One thing that most college students have in common is stress. Stress can come from a variety of things, such as school, friends, and most commonly; money. Getting yourself to focus on school is one thing, but students who are worried about paying for loans, books, and barely scraping enough money together to go out with friends is another story.
When I decided to attend Tulane, getting a job right away was always in the back of mind because the tuition is so expensive. Coming from Seattle, with the highest minimum wage in the country of $15/hour, I was shocked to find out that the minimum wage here is $7.25. Louisiana is the fourth poorest state in America, has the fifth highest unemployment rate and has the second highest poverty rate. The Louisiana government voted 21-17 against a bill that would have raised minimum wage to $8 in 2019 and to $8.50 in 2020. Eleven percent of Louisianians live well under the poverty line making $11,000 a year.
Thinking about working for a mere $7.25 an hour (before taxes) seems daunting to me, and I consider, is it worth it? By acknowledging my privilege in this situation, my ability to opt out of working and attend a four year institution, makes issues like these seem even more unethical. If a minimum wage so low is unmotivating and problematic for someone like me, not having to prove for my family, pay rent or other loans, how does such a low wage fair for those less fortunate?
Even a small increase in federal wages could improve quality of life for many New Orleanians, including helping crime and poverty rates. New Orleans is only one of five states that has yet to ever change from he federal wage to a statewide mandate. Governor of Louisiana John Edwards Bell (D) has spoken out about trying to increase the wages saying “We talk a lot about family values in Louisiana, but when the Legislature had the opportunity to actively value families, it failed.” Other committee members who have voted against raising minimum wage say that it should be up to the individual business if they want to pay their employees more and that higher wages could lead to laying some employees off.
As a college student living in New Orleans, I think that I have a responsibility to speak out, because I do not think that $7.25 is a livable of honorable wage. If you feel passionate about this issue, I think the first step is to write letters to or call your governor or representatives. If enough people demand change, then hopefully Louisiana will be able to start fixing critical issues that are crippling the state.
COVER PHOTO: Swipe Clock