I had three jobs that paid minimum wage way back then.
- I was a bus boy in a Chinese restaurant. I re-filled water, cleared and set-up tables, folded napkins, put up chairs after closing, etc. At closing, the senior waiter counted the tip jar and divvy up among the staff (bus boys got half of waiters). I never questioned. Just got my money, went home, and collapsed into the bed. Yes, the pay was minimum wage after the tips.
- Then I was a generic worker in a strip-mall super-market, I did whatever the manager told me to: shelving, produce processing, price marking, bagging, carton box flattening, and the worst, freezer duty. I did that for a month and got paid as expected. The second month, I got a whopping 33% raise! The cashier lady was floored. “He gave you a raise on the second month!” I just shrugged since I knew nothing better.
- Lastly, I got a job at the computer printer room. I fetched the print-outs and put them into the pigeon holes. I also muscled new boxes of paper and changed the printer ribbon. The operator, my supervisor, spent most of her time playing cross-word puzzles and chic-chatted with other staff. She invited me to Thanksgiving dinner and I got to know her husband and son. We kept in touch, then she moved away.
Then I got a job as a part-time supervisor in a machine shop: lathes, drills, mills, grinders, hand tools, supplies, etc. The pay was twice the minimum wage but that’s not the point. I got to play with this hunky million-dollar NC machine that cut metal like air. I spent my own money buying scrap metal blocks so that I feed them to the machine. I learned later that I was the least paid in the shop, yet the only one allowed to program the big machine. It was fun.
Whether minimum wage is “livable” is not up to debate. It is not. The question is whether it is a citizen’s right to earn a livable wage as long as one is working, whatever the job. The answer is up to the assumption of whether one will be stuck in that minimum wage permanently or he will grow out of it. I agreed both situations exist, but felt the government’s money will be better spent in welfare and training, then raising the minimum wage.