Imagine you’re a single parent trying to provide for your family on the minimum wage. Even though you work full-time, you take home just $1,257 a month – below the poverty line if you’re raising one child, and well below for a two-child family. You need to pay rent, utilities, transportation and food for you and your child. You’ve got to pay for childcare too, which can often cost more than rent. Could you make that budget work? What would happen if your child gets sick or your car breaks down?
It’s impossible. And yet, every day, millions of people try.
It’s time to give Americans a raise to $15 an hour. That’s why we introduced the Raise the Wage Act, which would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.
This shouldn’t be a partisan issue – and as it turns out, it’s not. Three quarters of Americans support raising the minimum wage, and almost two-thirds support raising it to $15 an hour. Nineteen states increased their minimum wage this year – from Arkansas to New York. And cities are leading the way as well, with 19 cities raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour from Seattle, Wash., to Flagstaff, Ariz.
But that’s not enough. Often the problem folks have isn’t getting a job –Too many people are working longer hours and getting paid less, often times needing multiple jobs to make ends meet. In the past eight years, the value of an hour’s work at minimum wage has decreased by almost a dollar. Millions of people are working 50, 60, even 80 hours a week and still struggling to make ends meet.
While many Republicans pretend minimum wage jobs are held by teenagers or young adults without dependents, it’s just not the case. The majority of people working for minimum wage are adults who contribute to their household’s income. Many are the primary breadwinner. Sixty-two percent of workers making minimum wage are women – and 6 million of those women are mothers.
This hurts our communities and is bad for our economy. But most importantly, it’s just not right. If you work hard and play by the rules, you shouldn’t be struggling to survive. That’s not the America we want.
Nobody knows the struggle of trying to survive on $7.25 an hour better than the workers who live it every day. That’s why in union halls and on picket lines across the country, working Americans are standing up and demanding justice and fairness for themselves, their families and the future of all working people.
The Fight for $15 movement, along with dozens of labor unions and worker advocacy groups, has spent the last four years leading this effort. They’ve made the call for “$15 and a union” the rallying cry for thousands of people.
And Democrats are hearing their voices. With more co-sponsors than ever before, Democrats are united in our fight for economic justice, and will stand arm-in-arm with workers demanding a better future.
We also would set for the first time one fair federal minimum wage – doing away with a separate unfair wage for tipped workers (currently a paltry $2.13). Tipped workers earn 37 percent less than those who do not rely on tips, and as most tipped workers are women, this widens the gender pay gap.
We stand with those protesting in the streets – poverty wages are no longer acceptable. Every single working person in this country deserves a living wage. After all, they can’t afford to accept anything less.
Ellison represents Minnesota’s 5th District and is deputy chair of the DNC. Scott represents Virginia's 3rd District and is the ranking member of the Education and The Workforce Committee.
The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.