Not so long ago, when fast food employees complained about their ungodly low pay, the sneery response was: “Well, then, why don’t you go back to school and train for a better job?” Currently, though, the creeping economic “recovery” includes these ugly facts: 1) White collar employers across the board are squeezing more work out of fewer employees and 2) the majority of new jobs being created are low-wage, often part-time service gigs.
In other words, a fancy degree or specialized training doesn’t guarantee that you are absolved from one day donning a paper cap and operating a fryer. Just to survive, more and more degreed, downsized professionals compete for service sector jobs they’d previously thought they were too good for. The economic lives of fast food employees are, scarily, in much closer proximity to those of middle-class folk than they were even ten years ago.
Is paying more for your Wendy’s Baconator really such a terrible thing, if it means the people who serve them can earn a living wage? Americans scoff or condescendingly shake their heads at those loser McDonald’s workers –– they must’ve somehow deserved that fate –– yet we depend on people doing those jobs so our easy, affordable addictions to sugar, salt, and fat can continue. This is a cruel double bind for the workers, who’re belittled and needed at the same time.
So give a second thought to why $7.25 an hour is outrageously low for labor-intensive work that’s apparently crucial to American society. After all, the minimum wage you help raise may someday be your own.