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 Post subject: Minimum Wage
PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2007 5:34 pm 
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Location: Portland, Oregon
I'm putting together a series on minimum wage. I've worked some minimum wage jobs in my life, but those were all when I was younger. For the final part of this series, I'd love to share stories from those who've worked minimum wage in the past but found a way out, or from those who are still mired in minimum wage jobs. What advice do you have to others who work minimum wage? What's the best way to move up? What didn't work? Please share your minimum wage stories here.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2007 8:11 pm 
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Location: Portland, Oregon
I'm trying to remember the last time I had a minimum wage job.

I worked for minimum wage throughout high school and college, of course, but I never expected that I would remain in those positions. When I was waiting tables in the late eighties, I did know older women, especially, who were working for minimum wage, but they were also making tips. Oregon doesn't have a special lower wage for restaurant employees, so they were making $3.65 plus whatever they could pocket during breakfast and lunch.

I do see older workers in what I take to be minimum wage jobs, but I always assume there's some story there. Maybe they've just lost a higher-paying job and are marking time while seeking better employment. Maybe they want to work minimum wage. Maybe they've hit temporary rough patch. I've only known a few people who have worked minimum wage for an extended period of time.

But maybe I'm just blind. Maybe I'm not seeing what's really out there...


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2007 5:23 am 
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Location: England
I worked minimum wage in a large store in a vacation area in the States and there were several local women working in the same kind of seasonal job. In some areas, there just aren't the opportunities. Some of them were older, and didn't seem to be looking for anything else, others were relatively young and were looking for full-time jobs with benefits in a bank or something similar, but so was everyone else. Most of the men in a similar position worked on building sites or in the fishing industry - I imagine they made more than minimum wage.

I know quite a lot of women who go back to minimum wage jobs in shops and so on after giving up work to have children. Lots of the time they are married to men who work in trades and make more money (although their minimum wage income may be necessary). The people that I've seen pull themselves out of minimum wage have been clever and committed - I'm not sure how easy it is if you aren't that bright.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2007 8:55 am 

Joined: Wed Apr 04, 2007 7:18 pm
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Location: Rochester, NY AND Los Angeles, CA
I make minimum wage right now! The minimum wage in New York State is currently $7.15 an hour. I try to work between 15 and 20 hours a week in order to afford the gas I need to drive to my university's campus (where I work as well as take classes), my insurance, and food. The rest of my life is subsidized by a mountain of student loans. I adore my job, so it doesn't bother me much that I only make minimum wage. I also work on alternate streams of income, such as my blog and doing small tasks for Cashduck.com.

That's the key to minimum wage I think: looking at other options that you can do while you work your minimum wage job, whether it be furthering your education, additional streams of income, or in my case, both.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2007 10:34 am 

Joined: Mon Jul 30, 2007 7:44 pm
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In college, I was trying to find a job in a small college town and the best thing I could find was, believe it or not, McDonalds for $5.15 an hour (minimum wage at the time) and I didn't make it too long in that job - I think working a minimum wage job is a good, humbling thing that people should do, so they don't get too full of themselves, but I am glad I have moved up :)

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2007 10:55 am 

Joined: Thu Apr 19, 2007 7:58 am
Posts: 231
I haven't worked minimum wage since high school but as a social worker I've made a loooww income as well as collaborated with many individuals earning minimum wage.

IMO the best thing you can do to increase your income (and thereby choices in life) is aquire more education. Go back and get a GED. If you have that or a HS diploma congrats! The next step is to get a college education.

If you are currently earning a minimum wage, you have a good chance at being eligible for need-based grants, scholarships etc specifically designed for low income earners. There is money out there, but you may need someone to help you find it. Use that money at a community college where costs are lower.

Visit your local department of social services, ask them how they can help. See what programs you qualify for and take advantage of all assistance offered. Local social service dept's want you to succeed and are usually very happy to work with a motivated client.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2007 11:18 am 

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I wanted to add, I realize that my advice about more education is easier for some than others. I happen to live in a thriving metro area that is rich in educational opportunities. Exceptional 4 year and quality community colleges are geographically accessible to most everyone due to their locations on buslines. There really are some great choices here.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2007 12:22 pm 

Joined: Fri Aug 10, 2007 1:32 pm
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Lots of older folks after retiring become bored and take these jobs to have something to make them feel useful and also make a little extra spending money,
Also the part about getting all the education you can is very important,when I left high school 46 years ago it was a different world than today, there were many little factory's and shops that did manufactering jobs but those jobs have all gone away, so education is all the more the key today , as for as minium wage jobs I spent two years in the Army !!


