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The push for $15 an hour

College Students comment on the prospect of a higher minimum wage

By James Kail, Point Park News Service:

Casey McGaw, of Harrisburg, believes that Pennsylvania’s minimum wage is unlivable.

Justin Hill a Robert Morris University senior says that a raise from $7.25 an hour would stifle hard work in society and sets a bad example for those who earn raises.

Alaina Caldwell, another student, who works two jobs, said she feels working many hours to make up for low wages while in college can be unfair.

These are just some of the opinions surrounding the fight to increase wages for people earning minimum wage.

“We’re told to pull our own boots up but the employer steps on our hands and doesn’t allow us to pull them up,” said Jack Shea, president of the Allegheny County Labor Council.

In 2014, Pennsylvania House Rep. Patty Kim proposed a bill to raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour for all workers by 2018, and then 50 cents each year after until $15 an hour is met in 2024.  

Kim, of Dauphin County, believes companies should be held accountable for providing livable wages. The proposal has been shot down twice by House Republicans.

“We have people making $15,000 a year which is way too low, and we cannot wait for employers to realize that,” Kim said when asked about employers saying they would have to make job cuts. “The wage must be adjusted to inflation.”

Those against the bill include Rep. Republican Darryl Metcalfe.  Metcalfe has been serving in the house for 18 years, and defended his position on minimum wage, saying that.

For McGaw, 21, working at a McDonald’s at $7.25 was one of the worst experiences of her life.  In the span of six months, five of her paychecks bounced because her boss never got the bank fees back that she had to pay.  

“Thank God I didn’t have many bills to pay, but for others, this was a huge problem. The owner could afford lavish vacations and new cars, but couldn’t afford to continuously fund his employees,” she said.

Hill, 22, believes that working a lot of hours while in college can be tough, but can be done if people put their minds to it.

“I currently rent out an apartment for $650 a month plus an extra $200 for utilities while taking seven classes a semester, working a minimum of 55-60 hours a week,” Hill said.

He added that he gets no financial support from his family and that he is fine living independent and getting the bills paid.  

“If people can’t make it work even without taking the classes that I do now, then that’s entirely on them,” he said.

Caldwell is a junior at Point Park University who works both at the Registrar’s office during the day and at the PPG Ice Rink for the evening.

“The rink hours are very late and sometimes I don’t get done until 2 a.m.,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell said these were not the only bad experiences she has had working at low paying jobs. Before applying at the rink, she worked at GetGo but had to quit due to classes and a disrespectful workplace.

“They all thought because they worked there longer than me they didn’t have to clean, make cookies, literally do their job at all,” Caldwell said.  “It wasn’t worth it for the money I was making.”

Retail giant Target recently came out as one of few retail stores to raise wages, and are currently paying a competitive $11 an hour to all employees.  

Target’s Senior Communications Manager Jenna Reck said it’s  all about investing in our team to have the best workers possible.

“We recently announced an increase to our minimum wage, with a commitment to get to a $15 minimum wage by the end of 2020 because we value our staff and want to promote a great working environment,” Reck said.

Rival Wal-Mart pays $10 an hour to all workers, as of 2016. The megastore has not announced any future plans for a $15 minimum wage initiative.  

According to a CNBC article by Christine Owens, Wal-Mart is the largest private employer in the U.S.  

“It’s a hugely profitable one: it generated $482 billion in revenue in fiscal year 2016.  The company simply cannot justify its meager pay practices,” Owens wrote.

Jack Shea, who has fought 50 years against companies not paying enough believes that the fight cannot stop until companies take workers seriously.  With more people speaking out on a $15 minimum wage proposal, it might be enough to get employers to sit down at a bargaining table.  

“We want to get them to sit down and discuss it.  They don’t have to get everything asked for but there needs to be a willingness to hear us out,” Shea said.  


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