When I took on the “Live the Wage” challenge to live on the minimum wage for a week, I felt a little silly acting like it was a big deal because millions of people do it every day. But the truth is — I had no idea how eye-opening an experience this would be.
A couple of things stand out, all of it obvious in retrospect:
- Living on $11 a day makes planning VERY important. Neglecting to pack a lunch one day was a huge problem.
- Healthy food is not an option. Fast food is cheap, and fresh fruit is expensive.
- I take for granted so many small things that are a luxury for those living on the bare minimum. Like seeing a movie, buying a book, or picking up the daily papers. I cancelled a beer that I was going to have with a young colleague seeking career advice, because I couldn’t bring myself to ask her to pay for it.
I survived the “Live the Wage” challenge of course, but in the back of my mind I knew it was just for one week. For 28 million workers, this is every week.
We’re supposed to be a nation of opportunity, but there are no open doors when your life is ruled by the minimum wage. After one week on the “Live The Wage” Challenge, I have to believe we can do better.
Can you pitch in $3 to support our campaigns to raise the minimum wage across the country? Click here.
Ten years ago, I was involved in the battle to raise the minimum wage in New York from $5.15 an hour to $7.25 an hour. There was a lobbyist for one of the big fast food chains arguing that $7.25 would destroy jobs and futures. I remember thinking – this guy is probably earning five grand a week, maybe more, from this client.
The idea that someone making as much in a week as a McDonald’s worker does in half a year struck me then, and strikes me now, as just a moral disgrace.
That’s why we’re doing what Congress won’t — raising the minimum wage, one state at a time. We’ve helped raise the wage to $10.10 in Maryland and Connecticut and are organizing with allies to do the same in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and New York. Join me and help build more campaigns to raise the wage across the country.
Living on $77 for a week wasn’t fun and games for me — or for the millions of families across the country struggling to get by on stagnant wages every day. It’s a high-wire negotiation act, learning to calculate what you can’t do, how much you can’t spend, where you can’t go.
If you believe that we, as nation, can and should do better, help fund more state-by-state campaigns to raise the minimum wage with a small contribution.
Thank you for your activism and your courage to keep moving our country forward,