Minimum wage isn’t very progressive

Hailey Brune – Opinion Columnist

We present ourselves as a progressive campus, but are we actually? There are probably a few things that come to mind when you catch a whiff of this suggestion at Gustavus. One thing that’s always stuck out to me is the wages. We get paid $10.08 for most campus and work study jobs, with the minimum wage in Minnesota currently being $10.08, until January where it’ll be raised to $10.33. Our highest paying jobs on campus offer around $12. By now I assume we’re all fed up with capitalism. As a generation, most of us are fairly against the mentality of ‘work till you drop.’ We know very well that hard work doesn’t provide financial stability anymore. In many other countries the wages are higher and the hours shorter. Working shorter hours a day is better for productivity and leads to less stress.
I’ve worked at Walmart for two years and they pay $13-$16. Now, I didn’t hate my job there, but Walmart is literally the epitome of capitalism and big business abusing their workers for extra profit. They overwork you, make you feel bad if you don’t work extra hours, keep the employees in each area short, and underpay for the amount of work you have to do. Then they keep you as a part time employee so they don’t have to pay you bonuses until you catch them two or three times.
So, I guess what my question is, why is our campus paying us less than Walmart? They pay us less than one of the most morally corrupt businesses I know, other than Amazon. Places like Walmart get away with it because nobody expects them to have good morals to any extent, but Gustavus claims to have those morals. The expenses of almost everything has risen dramatically since the Great Recession and the wages haven’t inflated with them. American wages in general have risen so little while expenses skyrocket that most of the middle class has been erased and gone into low class. We have high standards for our school, we have a basic understanding of economics and inflation in our country. Yet our school is happily going alone with the unfair payment of their employees, and using the deflation of wages to their advantage. I thought we were supposed to help stop the mistreatment and underpayment of employees as educated individuals.
Minimum wage was created to stop businesses from taking advantage of their employees. To make sure that they were paying them at all, and not just stealing their time and work. Minimum wage then became a tool for big businesses to underpay their workers, but legally. It’s a standard wage for places who would underpay if they legally could. In America minimum wage isn’t enough for most people to live on, let alone live comfortably on. Sure a lot of campus jobs would be considered “unskilled”, but that doesn’t stop them from being important. If there weren’t students to underpay for the jobs they would have to hire more adults to work in those areas. Adults that would probably want more than minimum wage to do it too. If they were working here as their main source of income they would expect raises every year or so like other standard jobs as well. Students don’t get raises for their campus work. Maybe the college is trying to teach us what a dead end job is like. It’s hard to say, though.
The thing that frustrates me the most about our wages is work study. I remember being a freshman and trying to fit in twenty hours every week in order to earn enough. It’s sometimes manageable, but it’s not easy. It can also be hard to get that many hours a week depending on what your work study is. Especially with classes, all the big changes as a student, and resume activities. Last month I was obsessing over how little work I was able to fit in a week. Sure, I work four jobs, but I still only bring in around $400 a month with 10-15 hour weeks. I’m a biology-pre med major, so I have a lot of long days. Hours of being in labs, lectures, tutoring, hours of homework and studying.
While I was stressing about money, I ran across something on the Gustavus website. It was a little chart saying how many hours a week you should work based on your work study award in 2019-2020, the wage was $9.86 at the time. As you would assume, the higher work study award the more hours you should work. For a work study of $3,000, ten hours a week is suggested to earn your full amount. For somebody with an award of $4,000 it would be around 12 or so hours. When I saw this it made me feel even more stressed. Work study is given based on need, so the answer to having less money is to overwork yourself. Most of my week I don’t get done with classes till almost 5 or 6, and I’m not the only one. So, I don’t even know where I would fit in these extra five hours of work.
Now, I understand that Gustavus lives in a capitalist society. We all do, but that doesn’t stop us from trying to better it for those of us stuck in the crossfires. If Ben and Jerry’s can make their minimum wage higher than why can’t a private college. A college that costs around $50,000 for just tuition, and another $10,000 for other expenses for one semester. We should be better than places like Amazon, Walmart, and Frito-Lay factories. If anything we should be more understanding of wages and hours because we are a school. Our number one priority as students and a school is to learn, gain experiences that we can use, prepare your resume for future interviews, and graduate. So, when you’re spending more time working or worrying about the number of hours you have to work you’re not focusing on your school and future.
I’m sure many students don’t have to think about this as much, and I’m glad that they don’t have to. It’s something people shouldn’t have to worry about. There are many students who do have to worry about it, though. Scholarships and financial aid lower the costs, but they don’t always lower them enough for a lot of students. Our students are hard working in and outside of work. The school brags about their hard working Gusties, but they don’t pay us like hard working Gusties.

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