Strikes show controversy over current minimum wage, students differ in views on whether rate should increase

Kristina Pitchkites, McAlister’s Deli employee and junior, mixes sweet tea for customers at the Tea Bar. She said she decided to get a job in order to pay for college and gas. MILES DAI / PHOTO

Kristina Pitchkites, McAlister’s Deli employee and junior, mixes sweet tea for customers at the Tea Bar. She said she decided to get a job in order to pay for college and gas. MILES DAI / PHOTO

feature

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






In mid-July, Kristina Pitchkites, McAlister’s Deli employee and junior, began working a minimum wage job at a local McAlister’s store. She said she took the job to help pay for both her automobile necessities and her future education.

“I’m trying to save up for college. It’s also about time for me to pay for my own gas and insurance, since I got my license over the summer,” Pitchkites said. She said she believes most high school students seek jobs for similar reasons.

Kristina Pitchkites, McAlister’s Deli employee and junior, mixes sweet tea for customers at the Tea Bar. She said she decided to get a job in order to pay for college and gas. MILES DAI / PHOTO

Kristina Pitchkites, McAlister’s Deli employee and junior, mixes sweet tea for customers at the Tea Bar. She said she decided to get a job in order to pay for college and gas. MILES DAI / PHOTO

Ryan Walstrom, Dairy Queen employee and senior, also works a minimum wage job. He said, “In general, it’s just nice to have spending money whether it’s (for) hanging out with friends or buying something. I’m saving for college, too.”

Because many students here are usually financially dependent teenagers in an affluent community, they tend to have differing views on their personal wages. These differences arise from the fact that they don’t use the money to support themselves or their families.

“As someone who still lives with their parents and works part time, I don’t know what it’s like to pay for rent, to buy all of my own things. As a part-time worker who’s not economically independent, I’m satisfied,” Walstrom said.

Pitchkites said she disagrees about her own wages. “I think it could be higher, because I do a lot of work, yet I know people who are lifeguards and get paid $10 per hour but don’t do much,” she said.

Occupy Wage Street

However, for those who rely on minimum wage jobs to pay bills, the recent debate on whether the minimum wage should be raised becomes more important.

An August TIME magazine article detailed the recent minimum wage protests, focused in the fast food industry, in New York, Chicago, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Detroit and Flint, MI. The protesters feel that the current minimum wage of $7.25 is too low to preserve a reasonable standard of living.

Laura Cardamon, Managing Cooperative Experiences program director and business department teacher, said, “The minimum income needed for a worker to meet basic needs such as housing, food and clothing is living wage. If a person works 40 hours a week, they should be able to afford their basic needs. But with minimum wage at $7.25 it would be difficult to afford the basic needs of a family.”

Pitchkites said she agrees that the current minimum wage is too low for a poverty-stricken family to maintain a reasonable standard of living.

“Minimum wage is too low; people can’t support a family with minimum wage jobs. I think wages in general should be higher because it is hard to work in conditions of such severe poverty with an abundance of children and be able to financially support their food, education and stuff like that,” Pitchkites said. “Even 50 cents can make a huge difference in a paycheck.”

Raising the Bar

Cardamon said she believes that increasing minimum wage yields a plethora of potential benefits.

“(Higher) wages should affect customer service and productivity. Employers should expect their employees to have initiative, provide a high quantity of work, be on time, accurate, follow directions, possess knowledge of the job, have excellent attendance and comply with safety requirements,” she said.

Pitchkites said she agreed that a higher minimum wage could potentially be beneficial in the workplace.

“Higher wages give people a better incentive to work. People would be more likely to show up to work and stay,” Pitchkites said.

A low minimum wage also affects worker turnover, which is especially high in the fast food industry. Raising wages would most likely mean more permanent and loyal employees.

“We had a lot of people get fired the past couple of weeks or so because they just don’t come in or don’t try. We’re trying to hire better workers, so we’re letting the less productive workers go,” Pitchkites said.

The Center for Economic and Policy Research published a report in March 2012 that compared minimum wage with productivity increases and inflation. The report found that the minimum wage peaked in 1968. If the minimum wage was adjusted to the rate of inflation calculated by the Consumer Price Index, the 2012 figure would be $10.52 an hour. If minimum wage increased with productivity increases, the figure would be double that, at $21.72 an hour.

Cardamon said she held similar views as the report.

Ryan Walstrom, Dairy Queen employee and senior,  arranges a customer’s order before serving. He said he accepted the job three months ago after a friend recommended him to the manager. MILES DAI / PHOTO

Ryan Walstrom, Dairy Queen employee and senior, arranges a customer’s order before serving. He said he accepted the job three months ago after a friend recommended him to the manager. MILES DAI / PHOTO

“Minimum wage at $7.25 per hour is not keeping up with inflation. I would like to see minimum wage increase to $10 so more workers have more disposable income,” Cardamon said.

President Barack Obama’s recent efforts to increase minimum wage to at least $9 an hour attempt to reconcile the current minimum wage with the cost of living.

However, while increasing minimum wage can have significant effects on the standard of living, there are potential drawbacks for consumers, employers and even employees.

Cardamon said, “If employers have to pay employees $10 an hour, this will cut into their business profits. Employers may have to hire less people to work in their businesses.”

High Expectations

Pitchkites and Walstrom said while they feel the national minimum wage is too low, the figure the fast-food sector protesters demand is unreasonable.

Pitchkites said she believes the minimum wage should be at least a dollar higher than the current figure, but the $15 figure is a bit high.

“It seems a little extensive. I would definitely be happy with $15 an hour, but it’s not going to happen. It all depends on how hard you work, what you do and the amount of risks you’re putting in every day.” Pitchkites said.

Cardamon said, “I believe raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour will result in businesses raising their prices and laying off workers.”

Walstrom said, “I understand the motivation behind the protest, but I find their demands to be pretty unreasonable. While I think it’s fair to demand a certain standard of living, you have to be realistic about the work you’re doing and the wage you’re going to receive.”

0