Bare Minimum

Jack Kinzler, Rise! Magazine

Life for the minimum wage worker is one of endless toiling just to make it by each month. Some months not quite making it and being forced to sell what little they own. Rent is at a stifling high, utilities can be especially costly during the winter and summer, substantive food is a luxury, and let’s not even get into emergency medical costs. We can see across America that many of the cities require people to make a bare minimum of $13 an hour to survive. No luxurious lifestyle, just covering basic needs. Presently there’s an uprising demanding change through instituting a $15 minimum wage across their cities and states. While the battles have been won in Seattle, many other states are making concessions for workers. Six Los Angeles council members including Mayor Eric Gracetti are championing for a raise to $13.25 while they explore the prospect of a raise to $15.25. Other states are following in suit, and it’s been suggested raising the federal minimum wage to $10. Ohio is suggesting a 15 cent wage increase, a real spit in the face of those fighting for $15.

 The primary opposing claim states that a raise would force businesses to raise the prices of their products in order to be able to account for their new employee expenses. We’re reaching a dangerous era of capitalism where in the minimum wage has become so low that not altering it will continue to ruin the lives of individuals. Capitalism is coming to a dead end, so we can either all go down with the ship or try to sail on to socialism.  The bourgeoisie are against a wall in their opposition to the proletarian and they must make a decision of whether they’d rather have their class destroyed immediately, or in the coming decades. They can give into the demands of the workers by steadily relinquishing power from their grasp or wait until the people lash out against unfavorable conditions. They can’t afford to lose the working class since doing so would also mean the end of their own class. While the support for giving better conditions to the working class is necessary, many employers do not agree. Instead, they’re caught up in their greedy view of, “I make 300,000 a year from my business and that can’t change for me. Why should I have to forfeit some of what I’ve worked for in order to make life more equal for others? I’m the one who provides jobs.” If your idea of is putting down the working class in order so that you can get by, while making faulty justifications for your actions; you’re severely out of touch with being of the working class. All we see from business owners is this peacocking of how much they care; they pay for some of the insurance, they give them raises, they sometimes throw a bone their way. Despite the fact that none of these raises or insurances would exist if not for the unions who have rallied for them. God forbid they have to take a pay cut themselves. In a country where the economic disparity is as deep as the Mariana Trench, we need to start changing what it means to be a business owner. Much like how the collective consciousness had to change in the advent of capitalism in order to understand it and to see it as a viable system away from the ills of feudalism, we too need to start adjusting our perspective of the now defunct capitalism. Also, instead of the proletariat being beholden to their employers, they need to see the vital function they serve and how much of a voice they can have in numbers.

 Another argument against minimum wage increases comes from a very antiquated view of the economic situation in the United States. It’s commonly believed that most of the minimum wage jobs are held by teenagers, and raising their wages would result in purchasing superfluous nonsense, not the bare necessities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has shown that an appalling amount of these workers are actually adults, with 49% of them being adult women, 20 years or older. So when we bring up the issue of raising the minimum wage, it isn’t something that’s just going into the pockets of teenagers. The minimum wage has to support a workforce who can’t make it into higher paying jobs, even with college education.  These wage increases can go to help out single mothers or mothers in a family who need to earn money to raise their children. Children who will eventually need to attain a higher education at one of our exuberantly priced universities. The notion that changing the minimum wage to $15 dollars only supports the impoverished minimum wage earners, is a farce and doesn’t account for the millions who presently make anything above the federal minimum wage. So by supporting these actions, it’s helping a large percentage of the workforce make it in a world where more than $10 an hour is required to get by.

 While I completely agree with a raise of the minimum wage out of the poverty like levels which they’re at now, I do feel there’s a problem with what to do after the wages are increased. With these victories comes more support for the socialist organizations which prove not through word, but through actions, that they’re the champion of the working class. It’s behavior like supporting strikers and supporting the plight of the working class (as we are the working class and students) which shows people what we really stand for. The Republicans and Democrats can harp on all day about how much they want to support different groups but their politicians are set apart in a different class than the collective of socialist movements which are comprised of the working class, rather than lead by politicians. We can’t build momentum here on this single issue and allow the support for socialism to simply wane afterwards. The establishment of a clear agenda or educating protesters is what should be done. There’s a clear picture being painted with these protests that a more livable standard isn’t attainable by the benevolence for the current administration, but through voicing our opinions en masse. If socialist organizations don’t take the initiative to keep the people unionized and banded together, this $15 minimum wage will only be another bandage on a sinking ship.


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