One-third of American workers earn less than $15 an hour

Starbucks Workers United

Nearly a third of the workforce (31.9 percent) is earning less than $15 an hour: roughly 52 million workers and their families are struggling to get by on wages of declining value.

Such workers, whose annual income is less than $31,200, are disproportionately women and people of color.

Corporate power is out of control. For far too long, we’ve let giant corporations determine how the rest of us live. Who holds power today affects whether workers earn enough to feed their families, whether we act effectively to combat the climate crisis, whether women have the same opportunities as men, whether we invest enough in schools and hospitals, and whether lawmakers in Washington, DC, actually listen when we speak.

Half of the women of color in the workforce make less than $15 an hour, as do nearly 58 percent of single parents.

“It’s shameful that at a time when many US companies are boasting record profits, some of the hardest working people in this country – especially people who keep our economy and society functioning – are struggling to get by and falling behind,” said Kaitlyn Henderson, a senior research adviser at Oxfam America.

The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour, where it has been since 2009.

Critics say that is far less than a livable wage, particularly in light of soaring inflation, which has pushed up the prices of food, housing, gasoline, and other necessities, and has made it even more difficult for lower-income families to survive on their subpar wages.

The Biden administration hiked the minimum wage for federal civilian workers stationed in the US and for federal contractors to $15 an hour but some Republican attorneys general are challenging the President’s authority to set terms on federal contractors.

Biden also sought to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour as part of the American Rescue Plan Act, which he signed into law in March 2021. However, a parliamentarian ruled that the legislation did not meet a strict set of guidelines needed to move forward in the Senate’s reconciliation process.

Democratic lawmakers have repeatedly introduced the Raise the Wage Act bill, which would boost the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour and phase out the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers, youth employees, and workers with disabilities but with lackluster support it has never made it through the Senate.

The Economic Policy Institute said that 22 million people would see a boost in pay if the federal minimum wage was raised to $15 an hour in 2025.

Biden’s failures could hurt him in a Democratic primary, but Republicans have uniformly opposed efforts to make wages more fair to workers.

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