So today I’ve been thinking about the value of the work you do. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about all those posts and people out there that talk about how working at fast food or some other minimum wage job isn’t worth paying them more money. They give lots of excuses and platitudes, things like these…
“Get a better job if you want to make more money!”
“Go to college.”
“Well X job only pays this much, why do you think you deserve more?”
“Minimum wage was only meant to be for students and part time employees working at fast food places.”
Typical answers, all of them very poor for one reason or another. I would be glad to discuss those reasons elsewhere, but let’s tackle this from a different position.
How much would you charge somebody per hour to wait on them, cooking and bringing them their food, cleaning their dining area, their bathroom, taking out their garbage, doing all their dishes and making sure they are happy with everything? You have to be able to multi-task, spend up to 12 hours a day on your feet with a couple of 15 minute breaks and maybe a 1/2 hour lunch, too. Also, I know you just got off a ten hour shift and it’s 1am, but our other person called in sick and we need you back at 6 am to help. No overtime though, you’ll have to cut another shift short somewhere.
Also, there’s a couple of caveats. You have to smile and be happy all the time, you can’t confront or correct them no matter how rude or condescending they are. You can’t contradict them if they demand that you cook the food a certain way even if it isn’t possible, or that they want their drink “just so”. What’s more, if they don’t like what you’ve done, they may demand that they not pay you for that hour, or that you do it over for free?
What if they were allowed to treat you poorly, call you names and otherwise behave in manners that would get them thrown out of a typical home? But instead of them being the issue, you are the one that is disciplined?
How much would you charge if you needed the money because rent was due? Less than before? How much less would you charge because that’s the only job you can get right now, for whatever reason? How low will you go to survive?
Or, to put it another way, what’s the lowest amount of money, per hour, you’d be willing to charge somebody in order to be treated badly or thought of as a lower class of citizen or employee?
Do you have that number in your head? Good. Now here’s the bad news- I’m afraid I can’t pay you that much. I’ll have to start you here, instead. Don’t feel bad, we start everybody this low. It’s turns out there is a minimum amount of money we have to pay you if you have a verified pulse, or we would pay you less. But here’s what we are going to do. Every 6 months, we’ll evaluate your performance and offer you a “raise”. To be honest, we don’t really care about your performance, as such, you can work extremely hard or barely show up to your shift, it doesn’t really affect our offering. But, we’re going to offer you anywhere from $0.15-$0.25 more per hour! Probably. That’s a whole extra $300-$500 a year, assuming you work full time and don’t pay taxes. I know, don’t thank me, it will just embarrass us both. Besides, I love doing favors for people and I know you’re happy to just be here.
Too much BS, not enough money? The hours not quite what you hoped for? I can understand that. Sounds like a lot of work for very little reward.
And yet, what I’ve described to you is the typical minimum wage fast food job. But honestly, it’s not too different from customer service positions in general. The pay is not based on the difficulty or stress created by the position, or the skill and drive of the individual, it is mandated by how little the company is forced to pay.
“But Dan,” you say, “These jobs exist and pay what they do because anyone can do it. There’s no skill involved.”
Oh? I’ve had your cooking pal, and let me tell you, I’d rather go eat at a Wendy’s. And when’s the last time you cleaned your bathroom? Yes it’s your own home, but I know that empty toilet paper roll has been sitting there on the floor behind the toilet since at least last year’s Halloween party. While we’re at it, let’s talk about them people skills. You get angry just answering a spam call on your phone, how angry do you think you’d be after dealing with 500 people in one day, each with a different personality and set of expectations and most of them not even seeing you as a person?
But sure, no skills, no work ethic, minimum pay for a minimal job.
How much would you charge again?