A Moral Revolution of Values: The Case for a Living Wage

  • This blog first appeared on the DailyKos website on 08.03.16

It’s a matter of life and death

If you have never been “working poor” in America, it is difficult to appreciate at a gut level how expensive it is. Not earning a living wage means that you are one hiccup away from a cascade of troubles. Often it means that you must enter the snake pit of payday loan lenders. Often it makes the consideration (even if the opportunity is there) of going back to school for additional education impossible because day to day survival depends on your income from a second or third job.  Taking a vacation or having time off is almost unheard of because lost work time makes it impossible to stay above water or catch up. Lack of adequate health care insurance means that medical care must be either postponed or mandates a trip to the emergency room - the most expensive and frustrating route available for medical care. Dorothy Adams, a fast food worker in Atlanta, describes her situation as literally a fight between life and death:


The Decency of a Living Wage

Oftentimes there is a very cruel irony in the deprivations faced by those working poor who struggle to make ends meet. For example, Artheta Peters, a home healthcare worker in Cleveland, points out that her job entails addressing all aspects of caring for her clients. And yet, ironically, because overtime work is mandatory for her to cover just her family’s basic needs of food, clothes, shoes, school supplies, and transportation, the extra time spent caring for others means that there is no time at home to take care of her own kids and family. Sometimes there is no money for gasoline to get to those elderly clients who are depending on their caregivers to cook meals, insure they are on their medication schedules, or see to their basic daily necessities which provide them at least a minimum quality of life. Artheta Peters outlines the daily dilemmas that are faced by those whom society does not offer the decency of a living wage, and she addresses the simultaneous impact that their impoverished circumstances can have on those for whom they provide services.


The Minimum Wage Lags the Cost of Living

For the working poor, the cost of living has far outstripped the increase in salaried hourly wage. Even with food stamps, access to Section 8 housing, and other forms of public assistance, surviving on a minimum wage hourly rate is almost impossible. Antoin Adams in Birmingham knows what people face: 

As a society, we must strive to create a more perfect union where all people deserve the right to a living wage that can provide the basic necessities of life to workers and their families. Someone is hurting our brothers, our sisters, our children. And it has gone on far too long. Forward together.