Heartbreaking Target Employee Testimonials Highlight Why We Need to Raise the National Minimum Wage

It's time to target Target for their poor employment practices.

It’s time to target Target for their poor employment practices.

For the last year or so, Gawker has run a series of occasional posts detailing the experience of working at Target, in Target employees’ own words. The most recent post in the series, published today, is full of heartbreaking testimonials from Target workers.

These are low-wage jobs in an organization that treats employees as disposable. Target seems to be solely interested in exhausting the potential of their employees and tossing them aside after they’ve used them up. One of today’s testimonials ends with a lament that “in two months I may be out of a job for having a learning disability.” It’s just brutal stuff.

The most telling passage, though, refers to Wal-Mart’s voluntary decision to raise their minimum pay:

We are now treated like second class citizens by employers and customer alike. That’s why most of us last a year at most after hiring… Working for target is depressing and we don’t understand why we can’t make more money if people like Walmart charge less for their product and pay their employees more. We charge more but get less. We get mannequins and satellite tv but our manager won’t put the ac or heating on when the weather is sucky. I just wish target would look at us and not the customer as valued.

The wording in that last sentence is a little sticky, but it highlights a very important point: companies should consider their employees as investments, not as drains on resources. Now that Wal-Mart has raised their minimum wage, it puts the pressure on dishonorable employers like Target to do the same. This is a perfect example of why it’s good for the government to set the minimum wage at a reasonable level: it takes the pressure off employers who support and encourage their employees and puts pressure on low-wage employment sinkholes like Target. Some employers will never raise the minimum wage on their own, because they see employees as net negatives; standards of decency and humanity have to be set on those employers who see business as a race to the bottom.

If you haven’t already read it, I’d like to draw your attention to Nick Hanauer’s essay for US News & World Report, which explains why Wal-Mart should agitate for an increased federal minimum wage. This is not just about one company; it’s about creating a sustainable growth that benefits all of us.

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Paul Constant
Paul Constant has written about politics, books, and film for Newsweek, The Progressive, the Utne Reader, and alternative weeklies around the country.