Sanders rally sparks minimum wage discussion

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Sen. Bernie Sanders held a campaign rally on Michigan State University’s Adams Field to gather support for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and to address several key issues. Raising the minimum wage was among these issues.

Rally attendees were largely in support of raising the minimum wage. In Michigan, the current minimum wage is $8.50 per hour. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Many said that the current minimum wage in Michigan is not a “livable wage.”

Rally attendee and Lansing resident Rachel Peake said she supports raising the minimum wage because it does not cover the cost of living.

Rachel Peake

Alexa Walkowicz

Peake said she supports raising minimum wage because the current minimum wage does not cover the cost of living.

“I think we need to raise the minimum wage because anybody working 40 hours a week should be able to support themselves,” Peake said. “Everybody deserves to be able to support a family.”

Reasons for supporting minimum wage increase

Because minimum wage cannot support the cost of living, many minimum-wage workers are holding multiple jobs, said rally attendee Sabrina Shingleton, an MSU anthropology freshman.

sabrina-shingleton

Alexa Walkowicz

Shingleton said she supports the minimum wage because some people would need to work multiple jobs in order to support themselves, something she says is unacceptable.

“I get that a lot of teenagers work minimum wage jobs, but there’s also people that get stuck in a cyclical wave of poverty,” Shingleton said, “that get stuck in these jobs, that can’t live off of them. Working four jobs is just not OK.”

Kenneth Pifer, a rally attendee and business agent from Battle Creek, said he disagrees with the argument that minimum wage jobs are meant to be temporary.

“With all the factories shut down, all the people who are used to making $20 an hour, where are they going? They’re going to all these temporary jobs that college students used to do to make money to support their college stuff,” Pifer said. “Those were their temporary jobs. Well, they’re becoming permanent.”

Kenneth Pifer said minimum wage jobs are no longer temporary positions.

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Pifer said minimum wage jobs are no longer temporary positions for college students. He said adults supporting families are occupying these positions.

Ivy Herron, a rally attendee and MSU special needs and learning disabilities junior, denounced the argument that if the minimum wage were increased, it would be unfair to workers making those higher wages.

Herron said there are people who are not able to attend college or work at a skilled trade, such as the people she works with in her field. She asked why they do not deserve to make a living wage.

“If I’m making $15 before minimum wage {increase},” Herron said, “I would rather make $15 while someone else is making $15 than be able to say, ‘well, my work is more important, so I should make more than you.’”

Herron

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Herron said she would accept making the same amount of money as someone who traditionally has made less than her if it meant they would have a livable wage.

People in the service industry who are being paid minimum wage are important, said rally attendee Cuauhtemoc Vargas, who is taking a semester off from MSU.

“The 1 percent makes a whole bunch of generalizations about people working in the service industry,” Vargas said, “but without people in the service industry you wouldn’t have anything you want.”

Clinton’s vs. Sanders’ federal minimum wage increase

Clinton, during her campaign, has advocated for a $12 federal minimum wage. While campaigning for the presidency, Sanders advocated for a $15 federal minimum wage. Rally attendees were split on whether Clinton’s or Sanders’ plan would be better.

Vargas said minimum wage jobs are important, as they provide products and services to those in higher paying jobs.

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Vargas said minimum wage jobs are important, as they provide products and services to those in higher paying jobs.

Rally attendee Jami Groce supports Sanders’ plan, saying that

$15 is a more livable wage. Janay Ramirez, a rally attendee and MSU human biology freshman, said that while $8.50 is not enough to support yourself, Clinton’s plan of raising the minimum wage to $12 seems more realistic.

Clinton’s plan will realistically be the chosen plan, rally attendee and MSU pre-nursing sophomore Ben Read said. He sides with Sanders, but does not expect his wage to be implemented.

“Not everybody’s a Democrat, which is going to be the real world, so it’s probably going to be a little bit better pitch Hillary’s plan,” Read said.

Current minimum wage appropriateness for students

Read said he supports Sanders' plan to raise the minimum wage to $15, but he expects Clinton's plan to raise it to $12 is more likely to be enacted.

Alexa Walkowicz

Read said he supports Sanders’ plan to raise the minimum wage to $15, but he expects Clinton’s plan to raise it to $12 is more likely to be enacted.

Some at the rally said that the current Michigan minimum wage could be appropriate for high school and college students. Ramirez said she thought it was appropriate for college students, because many use their income as extra spending money. Justin Payne, a rally attendee and MSU music performance graduate student, said he thought minimum wage was “definitely” appropriate for high school students.

Ramirez said

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Ramirez said minimum wage is appropriate for college students, because they use their income for spending money.

Other attendees said the current Michigan minimum wage is not appropriate for anyone. Groce said that high school students are saving for college, and college students are paying tuition, so everyone should get a decent wage.

Saima Chishti, a rally attendee and MSU human biology junior said that as a high school student, she worked a job all four years to help support her family.

“I feel like it would’ve sucked if I was making less than everyone else,” Chishti said. “My dad was always in between jobs or something was always going on with him. My mom had a stable job but it wasn’t that much money, so we always needed the extra cash. That was us.”

Alternatives to raising federal minimum wage

Rally attendee and MSU musicology graduate student Kelli Smith proposed that the minimum wage vary based on whether the individual is supporting a family.

Kelli Smith

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Smith said minimum wage should vary depending on whether the individual is supporting a family.

“I know that’s complicated; I know that’s hard. I just don’t think it’s that simple. I think it’s appropriate for single adults, because I lived off of it, and I know I could do it. It wasn’t easy, but that’s what budgets are for,” Smith said. “But if I had even a single dependent, I would have been screwed. I had no safety net, I was young, I was able-bodied, I was able to figure it out, but it’s not a sustainable way of life.”

Pifer also proposed an alternative to simply raising the minimum wage. He said the government should establish a living wage, based off the cost of living, and mandate that cost be added to everyone’s paycheck.

“If the economy goes up, the cost of living goes up like the cost of milk goes up to $3 a gallon and you’re making $8 an hour,” Pifer said, “that’s almost half of an hour’s wage. That’s ridiculous.”

Issues with raising minimum wage

Raising the minimum wage is unnecessary and could do workers a disservice, rally attendee and Lansing Community College paralegal program lead faculty Reid Felsing said. He said that the current Michigan minimum wage is appropriate because many retail jobs already pay $1 or $2 above the minimum wage. He also said that raising the minimum wage does not guarantee workers will be able to work full time.

Reid Felsing said

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Felsing said the minimum wage should not be raised because it is unnecessary and could do workers a disservice.

“If you bump someone up to $15 an hour, some employers might say, ‘well, I’m only going to employ that person for 20 hours a week,’” Felsing said. “It creates a situation where now people have to pick up two or three jobs just to get a full workweek in.”

A rally protester and Lansing resident, Kathleen Valdes said that she supports raising the minimum wage but does not believe Clinton will follow through on her promise to raise it, despite Sanders’ endorsement.

“She panders to the rich people, and they don’t want the minimum wage raised. Profits over people.”

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