A Week of Action: Living on the Minimum Wage

by Ann Pratt on April 8, 2014 · 8 comments

Editor’s note: Throughout this Week of Action, April 7-13, we want to hear from you: Instagram your own photos and short videos of what raising the minimum wage means to you as workers, business owners and supporters. And when you do, make sure to tag @USDOL so we can lift up the voices of Americans who so desperately need this raise.

With momentum building to “Give America A Raise,” Connecticut recently made waves by becoming the first state to increase its minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. As a result, Connecticut’s working families will soon see their wage floor raised from $8.70 per hour to the same level that President Obama has called upon Congress to enact for the entire country.

For State Sen. Gary Holder-Winfield, chair of the Connecticut Senate Labor Committee, the significance of the moment went beyond a “first in the nation” honor for the state he calls home. As a champion of economic security issues, he has been concerned about the high cost of low wages for working families.

An elected leader can always talk about what it’s like for constituents to live on a bare-bones food budget and scrape by on poverty wages, but experiencing it directly brings a different set of insights. So as the Connecticut legislature was considering final passage of the bill, Sen. Holder-Winfield took the Grocery Challenge leading up to the National Week of Action for Real Prosperity, April 7-13.

Connecticut State Sen. Gary Holder-Winfield goes shopping on tight budget

Connecticut State Sen. Gary Holder-Winfield sees if he can buy groceries on a minimum wage budget. Credit: New Haven Independent


Taking the challenge was eye-opening, says Sen. Holder-Winfield. After living on a food budget of only $28 for the week, or just $4 per day, he noted the difficulty of sticking to it − and that millions of Americans have no other choice because their employers pay them so little. Listen to his firsthand accounts in these videos:
Day 1:


Day 2 & 3:

It shouldn’t be this way. In America, everyone who works hard in a full-time job should be able to live in dignity, not in poverty. Raising the minimum wage as Connecticut did to $10.10 takes an important step towards this shared vision of America: an economy that works for everyone, where each person has a fair shot.

A decent minimum wage also does more than just make working families better off, lifting them out of poverty and also pushing up pay for those just above the minimum wage. What’s more, if employers were required to pay at least $10.10 per hour, their workers wouldn’t need to rely on SNAP benefits as much − potentially saving Uncle Sam $46 billion over 10 years.

More broadly, a higher wage floor also boosts the economy for everyone’s benefit as all those workers spend the extra money in their pockets on necessities at local businesses like groceries and gas. With more clients and customers coming in through their doors, businesses would then need to hire up to meet the demand. But don’t just take our word for it: 600 leading economists, including seven Nobel laureates, agree raising the floor of wages to $10.10 would be good for our national prosperity. So do some of America’s most successful investors and business leaders.

During this National Week of Action, other state legislators in 20 states across the country are participating in activities like the Grocery Challenge to experience for themselves what millions of working people live every day. Together, from the White House all the way down to the grassroots, we can achieve real prosperity for all.

It’s time to give America a raise.

Ann Pratt is the executive director of the Progressive States Network.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ann April 9, 2014 at 2:51 am

Raising the minimum wage is necessary. But to prevent having to go through all this again, add in an automatic increase according to the cost of living index. The wage is still minimal, but if prices increase –it should rise automatically each year.

2 Julia April 13, 2014 at 3:52 pm

As a family of four, we are living on a minimum wage income, which is $7.75 per hour.
Oh… my husband has worked at his job and he’s had raises. He’s been there 4 years and makes a whopping $8.09/hr. He gets notes about how wonderful he is. So he get to wear JEANS FOR A DAY!! WOO HOO! We are unable to have two incomes due to some health issues that have gotten worse for me, and I was the main bread winner. I have been fighting to get disability since March/2011 and still fighting for it. I have seen several apply, and get it immediately, as I watch them walk and due activities all day, in and out of vehicles, walking, etc., and yet here I am, barely able to walk or do anything due to severe osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and severe panic disorder, and I cannot get it. It is VERY WELL documented in my medical records. We get snap, and it helps very much, but we do run out before the month is over, and we don’t have money to buy more food, because our electric bill is outrageous, and we have rent, and trying to keep two kids in clothes, school supplies, and unexpected things that come up as well. Medical bills garnish any state tax we may get back and we pay back rent with the federal, so that’s how we live, among other issues. I have had one knee replacement, need the other one done, degenerative disc disease, 4 bulging discs and arthritis in my spine, but apparently I should be able to work full time. This is how we are living. It stinks and its not right. My husband was trying to get a new career at 50 yrs old, but when I went down the tubes, so did his schooling. He is a painter by trade for the last 25 years, but doc says no more, b/c he has osteoporosis so bad, he could fracture just by reaching to far to paint something, so he works at a department store. I’m only 47, so we are a mess, and the government says we don’t need help as in disability. How do the other people get it, and then you see them living the life? I know a couple who has disability, both of them do, and they have a huge travel trailer and spend winters in Florida. Must be nice. I just don’t get it. Are we TOO honest?? I don’t know. I think new guidelines need to be set. I’m exhausted and sick and tired!!!

3 James April 14, 2014 at 12:30 am

Where I live they are already raising the prices of food within the next 2 month but there no talk of raising the minimum wage and by the time they do raise it they will have to raise it again.

4 dang April 15, 2014 at 7:38 pm

I live in France and i didn’t know there were people who lived with just $4 a day … I thought all the people from US were rich & wealthy … very informative website.

5 Nickolas April 16, 2014 at 6:31 am

I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely loved every bit of it. I’ve got you book-marked to check out new things you post…|…

6 johny April 23, 2014 at 1:54 am

Thanks for your informative website.

7 J.D. April 26, 2014 at 5:39 am

I am in favour of raising the minimum wage as the current levels are just not sustainable for a family with children. Recent costs of living have sky-rocketed but the salaries have not been increasing proportionate. I believe corporations should have a social responsibility and the government should continue and enhance existing social welfare initiatives.

8 Agencia Mocho April 29, 2014 at 6:44 am

This information is very important for my sons. Lessons learn.

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