Everyone has the right to a fair wage, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Our campers didn’t have any trouble understanding why this right is important! And yet as obvious as it is that pay should be fair, they also are very aware that for many workers, this is a right that is not honored. We considered what groups of people might not be able to exercise this right. Here are some of the answers our insightful campers gave: people with disabilities, people who lack transportation, immigrants, and women.
To consider some of these issues further, campers were asked to put their bodies on a spectrum between the extremes of “Agree” and “Disagree” in response to three statements.
- Everyone who works full-time should make enough money to support their family.
In response to this, every one of our campers placed themselves on the far “Agree” end. No one could offer an argument against this statement, and yet we know from recent reports that nowhere in the U.S. does a full-time minimum wage job pay enough for a worker to afford a two-bedroom apartment. Somehow, there is a disconnect between what is clearly fair in the minds even of middle schoolers and the reality that many, many workers face.
- Some jobs are more valuable to the community than others, and those workers should be paid more.
Initially, most campers placed themselves near the “Disagree” end on this one. But when specific examples were given, many changed their positions. Should a brain surgeon be paid more than a garbage collector? Should an artist be paid more than a judge? How about a professional football player and an elementary school teacher? These questions had campers spread all over the spectrum, and in defending their positions, they brought up many different considerations. How many people does each occupation impact? How much education or training did this job require? If this job doesn’t pay well, will anyone choose to do it? How broadly does someone in this profession inspire others? What expenses and risks does each job entail? Clearly, there are no simple answers!
- I am willing to pay more for a product if I know that the people who produced it are paid fairly.
While most campers tended toward the “Agree” end of the spectrum, others near the middle brought up realistic concerns about how they could afford higher prices, even if it did mean a fair wage for the workers.