Minimum Wage Rage

Minimum_Wage_IncreaseRemember your first job? I do. I was 17, and I was working in a local park. It was around the corner from my house, and it was my job to be a “Recreational Seasonal Employee.” The job included tasks such as painting the lines on baseball diamonds, driving pickup trucks rather recklessly, cleaning public bathrooms (major yuck), keeping score for basketball leagues in the park, picking up trash, painting curbs, and playing games of Uno and Rummy 500 with my fellow seasonal employees. It was a fun, easy job for the most part, and I made a whopping $7.00 an hour, which is just below the current minimum wage for New York State.

Was $7.00 an hour good for a high school student with no skills or experience? Absolutely! I had enough money to gas up the car, head to the movies, or hang out with friends. I saved some cash on the side for college related expenses, and stayed with the job until I got my bachelor’s degree.

However, now that I’m older, more experienced, and more educated, I know that I command a significantly higher wage. I have a master’s degree, I’ve learned fantastic skills, garnered great recommendations, and accumulated 7 years of experience in the full-time workforce.

The idea of a minimum wage job is simply not an option anymore, considering my skills, experience, education, and the fact that I want to be financially sound adult. As a kid with no bills, no car, and no cares, $7.00 an hour was a perfectly acceptable wage. However, as an adult with bills, a mortgage, and ambition, $7.00 an hour simply isn’t an option. It represents life at or below the poverty line, and it’s a wage that is simply not enough to live on in the New York City area.

Granted, the current minimum wage in New York is $7.25 an hour. It’s better than $7.00, but I still don’t consider that a living wage for an adult.

With that said, there’s been a bit of political debate going on lately about the minimum wage. Politicians are toying with the idea of raising the minimum wage, with the idea that it will help the economy if wages increase. In New York, there is a proposal to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.00 over the next 3 years or so, giving minimum wage earners an automatic 24% raise over the next few years! I want to be clear here – $9.00 an hour is not what I would consider a living wage in today’s economy.  But, I also think that it’s not too shabby compared to the 2-4% the average worker gets annually.  

While I love the idea of increased wages for those of us earning the minimum, I’m a bit concerned about the lack of focus on the rest of us. There are lots of “middle class” people out there who have been working away over the past decade or so without receiving significant wage increases. Will they benefit from the increase in wages too? Or will their wages remain stagnant, as they have for nearly a decade?

Hence, I raise the question of the day: What would you do if you had a 24% raise guaranteed over the next 3 years? Ponder and feel free to comment with any ideas for how you would choose to use your newfound dough.

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10 thoughts on “Minimum Wage Rage

  1. I’d love a 24% raise guaranteed, but when the minimum wage hasn’t increased much over time, it means a lot of years of no raise to get one big raise. I’d rather have it increase slightly over time.

    In 1996, the minimum wage was $4.75. In 1996 dollars, the current minimum wage is $4.97. not much of an increase, is it?

    • Good point about the lack of increase of the minimum wage in the past 20 years. I agree that compounding raises over time is preferable to a sudden jump in wages. But I also think it’s better to get a jump in pay after years of stagnant wages than no raise at all.

      • I think doing it over a longer time period is preferable too.
        Hiking the minimum wage by $2/hr over night would be extremely damaging to employers and the wider economy as well. That’s not to say I’m not in favour of a significant rise that would help people out of poverty though, because I am in favour, just that it should have been started a while ago, a few cents at a time, to make the change manageable.

      • I definitely think it’s preferable to increase it as the cost of living increases incrementally. It’s better for keeping for the all around economy. Also, thanks for stopping by!

  2. $9.00 in NYC is hardly a liveable wage. It’s no surprise why many workers work, “under the table”. If I had to feed my family and didn’t have the skills to work in a professional environment, I’d do what I had to do to survive and make sure my kids didn’t starve.

    • It’s really hard, but there are lots of people are in the situation you described – and who can blame them? I wonder how things would change if the minimum was was actually a living wage that could be used to support a family.

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