Posts

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.

 

Working Families Need Good Jobs – Not Just Any Job

Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its January jobs report, showing that 257,000 jobs were added last month. Increasing jobs is great news, but only if those jobs allow workers and their families to make ends meet.

The numbers have been praised, especially the average hourly wages that “soared 12 cents” to $24.75. While wages did increase in January, that “soaring” was compared to a decrease in wages in December, and was only 7 cents higher than wages reported in November. Additionally, 20 states increased their minimum wage in January, which would on its own increase average hourly wages.

In the latest installment of the Job Gap Economic Prosperity Series, “Low Wage Nation,” we show that most of the country’s job growth is in low wage jobs paying less than $15 per hour. Occupations like retail sales and food service top the list of jobs with the most new openings, yet these occupations have some of the lowest wages in the country.

Such jobs do not pay enough for a single adult to make ends meet, let alone a parent with children. Additionally, women and people of color are also overrepresented in these low-wage occupations, leaving them less likely to earn enough to provide for themselves and their families.

Nearly half of all new job openings are low wage, and nationally there are seven job seekers for every job opening that pays at least $15 per hour. That means that six of those seven job seekers must either take a lower-paying job, or go without work, as there aren’t enough jobs of any wage level for all of the nation’s job seekers.

“There are still too many people out of work, and too few living wage jobs to go around. We need to invest in good paying jobs and celebrate once our workers are able to make ends meet,” said LeeAnn Hall, executive director of the Alliance.

Increasing the minimum wage does help increase workers’ wages across the board – we saw some of that in January’s job growth, and we can see more if more cities and states increase their minimum wage.

However, we also need to increase the number of jobs available that actually pay a living wage by investing in good paying jobs, like those in the health care industry. Once our workers are able to make ends meet, it will truly be cause for celebration.

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

Civil Rights, Human Rights, Obviously Don’t Extend to Health Care in Georgia

Screen shot 2014-07-08 at 2.14.01 PMI got to thinking about the State of Georgia a few weeks ago when the Atlanta City Fathers proudly announced the opening of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. It is right there in Atlanta next to the Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola.

Martin Luther King grew up in Atlanta and his life and other achievements of the Civil Rights Movement are celebrated in this new institution.

Georgia takes pride in its attraction to outside visitors – it ranks third in the nation in tourism. Tourism is the 5th largest employer in the state with an annual economic impact of $53.6 billion, including $2.8 billion in direct and indirect tax revenues.

Surely the opening of the new Center will burnish Georgia’s reputation and add an additional attraction for tourists. Folks like me, whose lives have been so influenced by the Civil Rights Movement might just want to pay it a visit.

But I could not stop thinking that these folks, who project to the world the image of a refurbished, modern part of the “New South,” live in the Capitol of a state that refuses to expand Medicaid. Read more

Poor, in Prison – and Pregnant

pregnant-inmateAs poverty levels in the U.S. increase, safety nets are  slashed, and families are left with few options for survival. As a result, more people are forced into difficult economic decisions, including alternative street-based economies and crime from sheer economic desperation. Many of these people are women and mothers.

Among women who are fortunate enough to have employment – women of color, are still making 64 cents on the dollar compared to men. (For white women, it is  77 cents on the dollar.) These women are also most likely to be the primary caregivers for children. Add in the high cost of childcare and the amount of money that women have left to live on is abysmal. Read more

Project Vote Smart

Role in the Landscape

This is part twelve in a series of posts that will explore some of the leading organizations from around the country that are engaged in unearthing and combating the influence of money in the political process.

Project Vote Smart (PVS) is a transparency/data organization with a vast collection of data on candidates and incumbents. Their website, http://votesmart.org/, allows users to search at the presidential, congressional, gubernatorial and state legislative levels. Read more

Community Health Care Clinics Under Attack

Community clinics are an indispensable component of the health care infrastructure in the United States. They are widely regarded as a cost-effective way to provide basic care, saving the health care system billions of dollars every year. Clinics serve over 20 million people in America, and one out of three people in poverty rely on them for their medical needs. Community clinics are also critical for access to care for immigrants, many of whom have been shut out of health insurance coverage post-reform. Read more

Looking Back, and Forward, at Post-Katrina Justice and Accountability

August 29, 2010, marks the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Even now, survivors still face devastation and daily reminders of the governmental system that failed them. Hurricane Katrina raises the opportunity for all of us to question the role of government in communities, especially black communities. It also provides an opportunity to evaluate the use of storytelling in media and justice. Read more