It’s a wage issue

By Claire CrittendonCo-Editor-In-Chief

Illustration by Felipe Bida

Everyone in food service has cried in the walk-in this summer. Every retail employee looks stressed, tired, and 14. Waitstaff are being triple sat on a daily basis. Jobs paying minimum wage are struggling to maintain adequate levels of staffing, and to retain the overworked employees they have hung onto this far.

It’s hell, but it’s not a labor shortage, it’s a wage issue.

But where are the workers? Some are collecting unemployment. According to mass.gov, Massachusetts minimum wage, as of September 2021, is $13.50/hour for most non-tipped employees, and $5.55/ hour for tipped employees. Citizens enrolled in Massachusetts unemployment can receive up to $823/week ($1,234 with dependents) for up to 26 weeks, versus the $540/week non-tipped/$222/week tipped Massachusetts minimum wage amounts to. Choosing to receive $1,234/ week over $540/week isn’t lazy, it’s the smarter option. It’s also some people’s only option; among many other things, Massachusetts does not provide statewide public daycare and preschool.

Additionally, per a 2021 article from Apartment List, the average monthly rent for a studio apartment in Boston is $2,635. It’s commonplace for landlords to request pay stubs proving an income at least equal to three times the cost of rent, or a monthly income of at least $7,905. To earn $7,905 a month making Massachusetts minimum wage, it would take 585.5 hours or roughly 24, 24 hour days.

It’s often argued that minimum wage was not implemented to be enough to live on, but instead for teens to earn supplemental income. However, according to Cornell Law, “The national minimum wage was created by Congress under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in 1938 to create a minimum standard of living to protect the health and well-being of employees.” How can one be healthy and well while unable to afford housing and other basic necessities?

If Massachusetts raises its minimum wage, I believe this “labor shortage” will quickly come to an end. Employers need to pay their workers a livable wage or stop complaining about being understaffed.

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