Now that COVID-19 has shown the importance of essential workers to everyday life, there couldn’t be a more appropriate time to raise the minimum wage.
Before the pandemic, many viewed heroes as celebrities, athletes or even politicians. Now, heroes are the front-line workers that risk their lives each day in order to help others feel comfortable during a crisis. Essential workers are the backbone of society, and it’s about time to show appreciation for them and their hard work.
The importance of highlighting the impact that essential workers have on society is crucial. Many employees are experiencing temporary pay raises during this crisis, but this won’t continue after the panic is over. We need to help give them access to a better quality of life both now and during the future, since they often get worked to the bone for minimum recompense.
While essential jobs are the most stable ones at the moment, many employees are working long hours just to be paid minimum wage. Some states have incentivized employees by raising their pay by 50 cents. Many grocery stores are also offering bonuses to their workers in an effort to show their appreciation. However, this is not enough for the work these people are doing day in and day out.
Workers are putting their lives on the line for $7.25 per hour in Alabama and Mississippi. Without job security elsewhere, essential workers are almost forced to work during the pandemic. Priority should be given to those who currently earn the least.
Essential workers who face exposure the most should also be the ones receiving hazard pay. As if constant contact with new people is not enough of a risk these employees face every day at work, they also have to go home to families they are still providing for, who may also be exposed. When thinking of a living wage, especially now, $7.25 definitely does not cover living expenses.
Legislators are already taking steps to change things. Senator Sherrod Brown from Ohio has called for the next stimulus bill to include “Pandemic Premium Pay” in a letter written to President Trump. This would benefit essential workers during any pandemic as well as call for businesses to provide extra safety protections for their employees. The “Heroes Fund” is a proposal by Senate Democrats that not only includes pandemic premium pay, but recruitment incentives for new workers. This proposal would allow workers to have an additional $13 per hour. This would be double the typical payment for the average essential worker in the United States.
This pandemic has allowed the nation’s view of heroes to change drastically. The treatment and unfair payment for essential workers has always been an issue, but it is being highlighted now during the pandemic, and for good reason. Essential workers are exactly as described: essential. Without these workers, there wouldn’t be a grocery store to shop at, a hospital to be treated at or even an education available over Zoom.
It’s about time for the government to show its appreciation for these workers by raising the minimum wage and inducting hazard pay into low paying jobs. While raising the minimum wage in states like Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama is long overdue, it would at least give the heroes of society an opportunity to survive, especially during this pandemic and any future pandemic.