“I have a better idea — why don’t you start valuing my time as highly as you value yours?
The most underpaid workers are often the ones you’d miss if they weren’t there. Restaurant cooks and servers, clerks in stores, the people who clean your house or mow your lawn or take care of your kids or of you when you’re old or sick. We do the things you can’t do, or won’t do, because you’re doing other things. I’m not saying you should stop doing those other things. Those things you’re doing are good things, possibly great things, hopefully wonderful things!
I understand that there are some skills that are rarer or more necessary or valuable than others. But not only is my time and labor not as highly valued as yours, it’s legal to deliberately keep me in poverty. And yes, every time an employer hires anyone at less than a living wage, or at part-time hours, it is a deliberate choice. Employers make it because they can, because they can get away with it. Because it’s legal to pay a wage that I can’t live on even working 40 hours a week. It’s legal to use scheduling software to justify cutting hours to 20 a week. To pay certain employees half of the minimum wage and expect patrons to make up for it with tips.
It’s legal to jigger schedules so that employees must make last-minute arrangements for child care or transportation. It’s legal to force employees to either cancel plans or lose their jobs. Once upon a time, it was possible to work a day job and a night job. But when you never know when you’re going to work for even one job, it’s virtually impossible to hold down two unless you have some sort of skill you can freelance. Add the realities of child care, transportation, and communication into the mix, and most low-income workers can forget it.”
—Christine Gilbert, “I get food stamps, and I’m not ashamed—I’m angry”