Bella Coulter , Staff Writer

Counterpoint: The minimum wage needs to be raised. 

By Bella Coulter

As someone who works as a cashier at a grocery store, minimum wage is something that has become very important to me. I’ve seen it all: the angry customers, the hours being cut, the holiday rush leaving employees exhausted and drained … the list goes on and on. Luckily for me, I actually get paid a little more than the minimum wage, so I cannot begin to imagine what people go through who work in fast food who get paid even less for pain-staking work and have to support a family. The more I learn about all of the implications surrounding the minimum wage, the more I realize how messed up it truly is that it has remained the same this entire decade. It needs to change. I believe that the minimum wage should be raised because of the cost of living, the country’s massive inflation, and the caliber of work required of minimum wage employees.

First, the cost of living in comparison to the minimum wage is completely unreasonable. Let’s do some simple math. The current minimum wage is $7.25, and the number of hours  full-time workers typically work is 40 each week. That means they earn $290 per week, and roughly $1160 per month (assuming there are four weeks in a month). Multiply that number by 12, and a minimum wage work makes, on average, $13,920 per year. According to HowMuch.net, the average cost of living for one person in Virginia Beach is $24,444.32, $10,000 more than what he or she makes in a year. These calculations assume that the minimum wage worker does not have children, and taxes are not factored into this equation. Additionally, any sort of luxuries are thrown out the window; there is simply not enough money for workers to go out to eat, or go shopping for themselves, because they don’t have the money. This dire shortage of funds often leads workers to get a second, or even third job in order to support themselves, which puts a strain on all aspects of their well-being, particularly if they have families. Minimum wage is supposed to mean the minimum amount required in order to live comfortably: Why hasn’t it been raised to fit its intended purpose?

Furthermore, due to the recession in 2008, the United States has since experienced some inflation. Since 2009, inflation has gone up by 2.1 percent. This means that $7.25 in 2009, equates to $8.64, according to AIER’s Cost of Living Calculator. Conversely, by keeping the minimum wage the same as the rest of the country inflates, the minimum wage has technically dropped to $6.09. It comes to a point where we are no longer arguing to increase the minimum wage, but simply keep the value the same. How is it fair to leave the minimum wage the same as costs of everything else continue to rise? Aren’t we dooming minimum wage workers to fail?  

Finally, the work that minimum wage workers do deserves much more than $7.25. Again, I’ve lived through some of the horror stories and seen first hand just how much work goes into these jobs. At my job in particular, our customer service representatives get around $2-$3 more than the minimum wage. This seems like a good thing and an improvement from the low minimum wage; however, after watching all the work they have to do, I can say with certainty it is nowhere near enough. They easily have the most difficult job in the entire store, having to manage all the departments, deal with disgruntled customers, act as the link between the managers and the rest of the employees, do odd jobs around the store that no one else is willing or has the time to do, and so on. Most of these reps work full time and have families. As I watch them week after week, I have no idea how they continue to come in and work their grueling eight-and-a-half-hour shifts for so little pay. Despite the struggles the reps face, that isn’t anywhere near the perils of the fast-food industry. I’ve only heard stories from friends who work there, but I understand that it’s exhausting and a horribly toxic environment to work in; one of my friends at work frequently refers to his time working at a fast-food restaurant as the worst time in his life. These workers go through so much, and most of the time people don’t even realize the amount of work that goes into these jobs; they just order their meal, drop a couple cents in the tip jar thinking somehow they’re a philanthropist, and move on with their day. It simply isn’t enough.

The lack of action in regards to the minimum wage has been appalling, and frankly I am disgusted with the blatant disregard of so many people in this country. Minimum wage workers are the backbone of this nation, doing the jobs no one else in the country is willing to do, and getting paid next to nothing for their pain-staking work. I’m not saying they should be paid ridiculously high amounts, but I do think they should at least receive the minimum wage after inflation. It’s the least we can do.