Can’t survive on seven and twenty-five


Target is raising their employees’ wages to $15 per hour by 2020 in Chicago. Yet, the federal minimum wage is still seven dollars with twenty-five cents. By: Mike Mozart

Hailey G. Boyle, Arts and Life Editor

Anyone who worked in retail will tell you that it is a nightmare.

The long hours, the mind-numbing tasks, the interactions with customers that are a punishment from Hell, and all for a chicken-feed of a paycheck.

Target recently announced t it will raise its minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020.

In a recent Forbes article, Target’s Pay Raise Is Proof That ‘Fight For $15’ is Unnecessary, contributing writer Michael Saltsman argues that because of this announcement, “wages [should] rise in a free economy–by choice, not by government mandate.”

The Fight for $15 is a movement being led by fast-food workers and other minimum wage employees to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour.

A few states, including New York, California and Chicago, and several companies like Target and Ben & Jerry’s, have elected to raise their minimum wage independently.

Now, I’m no economist, but here’s why he’s wrong.

I started working at a retail pharmacy when the minimum wage in Chicago was $8.25 per hour, it is now at $11 per hour.

The number of times I have cleaned vomit and poo, real human poo, is sadly too many to count. I worked in retail for over three years, and I can promise you that I’ve turned to a co-worker and said, “we’re not paid enough for this” at least once a shift.

While a few cities and states have started raising their minimum wage, that doesn’t mean the fight stops.

When same-sex marriage was legalized in Massachusetts and Connecticut, did the LGBT say, “Well, it’s legal in some places, might as well stop here?”

No! We pushed and pushed until the Supreme Court made it legal across the country. Supporters kept their cause going, as we should with the Fight for $15.     

As strikes spread across the country, it is important to stay up to date on how to support the cause for fair pay. Visit to stay up to date for strikes, protests, and rallies.

I’m so sick and tired of the talking heads saying that these jobs are entry-level positions that don’t deserve higher pay or Saltsman’s argument that “not all job seekers have the skills to justify that higher wage.”

The myth that the workers filling these jobs are 16-year-olds who are bored after school and earning extra spending money needs to stop.

The average worker in one of these jobs is a 35-year-old college graduate, with children who are earning half of their family’s total income.

Now let’s assume you’re working for the minimum wage and only supporting yourself. Assuming you’re working 30 hours per week (the average for minimum wage workers) and you’re working 52 weeks per year, before taxes, you’re earning $11,310.

The federal poverty line is $12,060. Only 21 states require paying the federal minimum, according to the Department of Labor’s website.

The current federal minimum wage is not a livable wage.

Peter Van Buren wrote in his article, You Can’t Earn a Living on the Minimum Wage in the Huffington Post last year, “it seems wrong in a society as wealthy as ours that a person working full-time can’t get above the poverty line.”

Wages have not increased in eight years. Eight years! In 1968, the minimum wage was a whopping $1.60.  

Let’s do some more math and adjust for inflation. That $1.60 is now $11. Had minimum wage risen with the cost of living, you’d be earning $17,160 before taxes. Better, but still not there.

Let’s not forget our friends who work for tips.

Fun fact: did you know that legally, employers can pay tipped workers less than the minimum wage? Meaning your waiters and pizza delivery drivers are making about $2.13 per hour.

That is not a joke I made up for this article. You want to become a waitress and pray that a customer left you a decent tip so that your lights stay on this month?

Tipping is a highly outdated system that honestly is a rant for another day, but should the Fight for $15 succeed, these workers will benefit, too. While they would still make less than their retail counterparts, the boost in their paycheck might just be enough to get them above that lovely poverty line.

Saltsman wants to argue that “not all job seekers have the skills to justify that higher wage?” This isn’t rocket science! Very few of these jobs require skills beyond saying, “would you like fries with that?” and sadly, more-often-than-not, cleaning up human waste.

Target is just one of the companies recognizing that these jobs are the thankless jobs that nobody wants to do and the compensation is not worth it. Yet the working poor doesn’t have the luxury of being a contributing writer for Forbes magazine.