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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.

 

Job Gap: Working Families Struggling, Sliding Deeper into Debt

JobGapNYSMeme2Debt – it’s become so entrenched in our daily lives that it’s almost a given. Debt is often a choice for higher income families, as an investment in the form of a mortgage or as a means to help pay for college.

However, lower-income households often end up in debt because their incomes leave them living paycheck-to-paycheck without a cushion for even minor incidentals. When an someone gets sick, the doctor bills pile up. If they attend college to improve their job opportunities, the student loan debt piles up.

It is an impossible balance sheet, resulting in families cutting back on necessities like health care, meals, or heat in the winter as they try to scrape by.

Today, Alliance for a Just Society released Families Out of Balance, the first report in the 2014 Job Gap Economic Prosperity Series. The report shows exactly how dramatically lower-income workers are disproportionately burdened by debt.

In addition, the reports shows that minimum wages in 10 states studied across the country fall far short of a living wage – even without adding debt to the equation. Read more

Fair Wages Aren’t Enough, Workers Need Hours, Predictability, too

Fast-Food-EmployeesThere’s no question that working families across the country are struggling to get by; wages for most income levels have been stagnant or declining over the past decade, while the cost of living has continued to increase.

One key to helping working families is increasing wages so that there are more living wage jobs available. However, increasing the minimum wage is only part of the solution for helping families whose low-wage jobs do not always include steady work.

Living wage calculations, like those produced by the Alliance for a Just Society, must make assumptions to remain consistent year after year. One of those assumptions is that workers have jobs where they can actually work 40 hours per week, year-round (for 2,080 hours per year). For many workers, this assumption doesn’t match their reality.

For retail and restaurant workers, a steady schedule with enough hours can be hard to come by. Retail salespersons and food preparation and service workers are two of the top five occupations with the greatest projected job growth between 2012 and 2022, but are also low-wage occupations, with 2013 median annual wage of $21,140 and $18,330, respectively. These jobs are also often shift work, without set schedules. Read more

Everyone Benefits When Workers Earn Living Wages

The South Korea government is taking an interesting approach to stagnating wages. The South Korean Ministry of Strategy and Finance is pushing a policy to offer tax credits to those firms that increase worker pay.

This legislation — which, if approved by the South Korean parliament, would go into effect in January — creates a policy incentive for firms to increase wages. As in America, wage growth in South Korea is “not keeping pace with corporate profits in South Korea, where household debt is rising while companies hoard cash,” according to this Bloomberg story.

Sound familiar?

Read more

Tipping Subminimum Wage in Favor of Workers

When you go out to dinner at a restaurant you might ask for salad dressing on the side, whether the carrots are organic, or if the chicken is free range, but do you ever ask the restaurant owner if her employees make a living wage?

Waitresses and waiters are the largest group of tipped workers in the United States; they also struggle with a significantly higher rate of poverty than the rest of the workforce. Tipped workers are also more likely to be women and people of color, contributing to the broader race and gender wage gaps.Tips

While the federal minimum wage is $7.25 cents per hour, the tipped minimum wage has been frozen at just $2.13 per hour for the last 23 years. Seven states don’t have a separate tipped minimum wage, and some have higher tipped wages than the federal figure, however, tipped workers in most states rely on tips from customers to round out the rest of their salary.

When the economy is slow or when weather keeps customers at home, tipped workers see their hours cut and tips shrink, causing many to turn to public support just to stay afloat. Food servers collect food stamps at twice the rate of the U.S. workforce as a whole, and are three times more likely to live below the poverty line. Read more