By Brooke Shepherd, Eric King, and Andrea Smith
The younger working class is no longer putting up with low-paying minimum-wage jobs. Because of this, employers are having limited hours of operation and are raising the starting wages to entice individuals to apply.
Many stores and restaurants in San Bernardino County are either short staffed, have reduced hours, or are just closed. Ever since establishments shut down for quarantine due to COVID-19 back in March 2020, a lot of places have been struggling to find new employers. This is due to a change of values that most young adults experienced during the lockdown. The time alone gave us all time to re-prioritize our lives and our standards for working conditions. Despite the plethora of “Now Hiring” signs that can be seen all around San Bernardino County, there is a lack of people applying for open positions. The main cause is that young adults are wary of applying for jobs they think are underpaying. Kaleb Browne, a currently unemployed college student shared his feelings on why he is holding out for the right job opportunity.
“I really just don’t like the idea of working a job that’s not going to really give me the opportunity to progress and not have a solid schedule while being paid minimum wage. It seems like I’m being paid less for more inconvenience. If I’m going to have to work around those inconsistencies I’m going to expect to be treated and paid better,” said Browne.
Since the pandemic started almost two years ago, people have had more of a chance to figure out what it is they are passionate about. Because of social media and other outlets that may not have been available ten years ago, they can now turn those passions into profits.
Karina Guerra, a 21-year-old college student from San Bernardino, said, “When I was younger, I used to work minimum wage jobs just to make extra money, but now I find it easier and more fulfilling just to work for myself.”
Guerra created a company called Karina’s Crafts, where she makes custom arrangements for parties, custom shirts, custom cups, and plates. “Working a minimum wage job isn’t rewarding and is just a waste of time and energy,” said Guerra.
The main question is whether others share this sentiment, or is she the outlier? Considering that there is a “help wanted” sign in the window almost everywhere you go nowadays, it is safe to assume that most young people are betting on themselves rather than taking typical minimum wage jobs. The current minimum wage in California is $15 an hour, and places that generally start employees off at minimum wage now have to up their starting pay $2 to $3 per hour in order to entice people to apply.
An anonymous poll with fifty CSUSB students was conducted where students were asked whether they worked minimum wage jobs, and if so, if they thought being paid minimum wage felt acceptable or if they feel like they are being underpaid for their job. Roughly 87% of people that we interviewed testified to working a minimum wage job and admitted they feel like they are being both underpaid and undervalued. The remainder of the students that we interviewed are either unemployed and are seeking out higher wages as well as better benefits, or they are in a job position where they are making more than minimum wage.
Raising the salaries of so many workers is a big change, but one small business owner who wishes to remain anonymous doesn’t mind paying her employees more.
“Honestly, raising the pay for my employees in this difficult time is a much better alternative than having to shut down my business and stop doing what I love,” she says. “It can be stressful to reconfigure pay, but it’s good business and happy employees are the key to success.”