Students Share Their Views on Minimum Wage

An original photo taken by Matthew Bonzi on March 12, 2021. (Signal photo/ Matthew Bonzi).

Most students must work while attending college, adding to the already stressful workload that is demanded of a college student. Jobs that are obtainable are often the ones that fit a student’s schedule and are typically offering pay around minimum wage. Those jobs can be highly demanding on their physical and mental health.

There are a range of different jobs students work while attending school. Wendy Andrade (junior, English) works two jobs, both part-time, and like many Stan State students, lives at home while attending school. Working as a conductor for Amtrak and a cashier at BevMo!, Andrade is compensated minimum wage. She sometimes works upwards of 40 hours in a given week. Andrade said, “The train job can be exhaustive due to long trips, and the cashier job can be tough due to customers, but they’re great jobs."

A similar view was expressed by Izzi Bechere (junior, English), who works as a baker and barista for a small Modesto café. “The most frequent emotion I can really pin down is mild irritation, purely from customer service.”

According to the CDC, retail jobs entail long periods on your feet and heavy lifting which can cause injuries to the lower back, legs, heart, and joints. The CDC has also attributed an increase of work fatigue issues to the recent spike in online retailers.

According to AP News, a charge led by Senator Bernie Sanders was brought to congress that, “unveiled $15 wage legislation this week with the backing of 37 Senate Democrats. His bill would gradually raise the wage to $15 over a period of five years. The federal minimum is $7.25 and has not been raised since 2009.”

It would be near impossible to live on the federal minimum wage of $7.25 in California, where according to California’s Department of Industrial Relations, the minimum wage is currently at $12.00 and will be at $15.00 by January 2023; a $3.00 increase set to be raised $1.00 each year.

There is concern over the effect a raise in the minimum wage will have on small family-owned businesses. “I do worry that smaller businesses cannot afford to pay their employees at this cost. Many of these family restaurants and coffee shops can barely afford to stay in business, especially now,” stated Andrade.

Inflated costs resulting from a minimum wage raise are also on the minds of students, “complications that come from a higher minimum wage is hearing people (ones that don’t work a minimum wage job or ever for that matter) complain about the price of a whopper going up,” explained Bechere, going on to say, “As far as complications that directly affect me and others, the cost of living usually climbs too. Not that it should, but the people in charge of that sort of thing seem to think that it’s protocol."

Although fast-food has shown an increase in sales, employees make the same wages. Do they deserve more money for their increased workload? Those within the system seem to agree that there needs to be more compensation made available for individuals within the service industry.

As Bechere stated, “The people that work these jobs are very often subjected to harsh physical labor and verbal abuse from customers. These jobs are mentally and physically exhausting and most often taken by younger people. You have young impressionable minds getting abused by unfair wages, managers that haven’t been given proper training, and customers that would sooner see you bleed than be inconvenienced by the ice cream machine being broken.”

Bechere adds, “I would rather be thrown into a tiger pit than work fast-food or retail, not because I think it’s beneath me or anyone else who works those positions, but because of the terrible conditions.”

Andrade had similar views on the subject. “I have worked in retail and fast food for seven years and counting, and can honestly say that none of us are paid enough. Many of us feel forced to go to work even if we are sick, in order to be considered for more hours or consistency on the schedule.... We constantly deal with customers who harass us, only to be brought down by our supervisors for not accommodating them. We work long hours, go through hectic holiday schedules, and feel guilty when we take days off. The raise in minimum wage is well-deserved."

Minimum wage and the need to earn a living continues to be a prominent source of stress in the lives of those who work in retail, food service, or other entry level job positions not mentioned. Many of these workers hope for a future where the balance is restored.

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