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2007 12:32 pm 

Joined: Wed Sep 05, 2007 3:46 am
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Bearcat fan wrote:
Lots of older folks after retiring become bored and take these jobs to have something to make them feel useful and also make a little extra spending money,


That is true some of the time, but some of the older folks also need the extra income because their pension, social security, medicare, or other income isn't enough to cover their living and/or medical expenses. I worked at minimum wage jobs with retirement age people when I was in high school/college, which was the last time I worked a minimum wage job. It was tough for me to know that I was working for spending money when they were working for living money. It made me feel fortunate to be in that position. Seeing that was also motivation for me to save and invest for my future.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2007 12:48 pm 

Joined: Sat Jun 30, 2007 10:35 am
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i worked minimum wage as a dish washer; however, I quickly earned more, because I asked for it. I don't see how people still work for minimum wage. From my experience it is a lack of self confidence in asking or demanding for more out of fear of losing a job or whatever. My boss would have been more than happy continuing to pay me minimum wage if I didn't ask for more and if I hadn't looked elsewhere to bolster the threat of or else. The job isn't an end all, but I can see and have been there in the position where not having a job, even a minimum wage job, seemed to be a significant deterrent to threatening to work elsewhere; however, I got over it.

my grandfather worked for minimum wage at Walmart to get cheaper meds. He didn't have to work nor need to look for cheaper meds, but that's how he was.

my father worked three jobs when he and my mom started off.

now, the place i grew up there are no minimum jobs, because there are too many jobs that people don't want. So you can make double or triple the minimum wage working at mcdonald's if you wanted.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2007 2:25 pm 

Joined: Mon Apr 23, 2007 8:05 am
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Also worth noting, I think the groups of people on the minimum wage is very transient. That is, five years later, it's largely a different set of people. Few people stay at that wage for long.

I've collected a great deal of info on the topic here that might interest you.
http://amateureconblog.blogspot.com/search/label/minimum%20wage

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2007 3:59 pm 

Joined: Sun Apr 29, 2007 8:11 am
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Location: Sunny Florida
The last time I worked in a job that paid close to min. wage was during college and it was a great job. I worked in the library during the evening hours and basically studied, once in a while I had to check someone out ot yell at someone for eating/drinking. I loved that job.

Following up on SandyCheeks post, I also made just above min. wage when I worked in social services ($16,500 in 1994) and was able to live within my means during that time in my life. I think an important issue for most who work in low wage or min. wage jobs is that benefits (i.e. health insurance) are not provided and hours can vary (i.e. managers keep everyone under 35 hours a week so as not to pay overtime).

I read a really great book (Nickeled and Dimed) that documents one woman's experience in working in a variety of low wage jobs.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2007 9:39 am 

Joined: Wed Oct 10, 2007 9:27 am
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Location: PA
I read your email everyday. This one made me want to comment. Although I do not make minimum wage I live in a high cost of living area. A little over 2 years ago I went back to school to finish my BA. I finished and took a new job at the University where I graduated.

The pay stinks. I make $2000 more a year than I did at my previous job. I drive an hour each way and am over $20K in debt for student loans. I love this job and I know it was the right choice for me at this time however, I get very frustrated when people say that education is the answer. It isn't ALWAYS the answer for EVERYONE. I would have been making more money had I not been in school and worked harder at my previous employer working my way up. I turned down opportunities simply because I couldn't take on more being a full time employee and a full time student and a single mom.

I'm glad I'm finished with school but there would have been better options for me rather than finishing school when I did. The long term benefits will be good (free tuition my daughters college education and for my masters, although I have no idea why I'd put myself through that just to again have no increase in pay), however the bottom line of now - just doesn't work. I have to find a part time job now. I would have been much better off 3 years ago finding a part time job and sticking with it.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2007 1:49 pm 
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Thanks for your comment, singlemomto2. I *love* hearing from people with actual experience, even if it goes counter to my preconceived notions. (Sometimes *especially* if it goes counter to my preconceived notions.) You make a great point, and remind me of a mantra that I seem to have forgotten lately. I used to say, "Do what works for you", by which I mean that each person should evaluate the options, and choose the one that makes the most sense in her situation. Just because education is a great path to better things, doesn't mean it's *always* the best path.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2007 6:10 pm 

Joined: Fri Aug 10, 2007 1:32 pm
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Wow ,this is one of the more interesting topics I have come across on this forum [which is a really neat forum ! }

" Just because education is a great path to better things, doesn't mean it's *always* the best path."
How true this is ,I have met many people who are very educated and in many cases make great money but have nothing and I know many people with limited education who through sheer will and effort have over time became quite successful in life,but I will say that education usually opens doors that with out education are closed


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