Student Story: Increasing The Minimum Wage Will Benefit Everyone

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Commentary By: Zoe James, Freshman, Oakcrest High School, Mays Landing, N.J.

In the U.S the salary for the average American is about $94,700 per year. Most Americans have day to day jobs and work hard to make a living. With the minimum wage being about $7.25 per hour, much recent debate all comes down to if America’s people need a higher minimum wage to survive and live a comfortable life. Minimum wage should be increased because essential frontline workers would benefit greatly, as well as gaps due to racial inequality will decrease.

To begin, the government should allow an increased minimum wage because raising the minimum wage will benefit essential workers greatly. According to the Economic Policy Institute, “More than one-third (35%) of those working in residential or nursing care facilities would see their pay increase, in addition to home health aides and other health care support workers. Ten million workers in health care, education, construction, and manufacturing would see a raise—representing nearly one-third (31%) of the workers who would see a raise.”

Increased minimum wage is beneficial to frontline workers because it gives them the ability to support themselves while building up society. Essential workers try their absolute best to contribute to the community. Their efforts are seen throughout everyday life, why wouldn’t it also be shown through their paycheck. Living in America is not easy; the “American Dream” has a hefty price tag. Society expects a big house with a white picket fence, fancy cars, and other luxuries. Being underpaid certainly does not help people to reach this level of success. 

The evidence above shows how an increased wage will allow a great number of essential workers to live more comfortably through a tough society. In addition the EPI also states that, “Essential and frontline workers make up a majority (60%) of those who would benefit from a $15 minimum wage. The median pay is well under $15 an hour for many essential and frontline jobs; examples include substitute teachers ($13.84), nursing assistants ($14.26), and home health aides ($12.15).” This clearly shows that a great number of essential workers are being underpaid for the work they do. It can’t feel good for nurses and doctors to put out their best efforts just to be shorted out of pay and under credited. An increased minimum will give society’s workers the credit that they deserve.

Furthermore, society’s workers need an increased minimum wage because this action results in the decrease of pay gaps due to racial discrimination. Evidence to support this is, “African Americans and Latinos are paid 10%–15% less than white workers with the same characteristics, so The Raise the Wage Act will deliver the largest benefits to Black and Latino workers: about $3,500 annually for a year-round worker” (EPI). Race plays a huge role in society and inequality has always historically existed. It has affected women, people of color,  and the LGBTQIA communities. 

From slavery to unfair pay and unemployment due to race, sexuality, and gender, inequality affects almost all. People all over the world are becoming increasingly aware that everyone should be treated equally, know matter what. The problem is that no one is taking the action to reach equality for all. The evidence above shows how much people of color are at a disadvantage. With people of color making up 40% of the population, communities should give them an equal chance of success in employment. The discrimination that people of color and women face in the work place puts them at an economic disadvantage. 

A higher minimum wage will give these disadvantaged groups the chance to succeed and live comfortably in America’s society. Evidence to support this is “Nearly one-third (31%) of African Americans and one-quarter (26%) of Latinos would get a raise if the federal minimum wage were increased to $15” (EPI). People of color in America deserve to be treated more fairly in the workplace especially when it comes to pay. Pay should be based on experience and not race. With an increased wage the race gap will decrease and be closer to pay based on experience.The text evidence shows that by increasing the minimum wage people of color will be closer to equal pay with their white coworkers.

It is often argued that minimum wage should not be increased because it may result in more frequent job loss for workers. According to CATO institute, “Evidence of job losses have been found since the earliest imposition of the minimum wage. The first 25-cent minimum wage in 1938 resulted in significant job losses.” Although job loss is always a possibility when it comes to the lives and pay of everyday people, times in society and the economy itself have changed since 1938. When the federal government raised the wage to its peak in 1968, it was proven that wage can be increased without constricting employment opportunities for underpaid workers. In addition to this racial gaps were also closed. Despite the disadvantages to an increased minimum wage, the benefit is far greater.

An increased minimum wage is better for America’s people because it benefits essential workers and closes racial pay gaps. This is important because too many people are affected by the low minimum wage. Frontline workers give so much towards the community, from providing healthcare to those in need, to giving out food to those who don’t have it. Essential workers give towards society that which the average person can not provide. 

People of color are more likely to end up in high poverty school districts and work jobs that underpay them due to their race or ethnicity. An increased wage will start the change of how society looks at people of color. Overall, these groups of people deserve to be treated with more equality. After all, it is not their fault for being who they are. To better the chances of an increase in minimum wage, it is time for you to do your part. By signing petitions and writing or talking to your state’s governors, you can help increase the wage of America’s people today.

Zoe James, 15, is currently enrolled in Ms.Twiggs’ English I course at Oakcrest High School. She is also a girl scout, avid baker, and known knitting fanatic.

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