America needs a living wage so the lowest-paid workers are able to lift themselves out of poverty and bring economic equality to our nation.
On Wednesday, the Senate failed to move forward with legislation that would increase the minimum wage to $10.10 over the period of 30 months. The minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 since 2009. Recent figures show that more than three million Americans earned that amount or less last year.
What do these numbers really mean? Assuming someone earning the current minimum wage works 40 hours in a week, that amounts to a total of $290.00. This is before any taxes or deductions. Could YOU live on that amount per week?
Let’s take it one step further. Assume a 40-hour workweek, 52 weeks per year. That yields an annual income of $15,080.00. If you are a single parent with only one child, the poverty line for your household is $15,730.00. If you work full-time, never miss a day of work and don’t take any vacations, you are making $650.00 LESS than the poverty line!
But that’s not all. The likelihood of a minimum-wage employee consistently working a full 40-hour week is low. Think about who holds these jobs: fast-food workers, low-level retail employees, etc. It is well-known that many companies schedule these employees less than a full week so they do not have to pay for the benefits which are due to full-time workers.
Yes, it’s true that there are some benefits available to these, the most vulnerable workers in our society. But no one should have to depend on government handouts to make ends meet after an honest day’s work. I believe that what people truly want is to be responsible for their own fates. These people are working, and they are working hard. They deserve to live a life of dignity, and to take pride in providing for their families.
The solution seems clear to me: raise the minimum wage. Where will the money come from? End tax breaks for the wealthy. Don’t misunderstand me. I believe that market forces should be allowed to exert their influence in business, but not to the extent that it means exploiting the least fortunate among us.
We all want to believe that America is the land of opportunity. But right now, that does not apply to everyone. We are creating an underclass of indentured servants who toil day and night with no visible recompense for their labors. Let us break this vicious cycle and empower our brothers and sisters to reach for the economic freedom so many of us enjoy. Let us raise the minimum wage to a living wage and truly make America the land of opportunity – for all of us.
Paul Chehade is an independent candidate for president from Delaware.