Commentary

Raising wages is a women’s issue

As an organizer for the January Women’s March on Raleigh, I have been asked, “What is a women’s issue?”  The answer is simple. Policies that affect women’s lives are women’s issues.

Consider for example, the minimum wage. Nearly 1 in 3 workers in North Carolina earn a wage below the federal poverty level, making North Carolina workers the second worst off in the nation. More than half of the new jobs created since the late 2000’s pay poverty wages. How does this relate to women?

Here’s how: More than two-thirds of low-wage earners in North Carolina are women.

It is literally impossible for a single mother with two children to work enough hours to support her family when she is paid minimum wage, without the aid of public assistance. Full-time employment with no vacation at the minimum wage produces $15,080 per year. That’s $7.25 per hour, 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year. $15,080. It is not livable. It is not conscionable.

It is, however, fixable. Raise the minimum wage: full-time work should equal a living wage.

According to the Raising Wages NC coalition, our hypothetical woman worker would need to make nearly three times the minimum wage to make ends meet without public assistance. If she was paid minimum wage, she would have to work 24 hours per day to make enough. The Raising Wages NC coalition has crunched the numbers. It would take $21.95 per hour for a family of three to get by on a frugal budget. We have a long way to go to get to there.

Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day and to help mark the event,  North Carolina Senator Angela Bryant and Representative Susan Fisher are introducing a bill to raise the hourly minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 within 5 years. It is a start. There will be a press conference inside the legislature at 11:00 a.m. and the event title is “Raising Wages is a Women’s Issue.” Because, it is.

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