In the News June 16
“Profiting from Pain”
More Than 50 Million U.S. Workers Earn
Less Than $15 per Hour
Oxfam presented research on low wage workers in the U.S. A report published on March 22 says:
“According to new research from Oxfam America, 31.9 per cent of the U.S. labour force, or 51.9 million workers, currently make less than $15 per hour ($31,200 per year), and many are making the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour or less. With inflation at a 40-year high, the value of the minimum wage has decreased by at least 21 per cent from when it was raised in 2009, leading to a worsening cycle of poverty for many people who provide some of the most essential services in this country.”
In 2020, in the United States, the poverty threshold for a single person under 65 was an annual income of U.S.$12,760, or about $35 per day. The threshold for a family group of four, including two children, was U.S.$26,200, about $72 per day. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey 2018 One-year Estimates, 13.1 per cent of Americans lived below the poverty line.
The report continues: “‘It’s been 13 years since Congress raised the wage floor in this country, and in that time all costs of living have steadily climbed. The buying power of the minimum wage simply hasn’t kept up,’ said Kaitlyn Henderson, Senior Research Advisor at Oxfam America. ‘It’s shameful that at a time when many U.S. 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.’
“In fact, people of colour and women make up a shocking percentage of low-wage workers in the United States. According to the new research based on data modeled from the five-year American Community Survey (ACS-PUMS) and Current Population Survey (CPS-ORG), while 26 per cent of self-identified white workers earn under $15 per hour, 47 per cent of self-identified Black people in the workforce make less than $15 an hour. And while 40 per cent of self-identified women in the workforce make less than $15 an hour, 25 per cent of self-identified working men do. Even more stark, 50 per cent of self-identified women of colour in the workforce (14.7 million) make less than $15 an hour, and in 25 states, at least 60 per cent of working women of colour earn under $15. The report also finds well over half of self-identified single parents, 57.5 per cent (11.2 million people), make less than $15 an hour.
“‘Working families, working women, and especially working women of colour are barely making ends meet in the face of low wages–despite their inherent worth and dignity, not to mention the tremendous value they create for employers and society,’ said Gina Cummings, Vice President of Advocacy, Alliances and Policy for Oxfam America. ‘Given the surging rate of inflation and the skyrocketing price of gas right now, this is nothing short of an emergency for workers in these jobs.’
“Moreover, the report highlights that federal law allows employers to pay wages even lower than $7.25 to certain workers. These subminimum wage workers include student workers, farm workers, domestic workers, and workers with disabilities.
“The tipped wage workforce is by far the largest subminimum workforce, at roughly 4.3 million, two-thirds of them women and disproportionately women of colour. The federal tipped minimum wage has been stuck at $2.13 an hour since 1991. While employers are obligated to ensure take home wages meet the prevailing minimum wage, enforcement is difficult, which leads to rampant wage theft. Nearly one in six female tipped workers lives in poverty.”
For the full report click here.
Workers’ Forum, posted June 16, 2022.