If we, as a country, are unready to raise the national minimum wage overall, then why don’t we start by raising the minimum wage for essential workers?
"Essential workers" is a phrase that has been used very frequently lately. It refers to the workers of the world that are still physically going to work despite the COVID-19 pandemic. People like grocery store employees, nurses and doctors, even the attendant at a gas station, are all essential workers. These people are keeping the world moving. People will still need groceries, doctors, gas and countless other resources. And although our government has issued stimulus checks for most of the country, I feel as though essential workers specifically should get something more.
I am an essential worker myself, as a dishwasher at a retirement home. It may seem like I’m just asking for more money because I think having more money would be nice, but that’s not the whole story. There are plenty of people who would be very quick to give essential workers credit for going to work and helping the world along. I have a friend who is still working as a cashier at a grocery store, and he keeps a daily tally going of how many elderly people tell him that he’s a “hero”. Some of the residents at the retirement home tell me this as well. These compliments make me and my friends uncomfortable. All we are doing is going into work like normal, and besides, we don’t feel particularly heroic doing it.
The irony of all of this is that, according to Pew Research, more young people are willing to raise the minimum wage than older people. So, therefore, it is not far-fetched to say that the older people who are calling essential workers “heroes”, still don’t wish to pay them more. Recently, former copy editor Brooke Hill at The Alestle wrote an opinion article about raising the minimum wage overall, for all employees. While I agree with the article, I think it would be easier for some Americans to raise the wage for essential workers than it would be to raise all workers’ wages. Now, a flat federal minimum wage raise could come later, but for now, let’s deal with essential workers.
A common complaint against raising any minimum wage is that it will cause a national economic crisis. However, are we not already in one? And, additionally, this would not be all minimum wage jobs. Only those that we as a society have deemed “essential” should get this higher wage. It only makes sense that if we decide that certain jobs are integral to the nation’s life, shouldn’t the people who work those jobs gain something?
If you agree, the best and most logical solution would be to go to your respective congressman/senators, and tell them how you feel. However, in a world ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, this hardly seems like the biggest problem, so if any change comes, it would most likely be after all of this passes. But, there is something we can all do. Once this pandemic is over, do not forget what essential workers did. Even if essential workers don’t get any extra money from this, the best we can do is hold onto this newfound respect for minimum wage workers.