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Pay Up! $15 in Not A Living Wage in Most of the Country

Throughout the nation, the call for a $15 minimum wage is rightfully gaining momentum and – if enacted – would lift millions of low-wage workers from struggle to stability. While detractors suggest the wage is too high, a new report by the Alliance for a Just Society released today shows that $15 is really a modest demand.

The report, “Pay Up! Long Hours and Low Pay Leave Workers at a Loss” reveals that the minimum wage in many states is half the pay a single adult needs to cover basics like housing, food, utilities, and transportation.

Nationally, the living wage for a single adult ranges from $14.26 an hour in Arkansas to $21.44 in Hawaii.

At $7.25 an hour, the current federal minimum wage, workers would have to put in up to 110 hours a week (as is the case in Hawaii) to cover the basic costs of living for just one person.

The numbers are more disturbing when a worker is also supporting children – even with two parents working full time.

“A wage that keeps families trapped in poverty and despair, no matter how hard or how many hours they work, is a national crisis,” said Jill Reese, associate director of the Alliance for a Just Society.

“We know that it’s not unheard of in our country that someone is working full time and is still homeless – this is unacceptable,” Reese said.

The study calculates a living wage for a single adult in all 50 states, then reports the stunning number of hours a minimum wage employee must work in each state, Washington D.C., and nationally, to make a living.

“The answer to low wages is not expecting people to work a ridiculous number of hours, or to make severe cutbacks in basic necessities,” said Allyson Fredericksen, report author and policy analyst at the Alliance for a Just Society.

“Instead, the answer is to pay workers enough to ensure that full-time employment provides some measure of financial stability. Our research shows that’s twice the current minimum wage in many states,” said Fredericksen.

In Washington D.C. workers paid minimum wage have to work 83 hours a week to make ends meet for one person. In New York it’s 91 hours a week, and in Virginia it’s 103 hours.

Even in states like California, with a relatively high minimum wage at $9 an hour, workers there would still have to clock 86 hours a week to equal a living wage.

Pay Up!” is part of The Job Gap Economic Prosperity Series research by the Alliance for a Just Society. The Alliance has produced the reports since 1999.

The full report is available here: Pay Up! Report (pdf)

Additional information is available on the report website: www. thejobgap.org

Alliance for a Just Society is a national policy, research, and organizing network that focuses on health, racial, and economic justice.

 

NY Fast food workers win $15 minimum wage

Fast food workers in New York are getting a raise!

Hard work by our affiliates Citizen Action New York and Make the Road New York – along with dozens of other allied organizations and unions, and thousands of workers who took to the streets and shared their personal stories – has paid off  in a huge victory.

Yesterday, the New York State Wage Board approved gradually raising the minimum wage for New York City fast food chain employees to $15 an hour by 2018. Fast food workers throughout New York state will gradually raise to $15 an hour by 2021.

“This is a huge victory for fast food workers, and for everyone working for low wages in New York,” said LeeAnn Hall, executive director of the Alliance for a Just Society.  “It puts pressure on employers in other low-paying industries to start paying their workers a living wage.

“I applaud the hard work of everyone who fought for this important moment,” said Hall.

Fast food workers are paid less than any other occupation, and fast food work is projected to be the second largest growing occupation (PDF) in the country, with more openings than nearly any other.

This momentous victory brings fast food workers in New York significantly closer to earning a wage that will allow them to support themselves. It will boost their own financial stability, their communities, and the economy for all of us.

In New York and many other states, $15 is still a modest wage. This increase however allows workers to come closer to making ends meet.

In the report “Families Out of Balance” by the Alliance for a Just Society, our research shows that a living wage for a single adult is $18.47 an hour in New York state and is $22.49 an hour in New York City.

A pay raise is long overdue for all our workers nationwide. Tomorrow marks six years since the federal government last raised the minimum wage – to $7.25 on July 24, 2009.

A bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate Wednesday by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and in the House by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

If the wage can be raised in Seattle and New York and Los Angeles and so many other cities, it can be raised nationally – and we can do it.

