A New Tool in the Fight to Raise the Minimum Wage
In coordination with the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), Oxfam America has released an indispensable tool for minimum wage and anti-poverty advocates’ tool box: an interactive map with accompanying scorecards detailing the impact a federal minimum wage increase would have on the workers in each Congressional district. But it is not just one map – the illustrative data can be broken down to show the density of low-wage working women, men, those living under the poverty line, and those below 200% of the poverty line, and how each would benefit from a wage increase.
Advocates can pinpoint and highlight for legislators the characteristics of the working poor in their community, the majority of whom are women (55%). Maybe a raise for 19% of Americans seems abstract, but telling Representative Tom Cotton that 76,000 workers in his Arkansas district would benefit from a minimum wage increase to $10.10 might do the trick. The current cost to taxpayers to fill the neglected role of companies in providing a living wage is nearly $7 billion a year to fund the supports of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Medicaid, and food stamps – now, advocates can go to this map and pull the number of working poor in their district who receive food stamps and EITC benefits.
The buzz word around issues of social policy is “jobs,” that a job will solve all the problems associated with poverty. The 25 million Americans who would benefit by raising the minimum wage to $10.10 do have jobs, many of them more than one because employers often schedule their workers with part-time hours to avoid providing benefits. Their wages are so low that even holding down more than one job is not enough to get by. This “poverty wage” phenomena means too little money and too little time – not enough time to help kids with homework, to prepare healthy foods, to go back to school, or to voice the injustice of their situation.
Data analyzed by David Cooper at EPI incorporated those whose calculated hourly wages fall between $7.00 and $11.50 per hour, as economists have explained a minimum wage increase would not only affect those earning the $7.25 minimum wage, but also those earning slightly above in order to maintain the hierarchical pay structure. Looking at this range of low-income workers shows that the proposed increase to $10.10 would help the families of 14 million children, and lift between 5 and 6 million Americans above the poverty threshold.
So let me assert again how impressive it is to have all of this data in one place, shown geographically (for those of us who need a little help visualizing the statistics), with links to a printable scorecard to use as a compelling and succinct legislative leave-behind and the ability to directly tweet the numbers to Congress. The hard work is done for us, advocates. We all know stories of workers across the country who are fighting to survive on $7.25, so let’s pair the constituent story with the district numbers and speak out for a wage raise.