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The struggle to survive on minimum wage

Updated on December 19, 2015

Quality of Life on Minimum Wage

Following the brief strike at 7 airlines in November, baggage handlers, cabin cleaners, ramp workers, wheelchair attendants, janitors and others returned to work. They are hired by independent contractors, McGinn Security, Prospect Airport Services and PrimeFlight.

Oneitha, a wheelchair attendant at Philadelphia Airport, shared the difficulties that she and her co-workers faced, struggling to survive on the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and no benefits. The federal minimum wage has not been increased since 2009, although the cost of living continues to soar.

Oneitha is not alone. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2011, 3.8 million American workers earned the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour or less, and working for minimum-wage is not exclusive to teens. Fully 90 percent of those earning minimum wage are adults.

President Roosevelt, in 1933, stated “By living wages, I mean more than a bare subsistence level – I mean the wages of a decent living.” Apparently, Roosevelt's words went unheeded. Economic hardship is unavoidable for those making minimum wage, a mere $15,000 a year.

Due to the battle in Congress to raise the federal minimum wage, 29 states acted to raise their own minimum wage. Some cities have enacted even higher local minimums such as San Francisco ($15 by 2018), Seattle ($15 by 2021), Chicago ($13 by 2019) and San Diego ($11.50 by 2017), according to the National Employment Law Project.

Federal law, as well as wage laws in many states, allow tipped employees to be paid even less as long as “tip credits” bring their pay up to at least the applicable minimum. (Source: U.S. Department of Labor).

MIT professor Amy Glasmeier created "The Living Wage Calculator," which is a breakdown of the cost of living in each state and county, and what an individual needs to earn to meet the minimum standard of living. (Source: The Washington Post).

From professor Glasmeier's in-depth report, it's obvious there are millions of Americans unable to meet cost-of-living expenses in cities across the US. While Congress engages in partisan politics, many Americans are going under. There are 4.8 million American's living in poverty.

According to The National Alliance to End Homelessness, "on a single night in January 2014, 578,424 people were experiencing homelessness—meaning they were sleeping outside or in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program. While poverty and homelessness rises in America, our legislators continue to send billions to other countries. It's clear that the US has lost it's way. Unless American's unite and speak up about these issues, increased poverty and unrest across America is imminent.

State
Minimum Wage for 2016
Cost of Living Adjustments
Alabama
none
 
Alaska
9.17
x
American Somoa
varies
 
Arizona
8.05
x
Arkansas
8.00
 
California
10.00
 
Colorado
8.23
x
Connecticut
9.60
 
Delaware
8.25
 
D.C.
11.50
x
Florida
8.05
x
Georgia
5.15
 
Guam
8.25
 
Hawaii
8.50
 
Idaho
7.25
 
Illinois
8.25
 
Indiana
7.25
 
Iowa
7.25
 
Kansas
7.25
 
Kentucky
7.25
 
Louisiana
none
 
Maine
7.50
 
Maryland
8.75
 
Massachusetts
10.00
 
Michigan
8..50
x
Minnesota
7.75/ 9.50
x
Mississippi
none
 
Missouri
7.65
x
Montana
8.05/ 4.00
x
Nebraska
9.00
 
Nevada
8.25/ 7.25
x
New Hampshire
Repealed
 
New Jersey
8.38
x
New Mexico
7.50
 
New York
9.00
 
North Carolina
7.25
 
North Dakota
7.25
 
Ohio
8.10/ 7.25
x
Oklahoma
9.25
 
Oregon
7.25
x
Pennsylvania
7/25
 
Puerto Rico
7.25/ 5.08
 
Rhode Island
9.60
 
South Carolina
none
 
South Dakota
8.50
x
Tennessee
none
 
Texas
7.25
 
Utah
7.25
 
Vermont
9.60
x
Virgin Islands
 
 
Virginia
7.25
 
Washington
9.47
x
West Virginia
8.75
 
Wisconsin
7.25
 
Wyoming
5/15
 
Sources: U.S. Dept. of Labor, http://www.dol.gov/esa/minwage/america.htm; and state web sites.

Many American's becoming homeless

Source

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