As many people know, I’ve been working minimum wage jobs for most of my life. I’ve been working with Sacramento ACT, along with other organizations, in the fight to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The reason I think minimum wage needs to be at $15 is because of the workers need to be paid fairly for their work efforts and time.
One day I went to an interview for a dishwashing job near Sac State. They paid $10 an hour and required the dishwasher to assist with food prep, cooking, dishwashing (which include restocking, cleaning dishes and removing dirty dishes), as well as “other things.” These other things could be deep cleaning, bathrooms, or other projects the manager would deem important. I have no idea if this job gave benefits, but manager claimed she has employees who worked for her for ever twenty years. These individuals working in the kitchen were Spanish speaking and Hispanic.
In fact, when I worked at the Spaghetti Factory here in Elk Grove, there were only two Blacks, me and another man in the dish room. One the cook line, there were one white person, everyone else was Mexican. One of the jokes I heard from one of the Mexicans told me was, “We need more Mexicans to work for us, because they don’t trip off money and they have a better work ethic than Americans.” I wanted to say there was nothing wrong with my work ethic because I have clients from a temp agency who love my work.
Even at this Spaghetti Factory, dishwashers, made $9 an hr. The cooks made $9.25 an hour, and one of the supervisors, who worked the cook line by himself, was rumored to make $10.75 an hour. The only way a dishwasher would get a raise is if they got promote to cook. It would take most of those individual over a year to get moved from the dish room into the cooking positions. I was told it was difficult to get promoted because it was hard to find and keep good dishwashers so they keep you there as long as possible. To my understanding, the only reason this individuals are making $9 an hour or more is because the minimum wage went up a dollar. An irate employee told me that just after the minimum wage increased; the back of the house had to pay for, what were usually, their free meals. It was only a dollar, $1.08 after taxes. But that was to help save the corporation money.
This same job also had me work solo in the dish room on Sunday brunch, one of the busiest times of the week. Friday, Saturday nights they would have two dishwashers because of the high volume of dishes and customers. However, by going one dishwasher on Sundays, the corporation and the restaurant were able to make up for any high labor days. Basically, by going one dishwasher on Sunday brunch the company can save money.
The volumes of dishes were extremely stressful and make it difficult for me to maintain and create relationships at this job because I felt used. I felt as if everyone was dumping all the work with very little teamwork. It also didn’t help that I was working a similar and easier dishwashing job for $10 with the temp agency, which I’ll describe later.
This job I would also do light janitorial from dusting the high decorations with a ladder, to scrubbing and remove dirt and mold both deep freezer and refrigerators.
They didn’t like when I asked for days off, especially weekends. If I asked for a weekend day off, they would remind me that they hired me mainly for working weekends, then implied that I could be fired or let go if I need more weekend days off. They would get upset when I chose not to come in on my days off and question how bad I wanted hours. Mind you I was only getting 25-30 a week.
So why didn’t I quit? Because I was on federal probation and I was using that job to fulfil my probation obligation. It was the fastest job I could get that would give me at least 25 hours a week. Once I was released from probation, I quit the job immediately.
As for living off a minimum waged job, it would vary. I work for a temp agency, which charges their clients as much as $29 an hour. I get $10 of that. When I get 40 hours I would make about $1200 after taxes. But due to some personal expenses that are taken from my check, I would get about $800 per month. However, on days I don’t get enough hours I could use unemployment to help cover some of the missing income. Of course, if I make too much money, like closer to that $800 per month, I wouldn’t qualify for unemployment.
So does business have the money to pay employees $15 an hour? Yes! While working for a temp agency, I had an assignment with a resort here in Sacramento. Their members paid as much as $1000 per month for the resort’s club benefits. They paid their banquet captains, who where the supervisors to the banquet servers, $9.75 and their regular banquet server $9 an hour, with no tips or gratuity. If the banquet or wedding left a tip or any from of cash, the employees would have to give it to the managers. The only way they make additional money is with overtime. The resort pays the agency anywhere from $16-$29 per hour per temporary employee. Keep in mind, the resorts captains and servers couldn’t receive raises because the resort told them they couldn’t afford raises, so I was told.
Overall, I support myself with family help, and other temp services for work, which requires me to travel to and fro the bay area and Davis. Most temps or minimum waged employees have roommate and various welfare services.
Also with because I worked for a temp agency, the client isn’t allowed to hire me directly because they could get sue for poaching. If the client like me enough to hire me they would have to pay the agency upwards to $3000 in fees, work me for at least 90 shifts, or not work me for six months. This makes the client to have me work for as much as 90 shifts before they would hire me, they would as that I not return for six months.
I believe based on my experiences that minimum wage workers are working too much work for $9 to not be able to live without help or multiple jobs.