Community, Clergy Rally to Support Low-Wage Workers at Minimum Wage Rally
Yesterday, proponents of a new federal minimum wage increase held a National Day of Action. In 17 major cities, community, religious and labor leaders converged to speak up for the needs of low-wage workers across the country. Yesterday marked the 3 year anniversary of the last federal minimum wage increase - since then, the price of basic consumer goods have continued to rise, and CEOs of companies that pay minimum wage are profiting more than ever. Federal legislation has been filed that would raise the minimum wage to $9.80/hour.
This week, the National Employment Law Project released a study focusing on this point. Their study finds that 2/3s of minimum wage employers are large, profitable corporations.
In St. Louis and Kansas City, activists collected signatures to get a statewide minimum wage increase on the November ballot. This effort was led by Missouri Jobs with Justice, and several other faith and community organizing groups. Signatures were turned in May 6, and Missouri Jobs with Justice and allies expect the Secretary of State's office to announce the initiative's qualification for the November ballot by July 30. Simultaneous rallies in KC and St. Louis called on local politicians to take a stand on the federal legislation that would raise the minimum wage to $9.80. They also called on the local politicians and candidates to take a stand on the statewide $1 increase, in case Congress can't muster the common sense to pass the federal increase.
Low wage workers in both cities had a few minutes to share their struggles with 100+ supporters who rallied in 100+ degree heat in support of a minimum wage increase.
“I’ve been a home care worker serving seniors and people with disabilities for 20 years now and I’m still living in poverty and struggling to make ends meet,” explained Val Gordon, a local St. Louis worker who has earned minimum wage at points throughout her career. “In 2003 I made $6.65 an hour and did not get a raise until our federal minimum wage laws increased to $7.25 in 2009. Since then I have only had a thirteen cent increase and I face difficult decisions every day about which bills to pay and how I can still put food on the table.”
“Working 50 - 60 hours a week isn’t enough. I juggle my bills to ensure no late fees every single month. I spend $50 every two weeks on groceries and ask myself each day: ‘Can I eat this and make it another week?’” said Stephen Kilgore of Kansas City, an employee of Dunkin’ Donuts and Fuzzy’s Taco Shop. “I’m rationing my food every day.”
by Charlie Edelen, Missouri Jobs with Justice
Photo courtesy of Missouri Jobs with Justice