Confessions of a Minimum Wage Worker
Image Credits: iStockPhoto
I have a confession to make. I am a college student who works a minimum wage job, and I do not agree with those demanding a $15/hr minimum wage.
It sounds like I’m crazy, right? I’m not. I have spent the past two and a half years working in the QSR (Quick Service Restaurant) business during my college breaks. I was hired at minimum wage and I currently make $7.75/hr with an overtime pay of $11.63/hr. I use this money to pay for my living expenses while I’m at school and anything else I need or want. Because I don’t work much during the school year, I use my breaks to make up for it by working between 45 and 50 hours a week. I don’t think I deserve $15/hr for the work that I do. To ward off anyone who thinks that I have it easy, I just want to put this out there. I work the late night shift closing the store. I work until 4, sometimes 5 in the morning. I have scrubbed the grill, filtered fry oil, cleaned public bathrooms and completed many other tasks that are unpleasant to say the least. I live the worst parts of the fast food industry every single day and I’m still not going to complain about the bottom line on my paycheck at the end of the week.
This job doesn’t demand a high school diploma, college education or even a drug test for goodness sakes. I have learned that if someone is yelling “lechuga!” at me, I probably forgot to put lettuce on the burger because speaking English isn’t a requirement, either. There are x-ray technicians out there making $15/hr to tell you whether or not you have a tumor – why would I deserve that much just to tell you that the original chicken sandwich comes with mayo, lettuce, tomato, and honey mustard? It doesn’t add up. At the end of the day, my job could disappear and the world wouldn’t be affected. Almost all of our store could be computerized and everything would still carry on as usual.
Don’t get me wrong, I would absolutely love to make $15/hr but I also would have loved to win that powerball money even though I didn’t buy a ticket – it’s just not possible. I want to set the record straight on something else: the majority of my coworkers are high school or college students, all working this job as a way to help pay for food, clothes, and their prom dress. In fact, my manager is struggling to find day time help while high school is in session. Almost all of my coworkers are planning on finding a steady and higher level job once they finish school. That is what the QSR business is meant for – it’s an entry level job that requires no experience or previous training. We aren’t performing operations or making life changing discoveries – we’re flipping burgers and selling them for $2.79 each – $3.19 if you want cheese.
Those whom I work with that are not currently in school are all training to become or already are managers and they make a salary that can support a family. My general manager is 22 years old, never went to college, and is on track to make six figures before he retires. Nothing in this world is more frustrating to me than hearing the argument that fast food employees cannot support themselves or their families. If you are a hard worker who works well with others, you will be promoted, and you will make a respectable salary. What makes this even better is that out of all the managers and coworkers I have gotten to know in the past two and a half years, very few of them have been fiscal liberals. I have never worked with a manager that was an outspoken liberal in my life. The left panders for votes by fighting for outrageous wages but we’re not buying it.
My coworkers and I all know that a $15 minimum wage would put us out of business. During Christmas break, the majority of my high school age coworkers worked about 40 hours/week. With a $15 wage, that gives them a $600 paycheck before taxes weekly. I worked 53 hours last week meaning that my check would have been $892 for one week of working fast food. It’s outrageous. Honestly, I didn’t do anything last week that I could see being worth a paycheck that big. I am a hard worker and I do my very best at my job, but at the end of the day, fast food simply isn’t that valuable. The inflation that would result from this minimum wage hike would be monstrous. I’m sure that no one wants to pay $7 for their fast food burger, and I don’t think any soccer mom would be happy if the QSR business went under, so why push for something that would do just that?
Working in fast food isn’t a walk in the park but it definitely has given me so much more than just a weekly paycheck. Work has given me lifelong friends that, over time, became my second family and my biggest confidants. I have had more life talks, debates, and heart-to-hearts over a pile of dishes at two in the morning than anywhere else. My job has taught me grace. I’ve learned respect and the value in holding my tongue, even when I want nothing more than to unleash a world of sass on a customer that is being beyond rude. I have learned to be fast. I can move like no one’s business under pressure thanks to the timers that constantly remind me how long the last car had to wait at my drive thru window. Most importantly, my job constantly reminds me of why I am going to college. It gives me the strength to persevere on the hardest days because I know that I don’t want to work in the QSR business for the rest of my life.
No, I don’t deserve a $15 wage – nor does anyone just starting out without any experience or a college education. It sounds incredible, sure, but it isn’t feasible. I’m not a privileged rich Republican, speaking from the soap box that my daddy bought for me – I work this job every day. I bought my own soap box. I do the same type of work that the protesters all do. I’ve been there and I know without a doubt that an increase in minimum wage wouldn’t cost the rich and successful a dime, it would cost us all our jobs.
Lauren is one of our managing editors here at Future Female Leaders. When she is not editing FFL articles, you can find her color coding her whole life in her Lilly Pulitzer agenda. She's a southern girl who loves Hokie football and isn't afraid to be politically incorrect, so consider this your trigger warning.
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