I know firsthand the impact of low wages and the lack of a safety net on Wisconsin families. I currently work for McDonalds, making $7.25 an hour. I am a single mother of two boys, a four-year-old and an eight-month-old. I work hard to provide for them every day, but it always feels like I am falling behind. There’s no reason that someone who works full-time like me should be below the poverty line. Raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour would be a huge change for me. It would help keep the rent paid and the lights on. For me, this would mean significantly less anxiety and stress as a single mom. Maybe I’d even have a little bit extra to treat my kids to a movie or the zoo on occasion.
Wisconsin is long overdue for a boost in minimum wage, which has not changed since the federal increase to $7.25 in 2009, even though raising the minimum wage is supported by a majority of Wisconsinites. A raise in minimum wage would improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin workers, boost our economy by putting money into the pockets of Wisconsin’s working class people, and begin to reverse years of pay inequality for women and people of color, who make up the majority of low-wage workers.
To me and thousands of other Wisconsinites, raising the minimum wage will have real impact. It could very well mean the difference between economic stability and economic disaster. It is one of the recommendations for reducing poverty that 9to5 and the national Coalition on Human Needs identified through a report titled The High Cost of Being Poor in Wisconsin.
The report highlights the critical need to raise the minimum wage and help workers get more paid hours through paid sick days, paid family and medical leave, and more predictable scheduling. It shows that low-wage workers who have regular and full-time hours, higher pay and strong safety nets would truly have a chance to move out of poverty. This is especially true for women, who make up nearly two-thirds of all workers paid minimum wage, and who are more likely to lose pay because of caregiving responsibilities. And, more than half of those earning minimum wage are people of color. Raising the minimum wage is a critical first step toward reducing pay inequities. We deserve an economy that works for all of us.
Gov. Tony Evers’ budget, released in February, includes a plan to incrementally increase our state’s minimum wage over the next several years. This is a step in the right direction, toward addressing the needs of Wisconsin’s working women and families. To assure that they understand the importance of raising the minimum wage, call your legislators.
Lynette White is a member of the Wisconsin chapter of 9to5, National Association of Working Women, a 46-year-old organization working to strengthen women’s ability to achieve economic justice through advocacy and organizing on issues of economic security, equal opportunity, work and family.
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