Today in cities across the nation, there was yet again another protest for raising the minimum wage. As someone who has worked more than a few part-time jobs, I get it. I really do. Your time is valuable, and to be working in a thankless fast food or cashier job for several hours a day dealing with rude customers and demanding bosses can be soul crushing. You think of the time you could be spending with your family and friends, the meaningful projects you could be completing, the pile of dishes and laundry waiting for you at home, and you think, “There’s got to be more to life than this”.
Here’s the thing, there is. Being a store clerk, or a fast food worker, was never meant to be a career choice. Those are starter jobs. The things you do as an after school job to gain experience in the working world. It’s what you do to supplement the family income, or help stretch the pension. Flipping burgers and bagging groceries isn’t supposed to pay enough, to pay rent or a mortgage, or feed and clothe a family of four. That’s what professional and skilled labor jobs are for.
Again I get it. Going back to school, means sacrificing even more time away from friends and family. It’s expensive, (though if you are working in a low wage job you probably qualify for some form of tuition assistance). It means finding family and neighbors who will watch your kids for next to nothing because daycare is expensive. It means juggling your schedule around those who are helping to support you in your endeavor. No one should underestimate the difficulty in trying to work, go to school, and raise a family all at the same time. So raising the wage to $15.00 an hour would be such a relief because it could raise some of that burden from you.
But remember, those blue-collar and semi-professional jobs that pay a higher wage, the kind of wage you would like to receive, require a higher level of professionalism. As a consumer, I am the one who will ultimately be paying for your wage increase. If I’m paying more for that already expensive basket of groceries, or the number six jumbo meal, I am going to expect more from the person behind the counter.
When I walk into your establishment, I will expect to be greeted politely, if not enthusiastically, with a smile. Even if you are on the phone (and that phone call better be with your boss or another customer and not your boyfriend). I expect my order to be taken correctly, charged correctly, and correctly communicated to the kitchen. I expect the kitchen to assemble my food with a little love, no more cheese half off the patty and patty half off the bread. I expect you to know your products and work place. If I have a reasonable question about a product, I expect you to know the answer, and if I ask you where something is I expect you to be able to tell me, or better yet, take me there. While I’m standing in your check out line, I do not want to hear about your colonoscopy, your rash, your kid’s rash, that your boss is a bitch, your cousin couldn’t make bail again, or how you had to stay late because someone else didn’t show up to work. It’s not that I’m not compassionate, but there is a such thing as appropriateness.
The idea that you can increase wages at the bottom by lowering them at the top, is a lie. Ultimately a business prospers and its employees prosper when the customer is given a good product or service at a fair price. Where much (of my money) is given, much is required.