By Crystal Whetstone, 9to5 member, Beavercreek, Ohio
I work two part-time jobs. I have student loan debt that I fear I will never be able to pay off. I can’t save for my future retirement, much less put money aside for an emergency. I stay with my parents who don’t charge me rent or expect money for groceries. Some weeks I work 50 hours or more. I don’t have children, but I would like to be able to actually spend some leisure time with my family and friends. It feels like all I do is work to TRY to make ends meet.
In one of my jobs, as a sales associate at a discount retailer, I make just above minimum wage. I earn $8.89 per hour. I have worked at this company for over 6 and 1/2 years. The highest raise I ever earned was only 25 cents! Of course, I need paid sick leave and I need more hours, but even working what little I do, raising the minimum wage would help me tremendously. I could afford to start saving money for the future. I could contribute more to my parents’ household, for groceries, electricity, etc. I could put more money toward paying off my student loan debt. I don’t know how others in my position of working for minimum wage (or just above) can make it with kids. You CAN’T make ends meet. You can’t live a healthy life. You can’t spend time with your children. Those of us earning minimum wage are trapped in a cycle of poverty because we’ll never be able to save enough money to get ahead.
Raise the minimum wage! We are WORTH the investment. $10.10 is better than $7.25, or the $8.89 that I make. Minimum wage has not kept up with inflation. I work hard. My co-workers work hard. We deserve to be able to live a decent life. I’m luckier than many I know since my parents can afford to help me out financially. If they didn’t, I’d be in a homeless shelter or I’d be bouncing around from friend to friend.
If we want to see our country prosper, everyone has to have a chance to succeed. This can happen by making an investment in those working in so-called “unskilled” labor. I’m not lazy. I’m not stupid. I’m not irresponsible. I want to contribute to society by making a difference in my workplace, in my community, and in my country. But I won’t ever have the opportunity if I make poverty wages. Give me a chance to put money aside in case I have an emergency. Give me a chance to save for my future retirement, so I don’t have to be 80 years old and still working. Give me the chance to live a healthy lifestyle, where I don’t have to work every day and thus never get to spend time with the people I love. I can’t get ahead in this world if I continue making so little. I can’t invest in my future when I earn so little.