Social Justice Poetry

minimum wage poems

Functional Underclass | A Social Justice Poem by Tara Lynn Hawk

These jobs
Where I have to dumb myself down
Greet everyone with a false smile
Where the employee manual
Tells me what to say
Each and every time
Create a false interest in how the customer’s day is going
Oh I am just so passionate
About you getting your food on time
and your soda refilled ASAP
So I can get a check
Every other week
That is never near enough
For me to move out of my car

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A Comma Is a Pipe Dream | A Social Justice Poem by Donal Mahoney

The amount in every paycheck
has a period in it. Those who
get a paycheck every week

dream about seeing a comma
three spaces in front of the period.
Those who have a comma

dream about seeing a 2
in front of the comma
instead of a 1.

Those who have a 2
in front of the comma
dream about a 3.

That’s how it works for those
with good jobs and benefits
but not for those on

minimum wage.
Many of them see only
three numbers in front

of the period every week.
The first number is always a 3
after taxes and deductions.

If a 4 or 5 would replace the 3
they might celebrate a tad
and give a little shout.

But they will never see a comma
three spaces ahead of the period.
That’s a pipe dream not theirs to see.

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Answer Me This, America | A Social Justice Poem by Donal Mahoney

Took the wife
to a pancake house
the other day.
National franchise
good food
fine reputation.

Skipped the pancakes
had bacon, eggs,
hash browns, toast
and coffee.
Wife went fancy,
had an omelette.

Grabbed the check
because the busboy
started clearing
the table early.
A young dervish
new to the job
swirling his cloth
for minimum wage.

Bothered me
to realize he’d work
three hours and a skosh
to pay for the same
breakfast, more
if he left a tip.

Reminded me
something’s wrong
with our great nation,
how we do business.
Have both ears open.
Hoping for an answer.

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It Can Happen in a Second | A Social Justice Poem by Donal Mahoney

Solid middle class he is
always has been
always will be

until tomorrow
on the highway
in the rain this bus

topples over
on his Dodge Durango.
He will never walk

or work again.
In six months or a year
his savings will be gone.

He will be for life
a ward of the state
and people will

forever feed
and bathe him for
the minimum wage

a sum he always said
folks like these
were worth.

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