Editor’s note: Osa Hale is a Western Washington University intern for our opinion section this summer.
At $9.19 an hour, Washington’s minimum wage is the highest in the nation. The Evergreen State is also fairly wealthy; its per-capita personal income is 12th out of all the states. Yet Seattle is seeing a surge of workers demanding a higher minimum wage: $15 is the popular number among unhappy airport and fast-food workers. (Here is a Seattle Times news story about airport workers and blog post by business news columnist Jon Talton about fast-food workers.) We are also seeing Mayor Mike McGinn take up the living wage fight with Whole Foods, according to this column by news columnist Danny Westneat, in an attempt to set a precedent in connecting use of public land to unions and wages.
This is not an isolated situation. President Barack Obama has been advocating a federal increase in minimum wage, saying it’s a priority for successful businesses to pass on their financial success to their employees.
This is something that should be addressed sooner, rather than later. Consider the big ugly financial monster facing many minimum-wage-earners: student loans.
Let’s focus on fast food. The median age of food preparation and serving workers (including fast food) is about 29 years old, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. When I think of where I want to be at 29, flipping burgers isn’t on the list. But for many, it’s a reality.
Despite a rising number of young people enrolling in secondary education (between 2000 and 2010, enrollment in degree-granting institutions increased 37 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics), fewer graduates are finding work in the field they earned a degree to enter, and nearly half of employed college grads are working jobs that do not require a college degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
I’d like to pause and dispel a myth of the lazy college grad, living with his or her parents and working as a waitress or fry cook because it’s easy.More