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Interview with minimum wage worker as minimum wage debate captures the nation

By Skyler Sauer

Staff Writer

Minimum wage affects many individuals and communities, so, in an effort to explore such effects and to understand the experience of minimum wage workers, here is a summarization of an interview with Summit Denali junior Ella Chen.

Chen explained her situation through the interview when asked how exactly the difference between the federal and local minimum wages, $7.50 and $15 respectively, affect her experience. “I’m not in a situation where I need more money right now,” she said. 

She continued, saying that “my family is very financially stable, so I would not be affected that much by a lowered minimum wage.”

In contrast, she explained how the local minimum allowed her to “save [more] money for college and spend money on things that make me happy.” So for her situation, the extra $7.50 is not required to survive but it does allow her to plan for her future and participate in the economy today.

As Democrats plan to put the $15 minimum wage on the new COVID-19 relief bill, I asked Chen how the coronavirus has affected her working environment. She had this to say: “Almost every day I work, customers don’t stay 6 feet apart, they pull their masks down to talk or listen…I constantly have to remind them to follow regulations even though…they are adults.” She continued, saying that the coronavirus has forced her to do more work to make sure she and the customers stay safe every day.

Recently, as a $15 minimum wage is floated in Congress, some people have expressed the view that “burger flippers” should not make more than the current federal minimum wage. Chen expressed her view on this saying that, “The jobs of minimum wage workers are essential to jobs everywhere and it’s horrible to demean people and their jobs just because it required less education to do.” She goes on to explain that large corporations need these workers to continue to function. 

She also said that “policymakers don’t have any idea what it’s like to be a minimum wage worker and to be born into the lower class.” 

She continued: “They have not experienced [poverty] firsthand.” She explains that the divide between policymakers and their constituents has grown and those policymakers do not understand nor represent those of a lower class.

Chen also expressed the importance of increasing the minimum wage according to inflation when she said that “if expenses are rising due to inflation but wages aren’t, it will be harder and harder to afford basic necessities.” 

The minimum wage has not increased since 2009 despite years of inflation. Chen’s ideas about inflation are supported by the facts.

Minimum wage workers believe they deserve compensation for their work which is essential to society. Many policymakers tend to believe otherwise. It is important to understand why these workers might deserve increased compensation and what that would mean for society as a whole.

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