Congratulations New York! The struggle continues!unnamed (4)

Los Angeles is Biggest City to Enact $15 Minimum Wage

Los Angeles has become the biggest city in the nation to gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, Los Angeles City Council members voted 13-1 today to more than double the federal wage by 2020.

Los Angeles City Council members signaled two weeks ago that they would raise the minimum wage, and took the final vote today at their regular meeting.

During the earlier meeting, Kevin Litwin of Main Street Alliance of California, spoke in support of raising the wage even higher.Watch his testimony here: https://youtu.be/C2kEs8D3ZIY

“I am the Chief Operating Office at Joe’s Parking, and a member of the Main Street Alliance. Together we are support raising the L.A. minimum wage to $15.25. When Joe’s Auto Parks was founded in 1959 minimum wage was just $1 an hour. We didn’t pay the minimum then, and we don’t pay the minimum now. For over 50 years we have been committed to offering fair wages and attracting the best and brightest employees to manage our locations. That’s how we grew to one of the largest operations here in downtown L.A. We strongly hope you pass this and raise the wage to $15.25,” said Litwin.

The Council chambers were packed with more than 100 residents of the city, the vast majority supporting the minimum wage increase, and dozens of workers and community leaders providing comment echoing Litwin’s support.

After hearing the support and concerns of those in attendance the Council turned in a 14-1 vote in favor of raising the city’s wage to $15 gradually over the next 5 years. The full council vote next week before being written into law. The first wage bump will occur in July of 2016 when wages will rise to $10.60 an hour annually on their way to $15 by 2020.

Los Angeles joins Seattle and San Francisco, cities that recently passed laws to phase in a $15 minimum wage over several years. Chicago passed a minimum wage increase that plateaus at $13.

Cities and states throughout the country are discussing and debating minimum wage increases, including Maine, where Maine People’s Alliance is circulating petitions for a minimum wage referendum.

 

Minimum Wage Shouldn’t Force Workers to Live in Poverty

On New Year’s Day, 20 states raised their minimum wages. That leaves a lot of states that aren’t increasing the minimum wage — along with the federal government.

Even some of those employees who are getting increases don’t have much to celebrate. Workers in Florida might barely notice their 12-cents-an-hour raise. And the extra 15 cents an hour in Montana, Arizona, and Missouri will be wiped out with inflation and climbing costs before the first paycheck is deposited.

U.S. legislators have refused since 2009 to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour — not even close to enough for full-time workers to make ends meet.

To put it bluntly, minimum wage is a poverty wage. Yet only 29 states have minimum wage rates higher than the federal rate — and some just barely.

In last year’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama called on Congress to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

Although Congress turned a deaf ear, activists took up the challenge. “Fight for $15” movements across the country won among the most powerful progressive victories of 2014.

Cheers to cities like Seattle and San Francisco with minimum wage plans that will increase rates to $15 an hour in the next few years. Huge congratulations to voters in Oakland, California, as well in Arkansas, South Dakota, Nebraska, and others who voted for significant minimum wage increases.

But the truth is, while it’s a great start, none of these increases goes far enough, or lifts workers out of poverty fast enough. What’s needed is a living wage that allows full-time workers to cover their basic needs and have a little savings left over in case of an emergency.

The Job Gap Economic Prosperity series — a collection of research reports by theAlliance for a Just Society — shows that a living wage comes to over $15 an hour for a single adult in most states studied. A parent supporting a child needs to earn closer to $22 or $23 an hour.

Women and people of color are least likely to earn a living wage, with half or more working full-time and not making enough to make ends meet.

Poverty-level pay is taken for granted at restaurant chains like McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts, and major retailers like Wal-Mart, that would rather invest in government lobbyists to keep wages low than in their employees.

“If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it,” Obama implored Congress in his latest State of the Union address. “If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.”

