Opinion: Wage War

Updated: Apr 7, 2021

A minimum wage worker is given loose change by a large, floating hand
Image created by Samantha Corey

On Jan. 26, 2021, the Democrats reintroduced the Raise the Wage Act, which would increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour by 2025. However, considering the increase in the cost of living, as well as the effects of inflation, $15 an hour is no longer a truly sufficient, livable wage for most of the working class.

One of the conversations surrounding increasing the minimum wage is a question of entitlements or “handouts.” This is brought up instead of identifying the real issue, which is this: with the value of goods being produced by a worker per hour, to what degree should employers be prevented from undercompensating employees for their work?

When it comes down to it, all the wealth generated by companies and corporations is ultimately being produced by workers’ labor. According to the Economic Policy Institute, worker productivity is at record levels, but wages stopped increasing at the same rate as productivity in the ‘70s. The “handout'' that some are so desperately looking for are actually the stolen wages that have been taken from them — those who work — by those who don’t.

"The gap between productivity and a typical worker's compensation has increased dramatically since 1979"
Graph courtesy of the Economic Policy Institute

As someone who has had to work in various industries, typical minimum wage workers create far more value per hour than $7.25 or even $15. But as some may know, the law allows company heads to keep all but the tiniest pittance for themselves. It makes me question why the law is not changed regularly to ensure that workers keep enough of the value they have produced to live comfortably.

It's unfair that an employer or an investor should be able to live comfortably off of workers’ labor but the workers themselves are unable to. It's a cruel and, quite frankly, nonsensical position — it is simply theft. The fact that the law allows and even compels this theft doesn’t change that. Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour is insufficient; the minimum wage would now be more than $24 an hour if wages had kept up with productivity since the late ‘70s. $15 is a slap in the face to any person who has ever had to work a minimum wage job in order to survive.

By Sofia Gomez, Podcasting Director

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