Minimum Wage

In the War on Poverty, Women Need a Boost

Sojourners campaigns assistant Anna Hall posted a great piece last week de-bunking 5 myths about the minimum wage. One of these myths — that most minimum wage workers are suburban teenagers — was countered by the facts: nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers are adult women.

Don’t think of a suburban teenager — think of a single mother working full time while trying to raise her children, care for her family, and make enough to pay rent, probably without any paid sick or personal days (not to mention maternity leave). Could you do that on $15,000 a year?

On Jan. 13, Maria Shriver – who, in addition to her many accomplishments, is the daughter of the statesman widely regarded as the architect of the “War on Poverty” — released a report focusing on the needs of women in the current economy.

5 Myths About Minimum Wage


A common myth regarding raising minimum wage is that it's bad for the economy. J.Simunek/Shutterstock

It’s a new year, and Congress is back in session.

One of the top issues expected to be debated in 2014 is a hike to the federal minimum wage. 13 states have instituted wage increases. President Obama has supported raising the minimum wage throughout his presidency. Most recently, he shared his approval of new legislation proposed by Sen. Tom Harkin and George Miller (D-Calif.) that would raise the minimum wage to $10.10, up from it’s current $7.25. 

Critics of the Harkin/Miller bill are quick to decry any wage increase. The usual arguments are trotted out to combat progressive pay for low-wage earners. Here are five commonly perpetuated myths about minimum wage. Hopefully, their exploration will shed a more accurate light on this contested issue.

On Scripture: The Ballad of Sour Grapes

Grapes frozen on the vine, jecka /

Grapes frozen on the vine, jecka /

If, through broader networks of power, injustice is linked, it is no less true that injustice is encountered locally in neighborhood markets, schools, churches, and even corner fast-food joints. Today it is useful to begin not with the unseen oppressive power networks in our society but with their effects on those closest to us. Just ask the single parent serving dollar ice cream at a favorite fast-food hangout if he or she would like better hourly wages.

While fast food CEOs average a daily salary of $25,000, workers at fast-food companies in New York City make only 25 percent of the money they need to survive. Single parents earning the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour are, as Jillian Berman of the Huffington Post describes, not able to survive even in America’s cheapest counties. The Wider Opportunities for Women estimates that women are 50 percent more likely than men to earn the minimum wage. Compound this with the status of single motherhood and the needs of the household intensify exponentially.

Dependent on minimum wages are children, who like any other child in the U.S., deserve access to healthy food, clothing, affordable shelter, and descent education. Within the current reconfigurations taking place in the U.S. economy, the new modes of production continue to privilege those like the CEOs of fast-food companies. Yet, as Isaiah’s ballad reminds us, these wider realities have a local impact on the everyday friend, who routinely rises every morning to try and make ends meet on meager wages. The current vineyard of the fast-food industry has not stopped producing sour grapes, which is the massive sale of cheap empty calories at the wage of $7.25 an hour.

Mothers, Families Tell Struggles of Living on Minimum Wage

Jar of coins. Photo courtesy Balefire/

The stories pastors, chaplains, and charity workers too often hear behind closed doors and through frustrated tears are being brought to light. Acting Secretary of the United States Department of Labor Seth Harris has hit the road to listen to people struggling to get by on the minimum wage. 

Courageous people are publicly coming forward to tell their stories of personal pain, indignity, and frustration in the interest of creating the will to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $9.00 an hour by 2015.



Working in Poverty

Employee rights activists Mary Kay Henry and Christine L. Owens write for CNN:

Tuesday marked the third anniversary of the last increase in the federal minimum wage. For the last three years, while the prices of gas and milk have risen steadily and the richest 1% have enjoyed huge tax breaks, the federal minimum wage has remained frozen at $7.25 an hour, which amounts to just $15,080 a year -- as long as you get paid for any time you take off. That's more than $7,000 below the federal poverty line for a family of four. As a result, the purchasing power of the minimum wage has slowly eroded -- in just three years, its real value has sunk to $6.77 per hour, a nearly 50-cent drop.
The Bush tax cuts, which are simply the perquisite of the moment for the 1%, allow for the richest to prosper at the expense of middle-class and low-income workers. While CEOs make millions and their corporations make billions as part of a so-called economic recovery, the majority of Americans are struggling to make ends meet. This struggle is exacerbated by the low federal minimum wage. As middle-class jobs are increasingly replaced by low-wage work, however, this is the economic reality for a growing number of Americans.
Read more of their op-ed here

Dollars By the Gallon

You probably have a gallon of milk in your fridge. It might be fat free, soy, or maybe even 1 percent. Most of us drink milk in some form. But how long does it take for us to earn enough to buy it?

As part of their ‘Raise The Minimum Wage’ campaign, 99 Uniting produced this telling infographic, comparing how long it takes a minimum wage earner, a median wage earner and ‘CEO Guy’ to earn a gallon of milk. It makes for some sad and frustrating reading …

Time to Raise Minimum Wage?

Over at The Atlantic, Jordan Weissmann asks whether it is time to raise the minimum wage:

One of the harshest realities of America's slow economic recovery -- and there are many -- is the fact in spite of modest job growth, pay for workers is falling. Year over year, average inflation adjusted wages have dropped by 0.6 percent for all private sector employees. They're down a full 1 percent for non-supervisors -- your retail salespeople, your shop floor factory workers, your cashiers. In other words, even as the overall employment picture has improved in fits and starts, the working poor are getting poorer. 
Read the full article here

The Afternoon News: Thursday Nov. 10, 2011

The Afternoon News

The Afternoon News

Reawakening the Radical Imagination. Proposed Keystone XL pipeline route may be reassessed. OpEd: The answer is: Spend less. Cornel West keeps the faith for Occupy Wall Street. Most Americans support raising the minimum wage. Smithsonian museum on Jefferson's Bible. Poll suggests evangelicals favor redistribution of wealth. Defining poverty in a land of plenty. Is American becoming a nation of poor children? Are older Americans better off? Immigration in the South. Are unions and young people a winning combination for 2012? Unemployment claims drop for the second straight week. And Christian leaders talk about marriage and sex.

What We Need to Do to Cut Poverty in Half in 10 Years

Perhaps the most important finding from the report is that we have both the experience and the policy tools necessary to cut poverty in half.

Between 1964 and 1973, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, the U.S. poverty rate fell by nearly half (43 percent) as a strong economy and effective public policy initiatives expanded the middle class.

Similarly, between 1993 and 2000, shared economic growth combined with policy interventions such as an enhanced earned income tax credit and minimum wage increase worked together to cut child poverty from 23 percent to 16 percent.

We can't do this alone.