Workers protesting low wages with a sign saying "Hard work deserves fair pay!"

A Minimum Wage of Dignity

By Elvera Gurevich

At the ripe age of 20, I have spent almost a quarter of my life already in the workforce and have always worked for a minimum wage salary or less. As a student, this salary is “do-able;” the money I make usually goes to optional expenses like gas in my car or going out to eat with friends. My parents are still paying my rent, my tuition, my health insurance, my phone bill, etc. Eventually, I will be responsible for paying these expenses, but hopefully that will be post-graduation and with a job making more than a minimum wage salary.

But what happens when you are the parent working at my same job, making my same wages, but having to completely support yourself or another? For many Americans, there is no moving on to the next chapter. They will continue to work minimum wage jobs for years to come.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2014, 1.5 million people earned an hourly wage of $7.25 and almost 1.8 million people earned even less, because they fell under exemptions such as tipped employees, full-time students, workers with disabilities and more. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, members of these groups make less money annually than the cost of living in many of their places of residence, and these figures only address housing!

Cities across the nation have begun the fight for minimum wage reform. For instance, Los Angeles recently passed a law that raised the minimum wage to $15/hour. Other cities have been working to achieve reform, but the goal for many organizations such as the National Employment Law Project (NELP) and the RAC is to address the issues at a national level and raise the federal minimum wage.  In particular, to raise the federal minimum wage level to $12.00/hour by 2020. From there, the level would be adjusted subsequently by year to adjust for inflation and the annual increase of wages in general.

Our Jewish tradition teaches about fair wages and fair work. The Torah says, “you shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer… but you must pay him his wages on the same day, for he is needy and urgently depends on it (Deuteronomy 24:14-15).” It is our job as individuals and Jews to fight for increase in the minimum wage so that all members of our nation have the opportunity to earn fair wages and live a comfortable life.

Take action and urge your Members of Congress to support legislation to raise the minimum wage!

Elvera Gurevich


Elvera Gurevich is a Machon Kaplan 2015 participant. She loves food, social media, and her dog. She is a junior at James Madison University majoring in Communications with a focus in Advocacy. She is interning this summer at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

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Machon Kaplan Participant

About Machon Kaplan Participant

Machon Kaplan is the Religious Action Center's work/study internship program for undergraduate students interested in Judaism and social justice. Learn more at The views expressed in these posts do not necessarily reflect the views of the Reform Movement.

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