As many people know, I’ve been working minimum wage jobs for most of my life. I’ve also been working with Sacramento ACT, along with other organizations, in the fight to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. In order to fairly pay workers for their time and effort, the minimum wage should be increased to $15 an hour.
Job pay should be based on the amount of work an employee has to do, for example, I interviewed for a dishwashing job near Sac State. As I interviewed, I was told the dishwasher was expected to wash dishes, restock dishes, and remove dirty dishes. They were also expected to assist with food prep, cooking, and anything else the manager deem necessary. I asked what else could be necessary and I was told that the other dishwashers deep clean bathrooms and more. The interviewer exclaimed that she had employees that worked for her for over 20 years. Then I noticed that the kitchen help consisted of Spanish speaking Hispanics. I have no idea if this job offered benefits, but they should considering the amount of work that needed to be done.
The job that I accepted was at the Spaghetti Factory in Elk Grove. In the dish room there was myself and another Black man. The cook line consisted of one White male, but everyone else was Mexican. A running joke within the Mexican cook line was that Americans have a lower work ethic than them and therefore they should have more jobs than us because they also don’t trip over money. However, I disagree. There is nothing wrong with our work ethic, in fact I had clients at the temp agency who loved my work. With all of the work we did, dishwashers were paid $9 an hour, cooks were paid $9.25, and one of the supervisors (who worked the cook line by himself) was rumored to make $10.75. The only way a dishwasher could get a raise is if they were promoted to cook, which could take at least a year.
The Spaghetti Factory had a hard time finding and keeping dishwashers which made it hard to for dishwashers to get a promotion. From what I’ve heard, the only reason dishwashers make $9 an hour is due to minimum wage increasing by a dollar. To offset the dollar wage increase, the free meals that were given to employees were taken away from the back of the house employees. It was only a dollar, $1.08 after taxes, but that was to help save the corporation money. The restaurant also saved money by making employees work alone. On Friday and Saturday nights, they would have two dishwashers due to the high volume of dishes and customers. However, I had to work alone on Sunday afternoons during brunch, which was one of the most busiest times of the week. To make up for days of high labor costs, they would often use only one dishwasher on Sundays to save the company money.
This made the job extremely stressful and made it difficult for me to create or maintain relationships because I felt used. Then I would compare this job to a second job I had at the temp agency. It was less work and they paid $10 an hour. I’ll talk more about that later. The Spaghetti Factory also required the dishwashers to do light janitorial tasks such as dusting the decorations that were placed near the ceiling (we had to use a ladder), scrubbing dirt and mold, and cleaning the freezers and refrigerators.
Despite all of the work I did, they didn’t like when I asked for days off, especially the weekends. They would constantly remind me that I was only hired for working weekends. They implied that I could be fired for needing more weekends off. If they called me on my day off and I refused to come in, they would get upset and question me about my desire for hours, which was only 25 to 30 hours a week.
I guess you’re asking why I didn’t quit. When anyone is on federal probation, they have probation obligations and that job fulfilled my obligation. I needed at least 25 hours a week and they were the quickest to hire me. However, once I was released from probation, I immediately quit.
Living off a minimum wage job would vary paycheck to paycheck. I worked for a temp agency, which charged their clients as much as $29 an hour, but only paid me $10. When I worked 40 hours, I would make about $1200 after taxes. Due to some personal expenses that were taken from my check, I would get about $800 per month. However, on weeks I didn’t get enough hours I could use my unemployment to help cover some of the missing income. Of course, if I made too much money, like closer to that $800 per month, I wouldn’t qualify for unemployment.
Do business have the money to pay employees $15 an hour? Yes! While working for a temp agency, I had an assignment with a resort in Sacramento. Their members paid as much as $1000 per month for the resort’s club benefits. They paid their banquet captains, who were the supervisors to the banquet servers, $9.75 and their regular banquet server $9 an hour, without tips or gratuity. If the banquet or wedding left a tip or any form 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 to $29 per hour per temporary employee. Keep in mind, the resorts captains and servers couldn’t receive raises because the resort told them the company couldn’t afford raises.
Also with because I worked for a temp agency, the client isn’t allowed to hire me directly because they could get sued for poaching. If the client liked me enough to hire me they would have to pay the agency upwards to $3000 in fees and give me at least 90 shifts. Their other option was to hire me after six months.
Overall, I support myself with family help and other temp services, which requires me to travel to and from the Bay area and Davis. Most temps or minimum wage employees have roommates and various welfare services. I believe based on my experiences that minimum wage workers are working too much for $9 to not be able to live without government help or multiple jobs.