with Ashley Allison of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
Posted Mar 04, 2019
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According to the National Women’s Law Center, approximately two of every three American minimum wage workers are women. While more states are increasing the minimum wage, advocates say the federal minimum wage keeps workers below the poverty line.
Hyland: The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. Women are disproportionately affected by the minimum wage, accounting for nearly two-thirds of workers at this income level. Hello and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I´m Sheila Hyland. And while it is called a minimum wage, is it a livable wage? Joining me to discuss that is Ashley Allison. She is the Executive Vice President of Campaigns and Programs at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. Ashley, welcome.
Allison: Thank you for having me.
Hyland: Two of every five U.S. children is living in a household with at least one person earning under $15 an hour. Paint for us a picture of the make-up of the low-wage work force.
Allison: Sure. So you have to think about what your everyday lifestyle is. You wake up, you need to feed your children. You need to feed yourself. You need to get to work. So you either need a car or bus fare or for a metro. You need to eat lunch, you need to have clothes, you need to keep the lights on in your house. These are everyday experiences that people who are making less than $15 an hour or for the federal minimum wage, $7.25 an hour, are having to figure out how they crunch pennies together to make sure they can feed themselves, keep their lights on, keep a roof over their head. And you asked the question, you know, the minimum wage, is it a living wage? And we don´t think it is. $7.25 is not enough for American people to be living on, which is why we´re calling for $15 an hour.
Hyland: And the Leadership Conference actually went across the country to demonstrate that this is a problem for people living at a wage under $15. What did you explore, who did you follow, and what did you find?
Allison: Well, what we learned is that there are a lot of Americans who are living under the $15-an-hour pay standard. And so we went, and we had conversations with mothers, with single women, with gentlemen, with folks who are living this lifestyle and trying to figure out how they´re doing their best, being responsible, having, working a job or two or three at times to make sure they can take care of themselves and family, and realizing that it´s not working for them. And so we listened to their experience and we wrote a report called the Bare Minimum Wage Report, which you can find on our website -- civilrights.org. And it shares their stories, and it also explains why living in this wage is very challenging for people and why we need to change the rule.
Hyland: And who would most benefit if we raise the minimum wage? What groups of people?
Allison: Well, we definitely know women are disproportionately affected by low-wage jobs, and then particularly women of color are affected by low-wage jobs. And so we know the households are predominantly held together by women. And so women would drastically be advantaged by this, but particularly women of color, and specifically black women and Latinas.
Hyland: And women are already dealing with the pay gap issue, too.
Allison: That´s right, that´s right.
Hyland: There are those who say that boosting the minimum wage would not help this country at all, that it would perhaps lead to unemployment, and that small businesses would be adversely affected. What do you say to that argument?
Allison: The folks who usually make that argument are not trying to figure out how to live on $7.25 an hour. So I would always challenge them that if you don´t want other people to make more money, then perhaps try living in their shoes for a moment. We also know that when people have money in their pocket, they´re more likely to spend their money. They will be buying things, and it actually boosts our economy. So it´s just not a factual argument.
Hyland: And there are cities across the country that have raised the minimum wage.
Allison: That´s right, there are cities and states that are leading the way and showing that when you pay people a fair, livable wage, because just in the term minimum wage, it´s a floor. It´s not the ceiling, it´s where you start.
Allison: And so people should have the opportunity to grow in the economy.
Hyland: You are also advocating for eliminating the tipped minimum wage. Can you explain what that is and why that´s so detrimental?
Allison: So there are current laws in place that allow people to even make less than the $7.25 an hour, which is the federal minimum wage. And people can make as low as $2.13 an hour. They´re usually tip workers, so bartenders or servers in restaurants, but they´re also people that are living with disabilities who also can get paid that low wage. And we have seen time and time again that they are not able to sustain the lifestyle that we would hope that everyone living in this country should be able to do. And so we´re calling for the elimination of the tip minimum wage where people are making $2.13 an hour.
Hyland: And if you could say one thing to make people really understand what it is you´re advocating for, what would it be?
Allison: I think it´s important for folks to know that there´s dignity in work regardless of what you´re doing. And that if people show up to work every single day, they deserve to be paid a fair wage for their work so that they can put food on their family´s table and keep a house over their head -- that´s all folks are asking for.
Hyland: Ashley Allison from the Leadership Conference, thank you so much for joining us today.
Allison: Thanks for having me.
Hyland: And thank you for joining us as well. For more great conversations with leaders in your community and across the nation, visit comcastnewsmakers.com. I´m Sheila Hyland. ♫♫ ♫♫