With inflation on the rise, increases in the cost of healthcare, education, and housing while wages remain stagnant, Gen Z is facing an uphill battle. That’s why we believe every person deserves a livable wage, a quality education, healthcare, housing, and so much more. Every human being deserves a chance to pursue happiness and we will not rest until that is a reality.
Raising the Minimum Wage
Anyone working forty hours a week should not be living in poverty. Full stop. The minimum wage was designed to increase as the economy grew and worker productivity increased. Despite continued economic growth and increases in worker productivity, the federal minimum wage has not been raised in over a decade — the longest period of time without an increase since it was enacted in 1938. If the minimum wage had increased at the rate of productivity since 1960, it would be over $23 right now. A $7.25 minimum wage is embarrassingly low, and 86% of college students believe we must keep pushing for a minimum wage that is a living wage.
Abolish the Tipped Wage
Many young people rely on tips in their first jobs. Relying on tips is not a fair labor practice for anyone, but especially young people during a time when they need to save money for some of life’s biggest expenses. No one can afford a day of work where they may only take home $2.13 an hour, the federal minimum wage for tipped workers. We must consider joining many other countries in ending the practice of tipping and factor it into pricing so workers’ take home pay is not reliant on how busy their business is or how kind their customers are feeling on any given day.
Pay Your Interns
Experience is not going to pay the bills. Unpaid internships exploit young people and prevent working class students from gaining valuable experience. If an internship is unpaid, students may not be able to afford to sacrifice time they could use getting paid at a job. These unpaid opportunities will only be available to young people who can afford it. Pay Our Interns says it best: We must be “committed to ensuring all people — especially people of color and of low-income backgrounds — have equitable access to professional career paths through the implementation of paid internships across all work sectors.”
As the middle class continues to shrink, unions are one of Gen Z’s best paths to the middle class. Unionized workers earn about 20% more than non-unionized workers and also increased benefits. Unions also help reduce wage inequality because they primarily benefit working class people, blue-collar workers, and workers who do not have a college degree. As the costs of items like healthcare and education increase, we must utilize the power of collective bargaining to increase wages and benefits to ensure Gen Z enjoys an equal or better quality of life than those that came before them.
Paid Family & Medical Leave
How does the richest country in the world not have paid family and medical leave? With the costs of starting a family increasing, we must ensure parents are able to fully spend time with and take care of their baby instead of having to worry about money and medical care. For those who require medical leave for other reasons, they need to have time to take care of themselves or others without worrying about making ends meet. It is time for the United States to join the rest of the developed world and enact a robust paid family and medical leave policy.
A Federal Jobs Guarantee
This program would create a baseline standard for employment in the United States while also allowing us to dedicate major labor power to public service priorities like infrastructure, caregiving for seniors, child care, community development, and environmental conservation. These jobs would include a livable wage, full healthcare, and family and medical leave for all. These benefits in the public sector would incentivize the private sector to offer competitive compensation and benefits. Where necessary, these jobs would also offer training and experience to workers.
The Right to Housing
Every American deserves shelter. It is incomprehensible that while roughly 600,000 are homeless, more than 15,000,000 homes in the US are vacant. As wages have stagnated and the cost of living has increased, we must ensure that housing is affordable to all, especially young people. Home ownership is largely considered one of the best ways to generate wealth, and if Gen Z can never afford to buy a home, they will struggle to live an equivalent standard of living to their parents and grandparents.
Ending Food Insecurity
No one should go to bed at night hungry or wake up in the morning wondering where they will find their next meal. How can you expect someone to work hard, focus in school, and succeed when all they can think about is how they are going to feed themselves and their families? This means putting an end to food apartheid and reducing barriers to nutritional assistance. Nutritional assistance benefits should be strengthened to ensure and incentivize access to healthier food options.
A Secure Retirement in our Future
Young people need to start thinking about retirement. With the high costs of healthcare, education, and housing, retirement is becoming increasingly difficult for so many. We need to make sure that our government is enacting policies to allow people to retire without working themselves to death. We need to expand Social Security and Medicare to ensure that everyone is able to retire with dignity and respect at a reasonable age.
Ending Childhood Poverty
No child deserves to be living in poverty. No one has control over the socioeconomic status they are born into. A child’s education, health, and future should not be determined by anything out of their control. Our government needs to make a major commitment to ensuring all children, no matter their background, have access to all the tools they need to have a bright future.
A Just Tax Code
It is unacceptable that there are corporate CEOs in this country who pay an effective tax rate that is lower than teachers or construction workers. It has become normalized in the United States that major corporations can routinely pay nothing in federal income taxes. At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, we need a tax system that is based on the ability to pay. If we want to create a more economically just country and rebuild the middle class, we have to demand that the wealthiest Americans, large corporations, and Wall Street pay their fair share in taxes.
Broadband for All
Participation in our 21st century society requires quality internet. Whether it is looking for a job, doing a job, paying the bills, or completing an education, those who do not have access to the internet are at a significant disadvantage. Something that has become such a necessity to everyday life should not depend on your zip code or your income.
If you’re interested in reading more, you can download the full Voters of Tomorrow Policy Platform.