A meme showed up in my Facebook feed the other day that tried to undermine the movement to raise the minimum wage to $15 and hour by comparing ‘burger flipping’ with a ‘real job’ as if that proved the protestors are wrong. It actually points out how broken our economic system is for middle-class workers and those who make the current minimum wage and lower. $15 an hour should be the starting point not the end.
Here is the meme that was posted by a friend on Facebook who agreed with the point.
The meme shows a paramedic looking like he had a tough emergency and on the right a group of protestors in front of McDonald’s wanting to see the minimum wage raised to $15 an hour.
The text on the meme:
The man on the left makes $15/hr if he’s lucky. He just lost his battle trying to save someone’s life and he is 10 hours into his 24 hour shift. He spent a year of his life and countless hours away from his family training to save a life. The people on the right are picketing to make $15/hr flipping burgers. If you can’t see the difference you’re not worth the explanation…
The creator of the meme is obviously trying to say that the paramedic’s job is worth more than “flipping burgers” and so he deserves $15 and hour while the workers at McDonald’s don’t.
That is short-sighted and misses the whole point of the $15 an hour wage movement.
The paramedic shouldn’t be making $15 and hour either but then he probably has a Union contract and promotion possibilities that are closed to workers at McDonald’s so if he does make that amount he won’t be making it for long.
The average monthly cost of living in the United States for a single adult with one child is $3,946. This adds up to an average annual cost of living of $47,356. That works out to $24.66 an hour just for a single adult with one child. It would be higher for a family with more children.
Workers need more than $15 an hour just to match the cost of living and account for inflation.
Adjusted for inflation, the federal minimum wage peaked in 1968 at $8.54 (in 2014 dollars). Since it was last raised in 2009, to the current $7.25 per hour, the federal minimum has lost about 8.1% of its purchasing power to inflation. The Economist recently estimated that, given how rich the U.S. is and the pattern among other advanced economies in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, “one would expect America…to pay a minimum wage around $12 an hour.”
About 20.6 million people (or 30% of all hourly, non-self-employed workers 18 and older) are “near-minimum-wage” workers. We analyzed public-use microdata from the Current Population Survey (the same monthly survey that underpins the BLS’s wage and employment reports), and came up with that estimate of the total number of “near-minimum” U.S. workers – those who make more than the minimum wage in their state but less than $10.10 an hour, and therefore also would benefit if the federal minimum is raised to that amount. The near-minimum-wage workers are young (just under half are 30 or younger), mostly white (76%), and more likely to be female (54%) than male (46%). A majority (56%) have no more than a high-school education.
Instead of arguing that certain jobs “deserve” a higher minimum wage it is clear the minimum wage needs to be raised for all and $15 an hour is a good starting point.
What about the paramedic?
When the minimum wage has been raised most employers have raised other wages a similar amount. Even if the paramedic doesn’t have a union contract he can expect his wages to go up to match the raise in the minimum wage. Instead of $15 and hour he might make $20-22 an hour.
Remember too, the paramedic has city paid health insurance and other benefits that the McDonald’s workers don’t have, so the need to raise service worker pay to a living wage would help them pay for health care and possibly save for retirement.
A raise in pay would also trickle through the economy as more money because available creating more jobs in other areas.
The common counter argument is “Why not $50 and hour or $100 an hour?”
I would not be oppose if the minimum was raised to $50 or $100 an hour but although previous raises had little to no adverse affect on the economy, I’m sure there is a tipping point where a large raise could hurt the economy.
$15 an hour isn’t that point. $24 isn’t that point. And trying to undermine the need for a living wage with the strawman of a $50 or $100 an hour raise is missing the point.
If you are paying far below even the level of inflation there is a lot of room to add to the wages and that would raise other wages as well.
Over time as the cost of living increases there may be a point where a living wage is $50 an hour or $100 an hour and I would want the minimum wage to match that.
No one should be forced to work a job that pays less than the level of inflation or cost of living and if we depend on the judgement call of people who have not nor never will work for minimum wage, then people will never see a living wage.
Also published on Medium.