COVID-19: Lessons Learned: Essential Employees Tend To Be Minimum Wage Earners

As the United States has struggled with lock downs, stay at home orders, and other socially and economically disruptive actions taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus…decisions were made about who is/isn’t an essential worker in an essential business.

Obviously health care workers are essential, as are police and fire departments. And any number of other infrastructure and civic and municipal employees are also essential.

But then we have the front line people who work in the retail stores that we all rely upon day in and day out…for food, gasoline, medications, etc. But most of these people are check out clerks, stockers, maintenance and cleaning people. People who in fact are essential and critical to a functioning society.

But we also know that these are low paying jobs. Jobs that in the past have often started at or near minimum wage. And yes, over the past several years these jobs have moved out of the absolute minimum wage level but not necessarily to a living wage.

So, as the new Congress starts to meet in the new year, the federal minimum wage needs to be increased…to a living wage…and then indexed to inflation. And employers have to take stock of their business environment…are they an essential business…are their employees essential to their business? And then pay them accordingly.


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