The sub-minimum wage for tipped workers has been stuck at $2.13 an hour for 24 long years. Imagine going to work every day, hoping beyond hope that the tips will make up for the tiny hourly wage. No worker should be a second-class employee.

Refusing to pay employees a wage they can live on isn’t a business plan. Paying employees enough so they can shop or dine at your business or neighboring businesses and grow the local economy — now that’s smart.

A full-time job should lead to financial stability, not poverty. We must continue to push Congress to raise the federal minimum wage and abolish the separate tipped minimum wage.

In the meantime, keep up the “Fight for $15.” We know that we can motivate our mayors, city councils, and state legislators by speaking out, sharing our stories, and presenting the facts. Most importantly, we have to vote.

Let’s make 2015 the year for $15 — and really have something to celebrate next New Year.

LeeAnn Hall is the executive director of Alliance for a Just Society, a national research, policy, and organizing network striving for economic and social equity. AllianceforaJustSociety.org
Distributed via OtherWords.org

Voter Support Spreading Nationwide for Higher Minimum Wage

Workers deserve to earn enough to support themselves and their families.

This concept has helped guide the work of the Alliance for a Just Society for years. And, in the recent midterm elections, voters in five states and two cities showed that this is an issue that is important to people of all backgrounds, in all parts of the country.

In this November election, voters in Arkansas, Alaska, South Dakota, and Nebraska voted to increase the minimum wage in their state, and voters in Oakland and San Francisco, California, voted to increase the wage in their cities. (Voters in Illinois and in some counties in Wisconsin also supported nonbinding initiatives to increase their minimum wage.) While Oakland and San Francisco may come as little surprise to many, the votes in the four “red” states show that increasing wages is an issue that cuts across party lines and the urban/rural divide.

In fact, when minimum wage initiatives are placed on the ballot rather than being left up to elected officials, they historically receive overwhelming support. In 2004, 70 percent of voters in Florida and Nevada supported increases in those states, and in 2006, voters in Ohio, Nevada, Montana, Missouri, Colorado, and Arizona supported increases. In 2012, in San Jose, Calif., voters easily approved a $2 minimum wage increase to $10.15.

Additionally, opinion polls show that Americans want an increase to the federal minimum wage, too. Workers across the country recognize the importance of making work pay, and that a full-time job should allow a worker to provide for herself and her family.

While these minimum wage increases fall short of providing a living wage for workers, they are an important step in helping working families make ends meet.

The next installment in the Alliance’s Job Gap Economic Prosperity Series, to be released next week, will show that workers across the country fall short of making ends meet and that women and people of color are especially likely to earn low wages. For these workers at the bottom end of the pay scale, an increase in the minimum wage can mean the ability to pay rent and provide food for their family.

Increases to state minimum wages are significant, and impact working families in real ways. However, the federal minimum wage falls well short of providing a living wage for working parents, as shown in the 10 states included in “Families Out of Balance,” released in August. Workers need action not only at the ballot box, but at the federal level, too.

Some members of Congress are urging President Obama to use an executive order to increase wages for federal contractors to $15 per hour; while this would be an important step, millions of working families will still fall short of making ends meet until the federal minimum wage is increased for all workers.

Workers across the country, in red states and blue states, are demanding a raise; it seems about time that their elected officials listen.

Seattle’s $15 Wage Plan to Boost Families and Businesses

Alliance for a Just Society Photo by Jason Collette

Alliance for a Just Society Photo by Jason Collette

The day after Republicans in the U.S. Senate blocked a modest minimum wage increase to $10.10, Seattle small business owners with the Main Street Alliance proclaimed their support for a city level $15 minimum wage.

“It is smart and responsible to raise the minimum wage, boost our local economy, and support small business success at the same time,” said Joe Fugere, owner of Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria, who served on the Mayor’s Income Inequality Advisory Committee.

“Main Street Alliance brought a strong small business voice to the process that sought common ground because we know our economy is built from the bottom up, not the top down,” said Fugere. “We recognize that our local economy is stronger when low- and middle-class families have greater economic security and more money to spend. Read more