Imagine you are a single mother or father working a minimum wage job to care for you and your three children.
You make $7.25 each hour, maxed out at 40 hours a week, as a part-time employee. Before taxes, that brings you to $290 in earnings in one week, or about $1,160 in one month (approximately four weeks).
On top of that, you take an extra job that pays minimum wage on the weekends or at night.
If you work an additional 20 hours a week, that brings the total weekly earnings to $435 before taxes. That monthly pay is about $1,740.
Without sick days, that is a yearly income of about $20,880. At 60 hours a week, you and your three children are still living in what is classified as poverty, according to the 2014 Health and Human Services Poverty Guidelines.
The data may seem shocking. It seems hardly fair that a person working 60 hours a week, leaving little room for quality time or rest, can still barely be getting by paycheck to paycheck, but it’s a reality many people in America struggle with every day.
President Barack Obama’s executive order to raise minimum wage for federal contract workers is a step in the right direction to help hard-working Americans make ends meet.
Under his executive order, set to start in January 2015, the federal contract minimum wage will be raised from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour, giving an hourly wage earner an extra $2.85 an hour.
In the coming weeks, Obama will begin pushing for an overall hike in minimum wage for all hourly workers as he begins touring in the northeastern states.
In the same 40-hour work week mentioned above, the minimum wage increase would give the single parent an extra $114 a week and approximately $450 a month to put toward necessities. That yearly income, at just 40 hours a week instead of 60, is $21,008, still under the poverty line but closer than before and with less hour-intensive labor.
I’ve heard several arguments against raising minimum wage. The Congressional Budget Office estimated Obama’s plan could mean 500,000 fewer jobs, putting many people ill at ease about the economy.
Others have made the argument that minimum wage earners, such as a high school kid taking on a part time job for extra cash or a worker flipping burgers at McDonald’s, doesn’t deserve to make that much money.
People are even going so far as to say they will stop tipping their waiter or waitress in a restaurant if the federal minimum wage rises.
As far as a loss of jobs, it will be up to the individual employers to adjust.
With C-suite executives of major companies making thousands and oftentimes millions more dollars a year than the majority of company employees, I think these companies could manage to pay employees more and keep all of their positions filled.
Also, more money in the hands of the working class means more people buying goods and services, potentially increasing the need for workers.
The problem with the arguments related to a worker’s monetary worth is they don’t take into account real people who actually need money.
These arguments determine the worth of another person and their work through a narrow lens, not taking into account their needs. For many people, it’s not a matter of whether or not they want to have a minimum wage job, it’s a matter of needing a job to pay for food, rent and transportation.
It’s important to remember that minimum wage workers are people too. They want free time to spend with their families.
They want to be able to afford to live and enjoy living. They want a little more money. It’s not that much to ask.
Taylor Rexrode is a senior journalism major from Forney. She is the arts and entertainment editor for The Lariat.