The many struggles of working a minimum wage job

photo+via+Mother+Jones
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The many struggles of working a minimum wage job

photo via Mother Jones

photo via Mother Jones

photo via Mother Jones

photo via Mother Jones

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My alarm blared bright and early every summer weekday at 6:15 AM. Bleary-eyed, I’d stumble out of bed, brush my teeth and throw on my work uniform. I’d shout a goodbye over my shoulder on my way out the door, aimed at whoever happened to be awake. I was in the car and on the road by 6:45, praying for light traffic. As soon as the clock struck seven, work began. Lettuce had to be chopped, salads had to be made and tomatoes were waiting to be diced. 

 

Time waits for no man, and neither does the bane of many a high school student: the minimum wage job. 

 

Last April, my mom told me that I was not allowed to sit around the house all summer and needed to find a more productive use of time. Thus, the idea of a job came to mind. At least I’ll get paid, my brain reasoned. After I applied to a few places online, a fast food restaurant ten minutes away was the first to call me back. I drove over for an interview and met the general manager. After a short conversation, she asked about my availability. 

 

I had successfully completed my first job interview and received an offer. Out of naivety, I was excited.

 

My first shift started a few days later. After a fellow employee trained me on the register for all of ten minutes, I was left to my own devices. During the dinner rush, there was no room for error, and I learned the ropes quickly from high-pressure experience. 

 

Unfortunately, another necessary component of a minimum wage job is interacting with customers. While some patrons are kind and gentle when seeing a high school student behind the counter, others seem to view this as a personal affront. I vividly remember interactions where people have been downright rude, even when I’d go out of my way to help them. 

 

When ordering in the drive-thru, customers are unable to put a face to the voice coming through the speaker, and see this as a challenge. One customer who ordered at my workplace asked me to please not interrupt them when I tried to ask a question. Many others snap, taking bad days out on us employees and spreading their infectiously angry moods. 

 

While dealing with impatient patrons is one of the notable downsides to a minimum wage job, the lack of compensation is also worth a mention. Many people, myself included, believe minimum wage should be raised. Bernie Sanders, a democratic contender for candidacy in the 2020 presidential election, is a national proponent of this. According to dol.gov, the minimum wage in Ohio for 2019 was $8.55 an hour. Sanders’ platform calls for a radical adjustment, raising the federal minimum wage to $15.00 an hour. This increase would benefit many, especially the working poor who toil to support a household.

 

Many people who work minimum wage jobs as a way to provide income for dependents would appreciate this increase. Since I have two parents with stable jobs, I don’t work out of utter necessity, but many don’t have this luxury. 

 

If they don’t have the means to hold a high-paying job, parents trying to provide a life for their kids must work grueling hours and accept whatever salary they’re given. This encourages the exploitation of workers, who are forced to work for longer periods of time in order to make enough to cover rent and utilities. Increased stress is an inevitable byproduct, which could be avoided if minimum wage was increased.

 

Next time you go to a fast food restaurant, remember: be kind to the employees. In all probability, they are harried and stressed out, getting paid much less than their worth suggests. Be respectful of their situation, and put yourself in their shoes. Generosity and respect are never wasted.