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.
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:
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.