is the minimum wage person. Sure, cashiering may be easy, but what else does that cashier do - clean machines, check machines, carry and lift heavy boxes usually to the front and back, clean the restaurant, back up anyone and everyone if the dining area is NOT busy, if it is, try to keep up with taking orders, and keeping the dining area clean at the same time, especially dealing with cleaning up messes from children, people yelling at you because their orders are taking 5 minutes instead of 2, even though three people called out that night, and you've been shorthanded on a Friday for hours. Oh and let's not forget the times where because people call out, no breaks, and no break in customers. The fast food worker is frequently on their feet 8+ hours a shift, doing multiple things, and working in sometimes dangerous conditions (gee, what tends to be open in bad weather? Fast food places, and if you don't show up, you get fired.) Also, for that, you need major people skills. Something a lot of people don't have anymore.

Waitressing: This one really gets me when people bitch that waiters/waitresses have minimum skill. Seriously? People skills, again. These are the people that get yelled at if the order is wrong, frequently not left tips because, "If they want more money, they should work a better job", and yet, have to carry heavy trays of food/drinks to tables without spilling any, and smile through it all. Manual dexterity is a thing here. Frequently again, on feet for 8+ hour shifts, and frequently busy almost all the time. Not only that, most servers get paid about 3 bucks an hour and HOPE that tips make it to minimum wage for that day. Not easy jobs.

Now, multiply that by lines out the doors on some places when there's a convention in town. All weekend. And no stopping because there's no time to stop and rest.

Retail - Some retail is easier than others. I've worked both. I loved working at Waldenbooks. If it had paid more (15 an hour, let's say), I would have happily stayed there all my life (until the company went under.) But for me? Best job ever - I got to sell my love of books to people. There was no downside, even in bad weather, and at the holidays. I loved going to work. I can't say that all the time about my full time job.

Admin assistants - If you think this is a minimum skill position, you are seriously deluding yourself.

All four of the above jobs are jobs I have done. All four of those jobs require a lot more than people realize.

Here's another one: Call center workers: These guys get timed. They have to solve every issue, do it politely, usually when someone is screaming at them. And not get upset.

Janitorial positions - How many of you would actually do that job? Yeah, didn't think so. I know I wouldn't want to clean up after most of you.

Now, let's get to the other, more surprising ones on this list:

  • EMT, Nursing and/or Teacher's Aides.
  •  Child Care Provider.
  •  Auto Technicians (the guy that does your oil? More than likely, minimum wage). 
  • Gaming dealers.
  •  Some income tax workers. 
  • Military (non-officers)
  • Security Guards/Police
These are minimum skill jobs? What planet are you from?

Temporary workers - Another one that if you don't work those jobs, you really can't speak up. One of the temp jobs I worked when I was between contracts was art editing at a very large, very famous shoe company. The attention to detail for THAT job? Was ridiculous, as was the stress and deadlines.  If a single mistake made it past your eyes, didn't matter if you had been working 2 or 12 hours that day, you were gone.  

Another one was heavy lifting almost every day, and making sure an inventory of items were all where they should be and investigating anything missing.

These positions all pay minimum starting out. And Gods help you if there's a wage freeze in your area.

Here's the thing. I once worked a job that paid *very well* for me to sit on my ass most of the day and wait to run a document over to another building to get signed. Rinse, repeat. I had a living wage, I had benefits, I had health insurance. THAT was a minimum skill job, yet because it was white collar, I got paid very well to do it. (Most boring job ever, by the way). What made me better than anyone I've listed above? Nothing. I got lucky to get that job at a good company on a contract.

Those of you that think minimum wage is minimum skill. Have you ever spoken to some fast food workers? One of the saddest stories I heard from one lady is that she had worked 18 years at a company. 18 years, 2 away from retiring. The economy collapsed. She was downsized, and lost her company pension because she didn't make 20. No one would hire a 55 year old admin assistant. She was working at a McDonald's. because it's ALL she could find. It wasn't for lack of trying. It wasn't because she had no skills. It was because she didn't want to go on any type of assistance, and wanted to work. She still gets food stamps to help make ends meet, because the 40+ hours a week she'd work would only ever pay rent and a bills to keep the lights on.

There is proof that upping the minimum wage helps communities and cities that have implemented it.

Here's an article from 2014:


Here's the quote to read: "Payrolls at Washington’s restaurants and bars, portrayed as particularly vulnerable to higher wage costs, expanded by 21 percent. Poverty has trailed the U.S. level for at least seven years."

Minimum wage jobs - those that people say are minimum skill (restaurant workers, really) just use skills most of us don't need to work on all the time: People skills, patience, and an amazing amount of tolerance.

I guess in the end, here are my thoughts on the situation:

The people wanting 15/hour are wanting it for EVERYONE that makes less than that.  You can't support yourself, much less anyone else, on less.   Why is this an issue for anyone?  What is it about those that perform those jobs above that make people so upset about it?

No job is minimum skill. Every job has more than what you just see at the outset. I would much rather have minimum wage be 15/hour (living wage, which is what it was intended to be) and have people paid that wage, than having people working one to two full time jobs, both at minimum wage to make ends meet for whatever reason (and unless you know their story, do not judge them, because assumptions make asses out of you and me) - and/or getting Section 8, food stamps, medicaid, and welfare.

Why are ANY of us judging someone for actually working a job, be it one that you think is beneath you or not? We should be encouraging them, not belittling them and saying they aren't worth the money and time to earn a living. They are working.  They are contributing to society in some fashion.  Why do we punish them for this?