Not Just Flipping Burgers

When people discuss raising the minimum wage some argue that people should not be paid more for “just flipping burgers.” Often their image of a low wage job is something they consider easy, and they don’t really think about all of the awful parts of those jobs. They imagine “flipping burgers” to be like cooking a meal in their own kitchen, not an 8 hour shift on their feet in a hot kitchen. They don’t imagine hauling out big bags of greasy dripping trash to a dumpster several times a day. They don’t know that you have to smack that dumpster a few times before opening it, or you’ll end up with a rat jumping out at you. They don’t think of the manager who keeps cutting their hours, and thus their pay, every time things slow down.

Those who disparage low wage workers don’t know about the aspects of those jobs that never appear on the job descriptions. They don’t know about the hotel housekeepers who are constantly sexually harassed by guests. They don’t know that the night auditor at that same hotel has to try to get the passed out drunk guest up off the hallway floor almost every night. They never realize that the cashier at the grocery store has to listen to that guy with no boundaries tell his entire life story every week, and she has to smile while he does it and look like she cares the whole time because her boss is watching.

They don’t have to hear “I guess it’s free then!” every single time an item doesn’t scan. Every time. All day. All week. All year. They don’t have to try desperately not to scream in the face of the next person who says it, and laugh like the joke is clever.

The person who says “minimum wage is supposed to be for high school students and low-skill workers” doesn’t understand the skill it takes to carefully de-escalate the customer who throws a full-blast tantrum because he has just been told “no.” They do not recognize the problem solving skills required to calculate the fastest way to get from your second work shift of the day to the daycare center to pick up your kid on time.

They think that because a job doesn’t require a college degree it doesn’t require skills, because they don’t recognize the things these employees do as skills. They believe the work is easy because if they see these jobs at all they only see a few moments of a long shift in a long week.

All work should be paid a living wage, because after fighting off rats in the alley the burger flipper should get to have a good meal too.

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Not Just Flipping Burgers

2 thoughts on “Not Just Flipping Burgers

  1. 1

    I think the problem is that people have come to see a job (and therefore money) as a privilege and not a right. How they square that with trying to prevent poverty in third-world countries I don’t know, but there seems to be some compartmentalisation going on by refusing to accept that the human right to feed oneself is inextricably linked to having a job – more importantly, a job that actually pays enough to cover basic costs of living.

  2. 2

    Also, many low-paid jobs provide the absolutely necessary underpinnings of our lives. The trash has to be collected, goods have to be transferred from A to B, dirty stuff has to be cleaned, cheap clothing has to be made, animals killed and processed, the list is endless.

    Those who turn up their noses at these jobs and the people doing them are usually the first to scream blue murder if something of the above fails to materialise or hasn’t been done to *their* satisfaction.

    Not convinced it’s because they don’t know enough about how the world works, but suspect it’s more entitlement, disregard for the humanity of others and unwillingness to share any of our common burden.

    Everyone should be able to afford a dignified life with the resources we now have.

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