After an almost year-long pandemic, it is more clear than ever that our essential workers are not compensated properly for the work that they do.
Since its inception, the federal minimum wage has increased every few years to compensate for inflation. Congress has not passed a bill to increased this wage in over ten years, though inflation has grown by over twenty percent.
Even looking at minimum wage strictly mathematically, there is nowhere in the United States that a single person can survive off of $7.25. Even an increase to $15 per hour isn’t enough to survive off of in most cities.
Even if you look at statistics from Abilene, you see that the average rent for a one bedroom apartment is about $660 per month. With around $100 in utilities, $100 in phone bills, about $400 in car payments (based on average car payments for a used car) and about $350 in car insurance (based off of the average car insurance payment for a 21 year old female in Texas), you see that bills alone will cost a single college-aged person in Abilene over $1500 without paying for food, gas, tuition, medical bills or leisure activities.
This proves that making $15 per hour, estimating that you will take home less than $2,000 per month, is barely enough to survive off of. Imagine making the current minimum wage, which is less than half that.
Students who need full-time jobs (35-40 hours per week) while going to school full-time (12-18 hours per week) are no longer in the minority in universities all over the country. With limited job availability to suit the students’ schedules, most jobs have to be in the service or retail industry, which are traditionally the lowest paying jobs.
These are the people who are making minimum wage, barely able to pay bills and still coming to classes, doing homework and sometimes even participating in student organizations or campus activities. This isn’t an easy feat; anyone in that position will tell you. These are the workers who kept working through lockdowns, face the brunt of difficult customers and still continue to do it every day out of necessity even though they are paid less than everyone else.
It’s time that we stop making excuses as to why we can’t pass this bill. Inflation will rise anyway, as it has for the ten years we haven’t adjusted the minimum wage. These workers aren’t “lazy” and they can’t just “get a better, higher paying job.”
Struggling to survive should not be the price we pay for working toward a better future.