Ageism, Classism, and Minimum Wage

by Shaker PlusSizedWomanist

Hello, Shakers. PlusSizedWomanist here to share a little bit of how classism and ageism affect me and other young people like me. A little background: I'm a 21-year-old, plus-sized woman of color who works for minimum wage as a cashier at my local grocery store. I'm a full-time college student studying nursing, and I most definitely plan on incorporating HAES into every single care plan I make. Intros aside, let's begin…

I was casually reading the Chicago Sun Times when I came across this lovely number here: Richard Roeper wrote an article about the Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady's notion that the state minimum wage should be lowered to $7.25 an hour, and asked for readers to submit their thoughts.

Let's just brace ourselves for the amount of clusterfuckery that's about to be read, shall we? *pause* Ready? Ok. Here we go.

First, we have the LOVELY comment from R.J.:
R.J.: I thought minimum wage was a starting place, a foot in the door, 'Let me show you what I can do.'

I thought minimum wage was a way to hire new people who desire to move up from that level. Minimum wage is not structured to sustain a family, rent, car note, food and a cell phone.
Hear that, people surviving off minimum wage long-term? Apparently, you don't have the desire to move up from the level that you are now, despite working your ass off for 8+ hours a day, 5+ days a week. Not. A. Single. Ounce. Of. Desire to move up.

Next up is Richard Crane:
Richard Crane: The reason to cut the minimum wage is so that people who don't have jobs can have jobs. Some income is better than none.
So if you're barely making it as it is with your meager income, you should be frickin GRATEFUL that you get anything at all, you whiny so-and-sos!!!

Then, we have a Mr. John Hochbaum:
John Hochbaum: The minimum wage is damaging to business and jobs. You cannot dictate pay. We're better served allowing the market to set pay.

People on the low end of the pay scale are usually teenagers; the $8.50 rate will box out many teenagers from securing jobs. If a company was allowed to pay someone $6 an hour, many more people will work. Low income jobs are not meant for the breadwinner of a family. In today's market if you can't earn $10-$11 an hour you have to be a complete failure. Rewarding failure doesn't inspire people to make themselves better.
Yep. So let's have a closer look at this, shall we?

1. If you are the breadwinner, you cannot be working a minimum wage job, because that's just not what breadwinners do! They WIN BREAD for goodness sakes!

2. If you cannot get a job that pays over $10, then you are being rewarded for failure by having a living standard set for you. Because only people who WORK deserve to have a living standard. So those people who work 2 jobs just to make ends meet just aren't pulling those bootstraps up fast enough!

Don't you guys just LOVE classism?

And FINALLY, we get to the LOVELY Mister Ed Schubert of Northbrook, who owns his own business:
Ed Schubert, Northbrook: I own a Dairy Queen. You are right; one can't live on minimum wage. But if we have to pay a 14-, 15- or 16-year-old $8.25 in our business, we can't pay older persons more. It should be about $5.50 for the kids that we have to teach -- we have to teach them how to work, how to be on time, and what work is all about. Kids from 18-20 should get $7.75-$9.25, and those 21 and over should get $10.25 and up. The state and feds need to look at that idea. People that are older need to make more, NOT THE KIDS DOING DRUGS. Until then you will see more and more businesses going out of business!!!

I've been here for 36 years and it's getting harder ever day. [Recently] a person that worked for me 25 years ago came in and asked me for a job. I told him yes but I can pay only $8.25 an hour until I know if he is going to work out.
Look alive folks! We've got a full-fledged privileged ASSHOLE in our midst!!! Now let's examine how much bullshittery is in this little paragraph here:

1. Young people are inherently irresponsible, lazy and incompetent little hoodlums, and thus they do not know the value of work, therefore they should be paid less, despite doing the same work, simply because they are young and have to be taught… WHAT? Thank you VERY much Mr. Schubert of Northbrook for completely paint brushing all young people as such. We really appreciate that you view us in such a derogatory manner.

I am not some lazy incompetent little 'kid,' Mr. Schubert. This summer, when I went job-hunting for the summer, I got my young plus-sized ass up, got my resume together, printed off 150 copies, borrowed a suit from my grandmother and went to nearly every major shopping facility within in the Chicagoland area. I filled out job applications left and right, with over 70 major stores having my application and resume on file. Know how many called me back? 2. TWO. And I'm lucky as hell that I got the job I got. Majority of the stores I went to required at LEAST 2-3 years of experience, and these were ENTRY LEVEL positions. Now what I want to know is, if these positions are those that are supposed to be entry level, why is there an experience requirement? That right there eliminates a hell of a lot of possibilities for young people, seeing as 9 times out of 10, we've not had the chance to work a register/stock room/etc. because of said requirements!

2. Young people are apparently tireless, and should be grateful when someone gives us grueling work, because it's "teaching us what work is all about." Because young people aren't REAL people, anyways, since we are all so lazy, shiftless, and incompetent. This oxymoronic mentality of us being lazy/tireless is the root of a lot of intergenerational angst.

My peers and I frequently hear comments like, "You can't be tired/in pain/in distress! You're YOUNG!" Bullshit. I work on my feet for 8 hours a day bagging heavy groceries into carts with little time to sit down, while also dealing with people commanding me to smile every 10 minutes. I'm young. And I'm TIRED. You don't get to tell me I'm not.

When someone dismisses my reality with, "You're young," they are really saying "Your distress can't be real because of your age," which is not merely wrong, but ageist.

3. Young people are apparently all devoid of any responsibilities whatsoever. It's not like young people pay rent/buy groceries/pay bills at all. The only thing we do is BUY DRUGS!!!eleventy!1 LOTS OF THEM! So it's not like I'm paying my phone bill or buying groceries with my meager paycheck. Nope, you've totally figured me out, Schubert. I'm wasting my entire check on DRUGS. Every time. LOLSOB.

Overall, those comments made me absolutely furious at the lack of compassion and the amount of privilege people have when it comes to the working poor, and especially the young working poor. And the sad thing is, these compassionless and privileged mindsets are what become law. With that said, I'm asking the Shakers to help out. Teaspoon time, folks. Contact Bill Brady and let him know that minimum wage should NOT be lowered.

Bill Brady's campaign offices:

Chicago: 1201 N. Clark, Suite 300, Chicago, IL 60610 (312) 846-1649

Bloomington: 2203 Eastland Drive, Suite 3, Bloomington, IL 61704 (309) 664-8544

Springfield: 500 W Monroe Street, First Floor NE, Springfield, IL 62704 (217) 241-9830

You can also email him here.

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