The Fight for $15 Isn’t About Money, It’s About Living
This week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the Raise the Wage Act to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour over the course of the next five years. What started as a small protest in New York City by a handful of fast food workers has now become a rallying cry for minimum wage workers across the country, and companies have taken notice. We’ve seen major corporations like McDonald’s and Walmart start working toward higher minimum wages, and Amazon has already adopted a $15 minimum wage for its workers. Cities across the country have also implemented minimum wage laws in places like Seattle and San Francisco, and states like California and New York have followed suit. Yet the legislation has little chance of movement in the Senate.
Over the past 40 years, our nation’s workers have barely seen any wage growth while the wages for the country’s highest earners has increased substantially. Isaiah 58 in the Bible says “loose the bands of wickedness” or pay people what they deserve. We know Jesus supported the laborer and believed they were worthy of their hire. We must maintain that mindset as we move forward and craft laws to pay the American people the wages they deserve and need to live. The Republican tax law that was supposed to put money back in the pockets of workers, instead took away beneficial tax provisions and provided the biggest tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations. As it currently stands, the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour cannot support a family anywhere in our country.
In fact, a basic one-bedroom apartment in Arkansas (the cheapest state to live) requires a job that pays at least $11.36 per hour, and in Hawaii (the most expensive state) you’d need to make at least $28.04 per hour. This fight for $15 is about more than money, it’s about being able to live.
The minimum wage battle is part of a larger cycle of systemic poverty. By keeping the minimum wage low, politicians effectively keep people in poverty and keep them trapped within the system they created. There are 140 million people in the U.S. today who are poor or low-income. Without livable wages, Americans are unable to afford to live.
Many Americans can’t afford health insurance, which can lead to extreme debt because of medical issues or to put food on their tables. They can’t afford to further their education, which could result in a higher salary or to afford better housing. If our people can’t afford housing, they’re stuck living in affordable housing districts, which is a form of voter suppression in and of itself. If they cannot afford to move to other districts, the other districts will remain gerrymandered. If the districts remain gerrymandered, then the same types of politicians will continue to be elected into office who will continue to suppress the fight for a livable wage. And so the cycle continues.
Repairers of the Breach recognizes that this fight is about more than just money, this fight is about living and about establishing justice. So, while we may applaud the House of Representatives for taking the necessary steps toward a livable wage, we pray and demand that this legislation be voted on in the Senate and that implementation would be immediate.
There are over 58 million American workers currently making less than a living wage. They deserve to get paid those living wages now. They simply cannot wait. The Fight for $15 has been a key part of the Poor People’s Campaign agenda since the beginning. I spoke at the first national convention of Fight for $15. I stood on the protest lines and was arrested alongside the workers who are fighting for their living wages. I am proud of SEIU’s Mary Kay Henry and of her courage to back this movement. We must not forget the battles we have fought to get here and the work that has been done.
We must continue our fight until every last American can afford to live no matter what job they have, no matter what state they live in, and no matter what the color of their skin is. Until that day comes, we continue to fight.
Join the fight.
Repairers of the Breach is building a moral movement and is a cosponsor of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. To learn more about both, visit www.breachrepairers.org.