(The following is a post I made last year. Its a very bare bones life experience, but I figured it would be a good fit here.)
“Fuck your living wage!” There, I said it. Why am I saying it? Because I’m an asshole, sure. But I do have a personal reason:
I spent 6 months at my first job as a supermarket clerk making $6.96/hr. working the longest schedules in between college, doing all the grunt work and paying a union half my check to do basically nothing. I worked as a baggage handler at an airport making $9/hr. to escape my first job, only to be fired with no explanation 6 months later. After a few months of unemployment I spent the next few selling knives on commission and doing handyman jobs for friends and family. After I finished college and got my aircraft maintenance certification, I hung out with some people that did stupid things and ended up with a record, but still landed a job assembling helicopter parts for a local company making $17/hr. I managed to last there 6 months before the recession hit, and half the factory was laid off.
I spent the next 4 months looking for work at literally any job that was hiring, until I finally got a job with a contracting crew installing fiber optic cables. That lasted a few months before that job dried up and I was unemployed again. I knew, with my record, I couldn’t apply to a normal job, so after another couple of unsuccessful months trying to sell knives again, I tried my hand at working for myself, first with personal training, then expanding to bike repair. Between both of those, working as a caretaker for my grandmother, and as a extra hand for a plumber, I made enough to get by, but I realized I would never make a good enough living in L.A. to move out, so I made several plans to leave the city. After clearing up my record and two unsuccessful attempts to move out of state, I finally settled with moving to a mountain resort area, with a partner, a job set up, and a lot of help from my family.
I spent the next 6 months working at the local ski resort for $9.80/hr., and the following summer working at the local bar restaurant for minimum wage plus tips. When the drought hit that year, it left most of the area either without jobs or barely any working hours. I was lucky enough to pick up side work helping a local fix up her house, and made plans to move again, this time out of state. So after the summer and fall working and saving as much as I could (with the last month living in my car in freezing temperatures) , I set up plans to stay with my dad, start working as a bike courier, and move into an apartment.
Things didn’t go quite as planned. The job I had fell through, and the apartment didn’t take my application because I was too new to the state, a fact that ended up with me sleeping on a couch for the next 5 months. After a month I ended up getting a seasonal job with a delivery company as a driver helper making minimum wage, which only lasted until Christmas. After New Years I started working at a warehouse 11 miles away by bike (my car wasn’t safe to drive at the time) for $10/hr. unloading boxes. After a few months of this, I saw an ad for a delivery driver, where the requirements were that you had to have a smart phone and a working car. After I made the investment into getting a smart phone and my car into working shape I went for it, and it has paid off tremendously, enough that I was able to quit my warehouse job, move off my dad’s couch into my own place, and actually start planning a better future for myself.
The point is this: I spent the past 10 years constantly switching from employed to jobless, having enough to happily get by versus barely able to take care of myself. When living situations got bad enough where I was, I planned moving 5 times, succeeding twice. When plans and jobs fell through, I went for new one, better opportunities, and even created my own. I had help along the way, but I always made every effort to get by on my own resources. I’ve been prepared to work for minimum if I had to, but never planned on staying there, so it never meant much to me. Whether I was at by highest or lowest, I always kept my sights higher than where I was.
Now I look at a lot of people today that work at minimum wage jobs, shitty places, with uncaring management and terrible working conditions, much like I did for most of my adult life. Except these people are asking for a “living wage”.
Meaning instead of working their way up the ladder, they’re asking to live at the bottom of it. Instead of learning how to make themselves worth more than they are now, they’re asking to be paid so that, unlike everyone else, they don’t have to. They want the same hourly wage that people have gone to school for, worked their way up the chain of a business, busted their asses to get. After spending the better part of a decade fighting to get closer to the top, can you really expect me to sympathize with those fighting to stay at the bottom?
Honestly, if that’s you, Fuck you. You don’t deserve to be paid a “living wage”, because, truth be told, you’re not worth it. Whether you believe it or not, you get paid exactly what you are worth, and if your job is one anybody can do, you’re paid what anybody else would be paid. If your response to that is “Give me more money because I can’t make a living doing this.”, you don’t deserve to make a living, at least the one you have in mind. That might sound harsh, but I can almost guarantee that if someone like me, who worked for minimim wage and sometimes even less, feels this way, just about everyone else who earns a living wage today does too. Why should you get paid what everyone else works for? If I had to bust my ass learning new skills, getting experience and moving to different places to make a living wage of my own, why should yours be handed to you?
Call me an asshole, but if you can’t even get a promotion or raise past the minimum, you either work for the wrong place or you’re too unskilled to go any farther; in either case, if you’re staying there, you’re getting what you deserve. And the only person that can change that is you. Make yourself worth $15 an hour. Hell, shoot for more! Why would you settle for less? Aren’t you better than that? I happen to think most people are, or can be. If you are, go for it! If not, if you think that the best you’ll ever do is minimum wage work,that’s fine too; we do need people like you. Just don’t ask the rest of us to raise the bar for you, when you couldn’t even bother to raise it for yourself.
(For legal purposes, I was asked to edit and post this for someone. They wanted their story known.)