As a former worker on minimum wage, I wince as I remember the stress and anxiety that my friends and co-workers experienced as they fretted over paying for the basics on a daily basis and suffered through the pain of simply doing without. I witnessed people eating chips for dinner because it was all they could afford or playing exhausting games with credit cards by transferring years-old balances to new cards to get a break on interest rates.
No one should ever have to avoid doctors’ visits even when they were in great need because they couldn’t afford it and had no insurance, like my co-workers, or work through fatigue most days because their multiple jobs didn’t permit them a full night’s sleep.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services federal poverty guidelines state that a two-person household needs $17,420 a year to make ends meet. It is distressing to me that, with North Carolina’s current minimum wage of $7.25, a full-time minimum wage worker working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, makes just $15,080 a year before taxes, $2,000 below these guidelines.
As is typical, inflation continues to go up at a steady pace while wages stay put. North Carolina’s minimum wage hasn’t budged in nearly 12 years. The pandemic has only exacerbated these issues, causing so many workers who were living on the edge to fall off.
Some advocate for waiting for the federal government to act on raising the minimum wage. But why wait when workers need help now?! We can do what 29 other states, including conservative ones like Nebraska, Arkansas, South Dakota and Missouri, have done and raise our state minimum wage to a fairer and more just $15 per hour. We just need the political will to do it.
Last [month], the Raising Wages NC coalition and groups like Just Economics held a press conference about the statewide bill to raise the minimum wage. I fully support this long overdue bill, and you should, too. I urge our lawmakers to treat this issue with the urgency it deserves and do right by North Carolina’s workers.
— Susan Hills