Guest Author - Tracey-Kay Caldwell
What is it like to live on minimum wage? Roseanne Barr, ACORN, and the AFL-CIO want to show you. Roseanne is hosting the 7 Days @ Minimum Wage video blog. The blog has video of seven real people telling you what living on or near the federal minimum wage of $5.15 an hour. The first video blog is of Paul and Susan. Susan is waiting for disability so she and Paul must now live on one paycheck. Paul earns $35 dollars for a full day of exhausting construction work. This is not enough money to cover all of their expenses. The second video blog introduces us to Erin. Erin keeps increasing her hours at her grocery store job to try to meet her expenses. Unfortunately, Erin is in the minimum wage trap, working a lot of hours to survive doesn’t allow her much time to pursue opportunities that might lead to a better job.
The third video blog tells us Jeffery’s story. Jeffery is the father of a two-month-old son. He is the sole support for his family. After paying the rent, the electric bill, buying diapers and formula there is much left for food. Jeffery isn’t looking for much, just a job-- that won’t make him choose between electricity and food. While Jeffery works just under 40 hours a week, he works six to seven days a week. This kind of unstructured scheduling makes it nearly impossible for minimum wage workers to take a second job because they face scheduling conflicts. The fourth video blog is of Jessica. This is one of the more heartbreaking stories. Jessica is clearly intelligent, working on her education, while trying to raise four teenagers on a full time minimum wage job. Jessica has earned minimum wage for sixteen years. Jessica realizes that her being the ideal employee is never going to rewarded by her current employer, but she fears loosing her seniority if she starts over somewhere else. As bad as things are she fears they could be worse elsewhere. She tells her kids they don’t want the brands of clothing and shoes their friends are wearing, they are individuals. But of course she wishes she could provide them the things their friends have.
The fifth video blog is of Chris. Chris lives on the verge of being homeless. He doesn’t have a regular job. Chris gets up at four a.m . everyday to search for work he can do that day. He found work for the day unloading a truck for nine hours. At the end of the day he had made $39. He pays thirty five dollars a night for the room he stays in. If he cant find enough work in a day he must sleep on the street. Chris tells us that if the minimum wage was raised by a dollar an hour he would be able to save for an apartment, so he wouldn’t have to worry as much about finding work each day. The sixth blog is of Amanda. Amanda has worked since she was fourteen to meet her basic needs. She wishes she had enough money to take her siblings to the movies and buy them birthday presents. But her check doesn’t provide enough for that. Her parents, who both work minimum wage jobs often call her looking to see if she can help them with buying food for her siblings. Amanda wonders if she will ever earn enough to have a “normal” life. The seventh blog is of Mallory who shares her dreams of an education and a future. She tells us that if they raise the minimum wage a dollar and hour she will save for a car and for college.
For most people living on minimum wage a dollar an hour increase could make the difference between surviving and having hope for a better future. Those living on minimum wage have watched their rent; food and utilities go up and yet there paycheck hasn’t. Fifteen million workers earn minimum wage and they have not seen a raise in the federal minimum wage in ten years. But states have begun to do what Congress will not. Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have raised the minimum wage. This November six more states have initiatives on the ballot to raise the minimum wage. Voters in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Nevada and Ohio will have the opportunity to make the lives of these minimum wage workers better. But even if your state does not have an initiative of the ballot, the 7 Days @ Minimum Wage site has placed a link to send your Congressman a letter telling him that when Congress resumes session you expect him to pass legislation to raise the federal minimum wage.