How many minimum wage jobs must a mom work just to afford basic needs such as food, housing, and health care? Sadly, many women working full-time jobs in America must also face the reality that even though they work full time they are still forced to live in poverty.
If a mom works a 40-hour week and still lives in poverty, this is a problem we can't ignore. We all know about the minimum wage, but did you know that a minimum wage is not the same as a living wage? A minimum wage is a standard set by law, but it does NOT guarantee the worker will be able to afford basic needs such as food, utilities, health care and housing.
If a worker receives pay below $10 an hour and she (or he) does not receive benefits such as affordable health insurance, then the worker and her family members may decide not to get even basic healthcare such as vaccinations, mammograms, pelvic exams, and other screenings.
Employers that pay below a living wage force their workers to rely on food stamps and Medicaid. Plus that employer is probably not even paying their workers enough to rent an apartment.
A mom in Illinois would need to make over $15 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment according to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. In Illinois the minimum wage is $7.75 and will rise to $8.25 in 2010. That's why the The Good Jobs Chicago Coalition is pushing for wages of at least $10-$15. (You can hear more about living wage coalitions and grassroots organizers in Chicago at this Chicago Public Radio link.)
Mega chains receive tax dollars when they establish stores in a community. At a very minimum, I believe receiving these tax dollars should obligate them to truly help the community by offering a living wage. Sure, big box stores provide low-cost products, but the major problem of full-time workers living in poverty in America will never be solved by selling low cost items.
Will Chicago and other cities approve big box ordinances that would require Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot and other mega-chains to pay workers a living wage of at least $13 an hour and also provide affordable benefits?
Are you making a living wage? You can check out the living wage in your community or region using the Living Wage Calculator.
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