Controversy over minimum wage

By Raquel Luster,

In theory, every job should provide its workers with a wage that is livable, also known as a living wage. When it comes to the tipped service industry, a lot of questions are unknown and a lot of generalizations are made.

It’s not difficult to picture the hardworking server that brings your favorite dish to the table. The work goes far beyond coke refills and menu knowledge. Their hours are long and tiring, and sometimes their smiles fade. These conditions are not exclusive to the food industry, but there is something that makes this line of work unique even ancient –the pay.

The story starts 23 years ago. The Huffington Post writes, The $2.13 minimum wage was originally set in 1991 and chairman Herman Cain of the National Restaurant Association advocated for the tipped minimum wage to be separated from the minimum wage increase of that time. This wage expectation is expired and desperately needs an update.

This move has had lasting effects on the industry and even changed some viewpoints. "I don’t think anyone knew at that point that it was a permanent deal. As these things happen ... they become ingrained. They succeeded in creating this second-class wage system, and people accepted it as the way it's always been,” Jen Kern said. She is the minimum wage campaign coordinator at the National Employment Law Project, which specializes in advocating for low-wage workers.

Kern understands the situation at hand and fights for these workers. And, when bread is $1 and gas is cheaper than a cheese quesadilla at Taco Bell, then the tipped minimum wage will be valid. But, it’s time to raise the bar and catch up to the times.

The new minimum wage legislation could be the golden ticket to this disaster of a problem. I’m sure the workers would agree that it’s time for a change. Here is a look at the possible effects.

According to the Los Angeles Times:

1. 16.5 million workers would see a wage increase
2. Family incomes below the poverty line would see a combined $5 billion increase, and $12 billion for those making less than 3x the poverty level
3. Approximately 900,000 people would be out of poverty
4. 500,000 workers could be unemployed

These results could increase the value of life for so many Americans. It’s really that simple. The power to decrease the number of people affected by poverty and, in turn, take them off of government assistance programs is within grasp. That’s a win for budget and for wallets.

To challenge the unemployment figure and add shine to the prize, California has already started a test model and found incredible results. The book When Mandates Work compiles research from a 15-year experiment in San Francisco that illustrates “laws that successfully raised wages and improved benefits for tens of thousands of workers, without hurting employment.”

The book also further describes an increase in benefits, health care access, and paid sick leave for these low-wage workers. The research completely disputes what critics constantly say about the issue. Interesting.

It is important to look at both sides of this argument about unemployment, but here is great evidence to show that theory and application might differ. The theory is that lots of people will no longer be employed because paying these workers what they are owed in services would upset the balance of the economy and of businesses. It won’t.

Politically, we all have our rights. We can vote or not vote, but don’t center important decisions on one or two articles, personal opinions, or campaign propaganda. Base law changing decisions on facts and research from opposing sides, after all, the consequences affect lives.

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