As a mom, I know how hard it is to raise a child while holding down a job. Parenting a child is a full-time job in and of itself. I’ve been fortunate, however, in that my income, along with my husband’s, has almost always afforded us the opportunity for a middle-class life. Not so for millions of working mothers in this country.
In honor of Mother’s Day, I’d like you to think about those mothers who, despite working full time, are struggling to provide for their kids and families on minimum wage earnings of less than $15,000 a year. Consider this: a family of four trying to get by on that income is living 17% below the poverty line – even with tax credits. That is unacceptable.
It’s been nearly five years since working moms at the bottom of the income ladder have gotten a raise. But over that time, the cost of everything they need to survive — food, housing, utilities, transportation, child care and more — has gone up. They’re working harder and harder, but falling further and further behind.
In this video, meet workers trying to live on the minimum wage —
including moms Nyah Potts and Nely Garcia:
Rewarding hard work with a fair wage is a central tenant of American values and now, more than ever, we need to put this principal into practice to ensure the well-being of our families. That’s why it’s vitally important that we increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour.
But you don’t just have to take my word for it, let’s look at the facts:
- More than half of the 28 million workers across the country who will benefit from a minimum wage increase to $10.10 per hour are women – almost a third of them have children.
- Of the 2.8 million working single parents who would benefit from that increase, more than 80 percent are women.
- Research shows that increasing the minimum wage reduces child poverty among female-headed households.
- A raise in the wage can also help women work their way out of poverty and into the middle class.
If Congress raised the wage to $10.10 per hour, it would be enough of a boost for a full-time worker to pay for a year’s worth of groceries, or even 6 months of rent. It would allow a mother to more easily provide for her family instead of making heartbreaking choices between buying a gallon of milk or a gallon of gas.
It’s also vitally important that we raise the federal tipped minimum wage, which has sat at a paltry $2.13 per hour for more than two decades. According to a recent White House report, women account for 72 percent of all workers in predominantly tipped occupations – such as restaurant servers, bartenders and hairstylists. These tipped-workers are twice as likely as other workers to experience poverty, and servers, in particular, are almost three times as likely to be in poverty.
We often think of our mothers as superheroes who somehow manage to do it all while making it seem easy. But the reality is that many of our working mothers are struggling. They are trying to do a lot with just too little – $7.25 an hour is not cutting it.
And so, it’s time America – it’s time to give our mothers a raise and it’s time to give working families a fair shot at success. As we celebrate Mother’s Day this Sunday, let’s take a moment to acknowledge all the hard working mothers that support our workforce, our economy and our families. They deserve a raise – a raise that says your hard work is appreciated – one that represents a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.
Laura Fortman is the deputy administrator of the Wage and Hour Division.