OPINION | Minimum wage workers are important, but go unrecognized

Walgreens. Kohl’s. McDonald’s. Every day, millions of Americans shop at stores and eat at restaurants maintained and serviced by minimum wage workers.

Like many of my peers, I had the opportunity to work at a minimum wage job this summer. While I was at the front register, I saw people from all walks of life using the goods and services in our store every day.

I found myself asking: Where would these people go if minimum wage workers weren’t here at all?

Minimum wage workers constitute a large part of the national workforce. According to a report from Oxfam America, 51.9 million Americans are employed in minimum wage jobs and earn less than $15 an hour. Additionally, a report from the U.S. Department of Labor states that the federal minimum wage has remained unchanged since 2009.

In other words, while gas prices have risen from a yearly average of $2.58 a gallon to $5.00 a gallon, the federal minimum wage has stayed consistent at $7.25 an hour for the past 13 years.

Along with getting paid wages that do not always mirror trends in inflation, minimum wage workers are rarely recognized or appreciated by customers or the corporate businesses they work for. According to an article from Forbes, this is because minimum wage jobs are seen as jobs that “anyone can do.” These tasks include anything from caregiving to making coffee, and they place minimum wage workers in a role where their efforts are not always seen as vital.

What would become of society if every minimum wage worker decided it wasn’t worth it anymore? Stores, movie theaters, restaurants, distribution centers — every company that employs these workers would suddenly find themselves without the means to continue.

Over the summer, I never fully reached an answer on where shoppers would go without minim wage workers. Society depends upon these workers for goods such as their groceries, clothes and their morning coffee. Society depends on these individuals to take care of their family and loved ones. Yet, because these jobs are seen as “easy to do,” society thinks very little of them.

Americans have the tendency to take what belongs to us and leave without thinking much more, but there is so much more that minimum wage workers do for America to run every day.

So, appreciate those in the community who work at these jobs, who spend their summers, weekends and late nights keeping the shelves stocked and the customers served. Appreciate those who go unrecognized for their efforts. Appreciate minimum wage workers.

Photo courtesy of theweek.com.