EDITORIAL: Raise awareness before anything else
Pros and cons of increasing minimum wage should be considered
Rutgers students have been known to stand up for what they believe in. Whether these beliefs are portrayed through protests or demonstrations, students always manage to get their point across. While it is important for students to voice their concerns and be vehicles for change, sometimes the reasoning behind their distresses are misguided.
A Rutgers group, Rutgers United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), recently led a march on the College Avenue campus that was meant to resemble a funeral procession including a “eulogy” for the death of workers' rights.
This demonstration was a part of Rutgers’ affiliation with the “Fight for $15” campaign, which is a movement to advocate for the increase of minimum wage to $15 an hour. When the students involved with the demonstration were asked about their justifications around the proceedings, they explained that “the average Brower employee makes roughly $12,000 a year and the poverty level is $23,000 living in New Jersey.”
The students also mentioned the extensive surplus of school funds that Rutgers had both this year and last year, ranging from $71 million to $83 million.
The funeral procession was a theatrical way to raise awareness about workers' rights and was definitely well intentioned, but there are more things to be considered about the numbers that USAS provided.
Rutgers Dining Services does not just provide employment opportunities for adults looking to make a living off of the salary they are given. A lot of dining hall employees, including Brower’s, are students who work there for work-study or just to have extra spending money. These are students who are only working 10-12 hours a week based on their course schedule. These students are factored into the equation when considering what the “average” Brower employee makes a year, and it makes sense that the amount would seem substantially less when averaged out.
But this disparity in information does not mean that USAS is wrong to fight for a $15 minimum wage. Being unsure about a certain statistic does not discredit the possibility that employees at dining halls, including those who rely on their salaries as a means for living, are being underpaid. But increasing the minimum wage is not something that can merely happen overnight and end up having a positive impact. It may be certain that raising minimum wage would be beneficial to those who earn the current $8.38 an hour, but there are unclear repercussions to a minimum wage increase, especially when considering long-term effects.
It is true that raising the minimum wage could create a plethora of benefits for workers. It could spark positive economic activity as well as job growth — as the more money workers have, the more money they put back into circulation. Increasing minimum wage could also result in a reduction of poverty, as well as an increase in the number of people who can afford housing. But raising the minimum wage could also result in some negative effects. An increase in minimum wage might force businesses to lay off some employees to “balance” the money. It might also create an inflation of prices due to the lowest level of wages to be boosted. Increasing the minimum wage can also create the possibility of employers refusing to consider hiring younger people. A decision this crucial and impactful requires deliberate thinking and planning to be implemented correctly.
USAS is creating a conversation that needs heavy deliberation, and their methods of doing so showcase just the type of creativity that is needed to appeal to college students. As long as they remember to consider every aspect of the debate of raising the minimum wage, they can surely make a difference.
The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 149th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.