If you’ve ever worked for minimum wage, you know how laughably low it can be. The current federal minimum wage is set at $7.25 per hour, a level it’s been at since 2009. The Guardian reports that adjusted for inflation; this is 31 percent less than the average worker earned in 1968, although the amount of work we’re all being made to do has nearly doubled since all the easy tasks have been automated.
While many states and municipalities do have laws guaranteeing higher wages, the “Fight for 15” is ongoing. There is a lot of resistance from small and large businesses complaining that raising wages would eat into their profits. However, one large company has built its reputation off of doing the right thing — or at least trying to. Although Starbucks is far from perfect, it still aspires to be less sinister than what you may consider the average mega-corporation to be. As of late, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson addressed a letter to congressional leaders, and pointed out that Starbucks plans to “continue on our path to ensure all U.S. partners will be making at or above $15/hour within the next two to three years.”
How will the wage hike impact Starbucks workers?
As to whether $15 is a living wage…well, that depends. The Living Wage Calculator, a tool produced by folks at MIT, allows you to access data for every county in the U.S. that determines how much money is needed to get by. If you reside in a low-budget burg like Milwaukee, Wisconsin, you may be in luck if you’re a single adult with no kids since all you’ll need is $11.62 to meet MIT’s minimum standard of living. Throw a single child into the mix, though, and your cost of living more than doubles to where you’ll need $25.71 per hour. If you should happen to live in Starbucks’ native King County, Washington, however, $15 won’t quite cut it: even a childless adult needs $16.09 to get by, so you’d do better working for Hobby Lobby where wages were raised to $17 per hour.
For those 70 percent of Starbucks employees not yet at that $15+ per hour level, any pay raise is bound to help. Not every barista will rake in big tips, although they are more fortunate than counter service workers in restaurants like McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A, where tipping is practically unheard of. While most post-pandemic economic news is decidedly dismal, it’s nice to hear this holiday season that at least one big company is trying to take a step in the right direction. We’ll drink a peppermint mocha to that!