July 23, 2015

Sarita Gupta

4 Reasons People Need a $15 Minimum Wage

via flickr user Light Brigading

UPDATE (4/14/2016): Since we first published this post, many jurisdictions, including California and New York, have enacted laws to establish $15 minimum wage standards. Even more cities, counties and states have ballot measures and legislation in the works to boost local minimum wages to $15 as well. These victories are the direct result of the countless brave working men and women who are raising their voices, going on strike and standing together to demand a fair return on their work for themselves and those that follow.

When the Fight For 15 kicked off in 2012, critics described the idea as “ludicrous,” “absurd” and “not a reasonable approach.” Three years later, multiple cities have $15 minimum wage laws on the books, major corporations like Aetna have raised their starting pay to $15 an hour, and communities and lawmakers across the country are pushing for similar increases. Just yesterday, the New York Fast Food Wage Board recommended raising the minimum wage for fast-food employees to $15. Today, fast-food, childcare, and homecare employees across the country are rallying in support of the Wage Board’s decision, calling on policymakers in their cities to follow suit.

Clearly, politicians and activists from Washington, DC to Los Angeles County, California know that $15 an hour is neither ludicrous nor absurd. In fact, a $15 minimum wage is what people need to survive. Here are some reasons why:

1. The cost of living in the United States is prohibitively high if you make less than $15 an hour – no matter where you live.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Living Wage Calculator estimates the amount an adult needs to earn to make ends meet, adjusting for geography and household composition.

In Washington, D.C., for example, the calculator estimates the following:

Source: MIT Living Wage Calculator
Source: MIT Living Wage Calculator

That’s right. Looking at common household types, only a single adult with no children could get by on less than $15 an hour in D.C.

Of course, the Washington, D.C. area is notoriously expensive. So let’s look at Cameron County, home to Harlingen, Texas, the city that topped the CBS News list of the 10 cheapest places to live in America.



Again, a single adult can get by on less than $15 in Cameron County, TX. But many of the other households listed cannot. Single parents and married couples with only one working parent need far more than $15 an hour. Even a two-working-parent household with three children needs two incomes of nearly $15 an hour to make ends meet.

2. American households are changing.

Most anti-poverty laws are created with a two-parent household in mind. Recent shifts in household composition indicate that this approach might be misguided.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics; National Vital Statistics System (via Washington Post)
Source: National Center for Health Statistics; National Vital Statistics System (via Washington Post)

According to U.S. Census data, in 2014, 27.49 percent of children lived in single-parent households (with either male or female household heads). Census data also reveals that the mean family size for a female-headed household is 3.1, meaning a large number of families sit in that 1 adult 2 children category.

Let’s go back to those living wage charts. A living wage for a single parent with two children in Cameron County, Texas is $23.21. In Washington, D.C., it’s $37.81! A $15 minimum wage is far from ludicrous – it’s not even enough.

3. The rent is too damn high.


Standard wisdom says you should never spend more than 30 percent of your income on rent. The National Low Income Housing Coalition took a look at what this meant for people being paid the minimum wage. Their researchers calculated how many hours of minimum-wage labor were needed to rent a one-bedroom apartment in each state:

Source: National Low Income Housing Coalition
Source: National Low Income Housing Coalition


Gone are the days of the 40-hour workweek. Minimum wage at 40 hours a week won’t pay your rent in any state. The closest you can get is 48 hours in Puerto Rico. On the opposite end, minimum-wage earners in Hawaii need to work 125 hours a week to rent an apartment spending only 30 percent of their income.

With a $15 minimum wage, more parents could work 40 hours a week and could be in a better place to sustain their families.

4. The people who are paid low wages tell us they need $15 now.

Amanda Monroe, a single mother who works in the fast-food industry, explained how a $15 minimum wage would change her life while testifying for the New York Fast Food Wage Board last month.

Yesterday’s announcement is great news for the state of New York. Far from “absurd,” a $15 minimum wage is the bare minimum Americans need to be paid to have a good life in today’s economy.

