Minimum wage doesn’t mean livable wage

Chris DeJohn

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Facebook has recently been riddled with armchair economic experts espousing the cons of raising fast-food employee wages up to $15 an hour. Unfortunately, most of these propositions are littered with misinformation. In an attempt to illustrate incompetence and somehow disprove the justifications behind a $15 hourly fast-food wage, one Facebook status posted this week compared the current median Emergency Medical Technician salary to that of McDonalds’ employees who accidentally add ketchup, or give you a small Coke when you ordered a large.

“They want $15 an hour,” the post said sarcastically. The post details how an EMT’s job involves life-or-death situations with no second chances and pays only $11 an hour. The post goes on to say that the author sees “something terribly wrong with this.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly wage for an Emergency Medical Technician in 2015 was $15.38 per hour. Not only should fast-food employees receive a living wage, but EMTs should too, and damn it, we ALL should. And $15 an hour won’t even cut it.

According to the National Employment Law Project’s website, nearly 90 percent of all jobs in the fast food industry include a median hourly wage of $8.94. It doesn’t take a math wiz to figure out $8.94 an hour doesn’t even come close to paying the bills when you compare it to California’s median $2,094 monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment. When you adjust for inflation since 1960, when prices started increasing and wages began to stagnate, you find the federal minimum wage is worth less than it was more than 50 years ago.

Currently, the federal minimum wage is an embarrassing, degrading and dehumanizing $7.25 an hour. Inequality.org, a project for the Institute for Policy Studies, states that, “If our standard for minimum wages had kept pace with overall income growth in the American economy, it would now be $21.16 per hour.”

Regardless of your occupation or level of education, if a job takes up the majority of your life, if you work full-time, eight hours a day, 40 hours a week or more, you deserve to earn a “living wage.”

During a 2013 Senate HELP Committee hearing, Senator Elizabeth Warren confirmed the federal minimum wage should be $21.16 or higher. Warren explains the minimum cost to employers from such an increase would be somewhere around 4 cents for every $7 sold. She goes on to question Dr. Arindrajit Dube, from the Department of Economics at the University of Massachusetts, as to the whereabouts of those missing wages. Of course, she never gets a straight answer, but we all know what happened to the missing wages. They went into the CEO’s fat pockets!

So yes, because the U.S. has not held up its standards for wages paralleling productivity since the 1960s, or increased the median EMT salary by 200 percent to somewhere around $45 an hour, or raised fast-food employee salaries to $22 an hour, which would possibly enable supporting a family comfortably – there is something terribly wrong with that.