Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Making a Living

In these months fueled with politics, so many issues flooding the media. One that always makes me think, is the issue of minimum wage. In reality, it baffles me that in a country of excess, we use the term "Minimum wage". Essentially we are looking for the least amount of compensation for someone to do a job. When you think of it like that, where is the incentive to do a good job? Where is the respect for the person performing the job? 

A huge argument for current wages is increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour. It used to be that minimum wage was for teens in their first job, or summer jobs they have no intention to keep past the first day of school. Sadly, the majority of workers earning the minimum are adults well past their teens who are forced to work multiple jobs in order to make ends meet. 

I try to stay away from politics on this blog, but the wage issue hits home on many levels. First, as a woman, it angers me to know that I earn less than a man for doing the same job. I don't understand how having a vagina translates to me not deserving the same compensation for creating the same results as someone with a penis. When I think of the talented women I work with and meet, it boggles my mind to think that their employers would deny them the earnings they deserve for no reason other than their gender. So many women I know, especially my friends who are single mothers work more than one job. Would they have to do that if they earned what men in their positions earn? As a woman with multiple jobs, it angers me as I run from commitment to commitment that I have to hustle twice as hard to provide for my family. When I think about how hard it is to run a household on my earnings, I can't imagine how my parents did it.

Living in Iowa is considerably less expensive than living in Chicago. The cost of living is one of the lowest in the Midwest, and is a reason my parents chose to move here over ten years ago. Before moving to Des Moines, I recall my dad working multiple jobs to take care of the family. My mom worked in the home and outside the home. They were raising a house full of kids in one of the more expensive cities in the country on wages that were probably not far from the minimum. They did labor jobs that took a toll on their bodies. They woke up before the sun and sometimes had less than fifteen minutes to eat a meal between shifts. Yet, their employers looked at them and tried to pay them the bare minimum to get their jobs done. How is that just? 

Today people complain that fast food workers don't deserve $15 per hour. They argue that the job isn't difficult enough to merit that kind of wage. I have never worked in the food industry, so I cannot speak to the level of difficulty involved. However, I know how hard it is to afford to put food on a table for multiple people, and keep the lights on for a family. It's certainly not easy to ensure safe housing and maintain transportation, and I say that as a person who earns far from the minimum wage. Do I deserve more financial security because I have a college degree? Does it separate me from those whose circumstances led to a different path? Because someone else may not have the college loans I once had should they face greater poverty while I have more income options? Is their quality of life less important than mine? Absolutely not. And let's not even get into the ridiculousness that is the state of college loans these days, and how even college grads are competing for those low wage jobs as supplemental income to help make ends meet once those loans become due.

The injustice of wage inequality can make for a heated entry that could go on and on, but I don't want to do that. This isn't a politically slated blog, nor do I want it to be. This issue happens to be one of importance and personal to me on many levels. I am grateful for those who organize demonstrations that highlight the gaps and challenge those in power to make changes. I support them and would join them if I wasn't running from one job to the next.

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