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9 Comments on “4 Reasons People Need a $15 Minimum Wage”

  1. Eric Soley

    The thing is, the federal minimum wage hasn’t been increased in several years! I commend the honorable Bernie Sanders (I), Vermont, 4 proposing 2 Congress a $15 an hour federal minimum wage! I don’t commend the CEO of Dunkin’ Brands , he calls this “ridiculous”!

  2. EJLEE072006

    What is Obama doing about this shit??? You what is ridiculous?? The LOBBYIST, POLITICIANS,they are ridiculous!!! We Americans we run this country we should be able to live life comfortably, but yet this greedy motherfuckers wont let it, they look at the middle class like we not humans and shit… I hate this guys…
    Wake up America stand up,lets take this county over!! #raiseminimumwage

    1. John Sawyer

      I agree with EJLEE072006 100%….it is time to wake the fuck up America! Think back to when this country did in fact have an American dream. Back when ppl would ACTUALLY work hard to earn a living and establish a life for themselves! They didn’t demand government do it for them because they don’t think it’s fair someone else is successful! Hate to tell you but flipping fucking burgers is NOT hard work! You want to make more money? Here’s an idea…actually work hard, get some skills or an education, and stop begging government to step in and establish your American dream for you! FUCKING PATHETIC!!! JFK is rolling in his grave

  3. Christopher Sharp

    Corporate america makes billions in profits annually, why? One reason is that they pay their lower level workers only as much as they absolutely have to so they don’t quit. It’s basic business, keep your overhead down and profits will be as high as they can be.

  4. Friend

    We are reporting from occupied georgia. 3 homeless shelters have been closed 2 in west atlanta, 1 near valdosta near the ga. florida boder and i-75. These were well run facilities without any records of complaints or fines.The city of atlanta and neighboring dekalb county are involved in dozens of graft, corruption abd racketering charges against elected officials and employees of departments. Some have been fined or convicted.Just because you have a black face does not mean a damn thang.The georgia state university radio station has been taken over by a sepearte faction of the state gov. during the day for a paltry$150,000 dollars with thousands of petitions, and a number of marches downtown.Right to choiose has been prohibeted for female state employees. A living wage law passed by progressives in the city of atlanta for contractors working with city buildings was overturned by state reps in the gold dome. we need help in a number of ways such as convention boycott pressure.These topics are related to wages and the debate by a number of individuals and groups who have done work on related issues in our 50 states and several island territories such as Puerto Rico, saipan, Guam and American Samoa.for emergency groceries by county in 50 states the USDA has a bilingual hotline 1 866 3 hungry. Support family planning and some day care places on a sliding scale. Learn from the 1930;s

  5. Jene McCain

    Savvy suggestions ! I am thankful for the info . Does anyone know where my company can get a blank NY DTF ST-100 version to fill in ?

  6. PoBD

    “The people who are paid low wages tell us they need $15 now.” – Not a legitimate reason. No more valid than me saying I demand $40/hr for the job I do now. I wish these people would at least attempt to better themselves. I started my working life busing tables on Friday/Saturday night (during high school), then I worked at Subway, then I worked at a reservation only restaurant (all of this under $7/hr) then I subbed for someone at a local school, $51/day (NOT 40hrs a week). Then I got a job at a call center ($9.50/hr) then I joined the USAF ($9.80ish/hr), then I worked for a doctor ($10/hr), then I worked for the call center again ($14/hr), then they hired me on permanently ($16/hr). All of this took place over 10 years. I worked hard, I learned, I kept trying. I bettered myself anyway I could. I did not go to college and get a special degree. I worked hard! I made an effort! There is NO reason these people cannot at least attempt to do the same.

    My husband makes less than I do hourly (his story is similar to mine), we have our own home (a nice home in a nice area), we both have nice cars, we have purchased nice things (TVs, furniture, etc). We don’t have kids but we have 2 large dogs. We are careful with our money, we live WITHIN our means. We aren’t millionaires but we are very happy and live a comfortable life. They can do the same, if they TRY.

    1. Anna Aldaba ⚓

      The one thing you’re missing: the job needs to be done by someone. Some people actually enjoy working in fast food. For them, going to school would not lead to a job that they enjoy more. Why must we starve them for doing a job that is in high demand?

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