Minimum wage unforgiving to the working class

As Sonoma State begins another semester, there will be a number of students working part time jobs while they attend school. Among these working individuals there is a large population of students who are not happy working jobs that pay minimum wage. 

Whether it’s working in fast food or retail they may have a smile on their face, but behind that smile many of these people are struggling to limit the debt they incur while trying to attain their educational goals.

 As a retail worker of five years, I’ve learned that it is very difficult to pay the expenses to reach those goals. The starting pay in my retail job began at “The State of California Minimum Wage” of $8.00. After 4 years I was at $9.00 with my raises.

 After being promoted to Supervisor and a raise to $10.50 it became increasingly difficult with more duties and responsibility. I constantly had to train new people that only left months later while trying to lead an inexperienced understaffed group to complete unattainable goals.  

The minimum wage is not only unfortunate for the workers, but it has a direct negative impact on the businesses as well. As a retail worker I have witnessed a large percentage of employee turnovers in my industry. When a company offers minimum wage they receive the minimum amount of service from their employees.

As a result employees become more inclined to work for just a paycheck rather than having pride in their work. A business’s brand image is directly influenced by the employees that represent them. 

If those employees that represent them feel unappreciated and underpaid, their lack of enthusiasm is clearly visible to the customer. 

Many top level business executives like former McDonalds CEO Ed Rensi have said when asked about an increase in the minimum wage claimed that it would “absolutely kill jobs.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to a McDonalds and received inadequate service.

And for this I do not blame that on the employees. I blame it on the fact that if you constantly have people coming and quitting jobs within months to a year, there’s never an opportunity for a group of employees to develop together to work more efficiently.

On the other hand, Costco CEO and President Craig Jelinek has come out in support of a minimum wage increase. “At Costco, we know that paying employees good wages makes good sense for business…..We pay a starting hourly wage of $11.50 in all states where we do business, and we are still able to keep our overhead costs low….An important reason for the success of Costco’s business model is the attraction and retention of great employees,” said Jelinek.

Jelinek added, “Instead of minimizing wages, we know it’s a lot more profitable in the long term to minimize employee turnover and maximize employee productivity, commitment and loyalty. We support efforts to increase the federal minimum wage.

 I cannot recall ever receiving poor service while shopping at Costco. As a worker and ardent observer of the retail industry, it is not difficult to see that the most successful businesses have employees that feel appreciated and adequately compensated for the work that they do.