As the single mother of two young children, Losia Nyankale’s job is what keeps her family afloat. But between earning low wages and having no paid sick days, Losia is just one child care emergency away from losing her job. This pressure made it difficult for Losia to care for her mother when she suffered a stroke, and it forced Losia to return to work immediately after the birth of her second child—despite her doctor’s orders. Losia works long hours to be able to afford her basic living expenses and child care. And she often finds herself in an all-too familiar bind: if she picks up more shifts to earn a better living, the child care costs that she can barely afford now will rise, and she’ll have even less time with her family. Losia would like to go back to school to improve her situation, but the combination of low wages, lack of paid sick days, and lack of affordable child care, keep that dream from coming true for now.
For many years Teresa worked on call as a banquet server and had an extremely difficult time arranging child care at the last minute for her children because of her unpredictable schedule. She found herself turning down jobs or quitting jobs where she wasn’t able to arrange child care, even though she needed the income badly. Like Losia, Teresa was a single mom who often didn’t earn enough money to pay for care. Read more »
It’s the first week in June: temperatures are rising, the cicadas are swarming, and many state legislatures are wrapping up their 2013 sessions. This flurry of legislative activity has included several important steps forward on the minimum wage.
The biggest news comes from Connecticut, where last week the legislature passed – and the governor signed – a bill to increase the state minimum wage from $8.25 to $9.00 per hour by January 1, 2015. This compromise measure will give a much-needed raise to minimum wage workers in Connecticut, about six in ten of whom are women. An additional 75 cents per hour amounts to $1,500 a year for full-time work, bringing annual wages up from $16,500 to $18,000. That’s a meaningful boost, but still about $500 short of lifting a family of three above the poverty line, much less what is needed in a high-cost state like Connecticut.
And there is a catch: Connecticut’s new law actually reduces the percentage of the minimum wage that employers must pay to workers who receive tips. Today, tipped workers like restaurant servers are entitled to a minimum cash wage that is 69 percent of Connecticut’s full minimum wage ($5.69 per hour). In 2015, when the regular minimum wage is $9.00 instead of $8.25 per hour, tipped workers will be entitled to a minimum cash wage that is 63.2 percent of the full minimum wage ($5.69 per hour) – that is, they will get no raise at all. While most of Connecticut’s minimum wage workers who will get a raise are women, women are also a majority of the tipped workers who will suffer from this unfair exclusion. Read more »
Today is kind of a big deal for advocates pushing for a higher minimum wage (myself included). As you may have heard, in his State of the Union address last night, President Obama called for raising the minimum wage and indexing it to keep pace with inflation – and did so eloquently, I might add:
"We know our economy is stronger when we reward an honest day’s work with honest wages. But today, a full-time worker making the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year. Even with the tax relief we’ve put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That’s wrong. …
Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families. …For businesses across the country, it would mean customers with more money in their pockets. In fact, working folks shouldn’t have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up while CEO pay has never been higher. So here’s an idea that Governor Romney and I actually agreed on last year: let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on."
And there’s another reason today is important in the minimum wage fight: February 13 is 2.13 – and $2.13 is the minimum hourly cash wage that millions of tipped workers have been paid since 1991. (Though President Obama didn’t mention the tipped minimum wage in his remarks, the White House affirms that it should be increased along with the regular minimum wage.) Today, tipped workers from across the country convened in Washington, DC to call for the fair wages they have been denied for far too long. Read more »
Remember when a hot dog and a soda cost 39 cents? Yeah, neither do we.
We all know that restaurant prices rise nearly every year with inflation. The cost of everything from groceries to gas to rent rises, too. But many workers have not seen their wages rise in years, leaving them straining to make ends meet on paychecks that keep getting smaller relative to the cost of living.
For our neighbors in Maryland, the minimum wage is stuck at $7.25 per hour, the federal minimum, and the minimum cash wage for tipped workers is woefully low at $3.63 per hour (though higher than the federal floor of $2.13 per hour). If the minimum wage had risen with inflation over the past several decades, it would be close to $10.60 per hour today. But neither the minimum wage nor the tipped minimum wage is linked to inflation in Maryland, so the purchasing power of these extremely low wages erodes further each year.
It’s not often that I come to work and find I can credit the same person with the inspiration for both yesterday’s dinner and today’s blog post – but today I’d like to thank Mark Bittman for his delicious tomato panzanella recipe as well as his brilliant NY Times Opinionator post on the substandard wages and working conditions faced by many food industry workers.
Bittman’s blog post may not be as fun to read as some of his other writing, but it sheds light on a serious issue that is too often overlooked, even by foodies who go to great lengths to assure that farmers and animals are treated with respect. As Bittman observes, “If you care about sustainability — the capacity to endure — it’s time to expand our definition to include workers. You can’t call food sustainable when it’s produced by people whose capacity to endure is challenged by poverty-level wages.” Read more »
This blog post is a part of NWLC’s Mother’s Day 2012 blog series. For all our Mother’s Day posts, please click here.
As you probably know, Mother’s Day is coming up on Sunday. Here at the National Women’s Law Center, we care a lot about mothers – not only our own (although you’re totally awesome, Mom!), but also the millions of women across the country who are trying to raise kids, care for their own aging parents, climb the career ladder, save for retirement, and protect their health – often all at the same time, and often with the odds stacked against them. My work in the Family Economic Security program focuses on advancing policies that help low-income women and their families make ends meet, and if you’ve seen any of my blog posts lately, you’ll know one policy change that could really help working moms is an increase in the minimum wage.
Women are nearly two-thirds of workers making the federal minimum wage or less. Many of them are mothers struggling to support their families on earnings of less than $15,000 a year for full time work. And on top of their tough jobs – waiting tables, caring for children and homebound seniors, cleaning homes and offices – many face the nearly impossible task of finding affordable care for their children while they’re at work, often without a single paid sick day to fall back on in an emergency.
The Rebuild America Act, introduced by Senator Harkin (D-IA) in late March, would help address several challenges that low-income working moms face by raising the minimum wage, including the minimum cash wage for tipped workers; expanding funding for child care assistance; and guaranteeing paid sick days. Read more »
On April 17, women’s earnings from 2011 and 2012 will finally match their male counterparts’ 2011 earnings. Yes, it takes women a little over 15 months to make the same income that it takes men to make in 12. How is it that in 2012, women are still only making 77 cents to a man’s dollar? We have been fighting for equality for so long! We have had success – like the Equal Pay Act and, more recently, the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. But we still have a long way to go.
We have even further to go now that the Wisconsin legislature and the Governor of Wisconsin repealed the state’s Equal Pay Enforcement Act, which beefed up the penalties for pay discrimination and the relief available to victims. This means that if a woman in Wisconsin finds that she is being paid less than her male counterpart, she has fewer remedies and less relief available to her than she did before. And given that pay discrimination is hard to identify and hard to challenge, that’s definitely a step in the wrong direction.