Rights & Democracy Vermonters from throughout the state will converge on Montpelier tonight to talk about why raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour will improve their lives, and the lives of their neighbors, families, and communities. The Senate Economic Development, Housing & General Affairs Committee will host a public hearing on legislation that would boost the state's minimum wage to $15 an hour over several years.
Rights & Democracy believes it is long overdue that we do something direct and meaningful to improve the lives of more than 80,000 Vermonters who have seen basic wages and their buying power decline over the past decades, while those at the top saw real gains in wage growth and buying power.
Increasing the minimum wage will put an additional $240 million in the pockets of Vermont workers, who will spend it in the Vermont economy, according to the Public Assets Institute. That means that along with boosting the wages of families, a $15 an hour minimum wage will also strengthen our local economies and tackle the massive inequality that's holding back too many of our neighbors.
Who are these 80,000 Vermonters struggling to get by on less than $15 an hour? Here's what we know:
88 percent are adults, 56 percent are women, 59 percent work full-time, and one in five are parents.
Our country's structural racism is evident in low-wage work, too. Almost 60 percent of African Americans in Vermont earn less than $15 an hour.
Inadequate wages are also impacting too many young children in our state. More than 43,000 Vermont children live in a household supported by someone earning less than $15 per hour, and nearly 30,000 children live in a household supported by someone earning less than $12 per hour.
When Governor Phil Scott talks about ways to make Vermont more livable for the people struggling to get by and feed their families — raising the minimum wage has been proven to be the most effective economic stimulus.
The Voices of Vermonters (some of the stories that will be shared tonight)
"If I were paid a living wage I'd be much less exhausted with the stress question: 'Can I pay for this bill or food this month?' I'd have more time to put energy into relationship building experiences. I'd have money to put into savings as well as classes that will build a future for my child and our family." — Samantha Ferrato, St. Johnsbury
"I work in the foodservice industry in Burlington, and the need for a rise in the minimum wage is about more than a paycheck to me. It's about being able to enjoy life rather than working to make ends meet and being too exhausted from work to enjoy life. It's about not living paycheck to paycheck and living with the stress which will make me sick, knowing I can't afford sick days. It's about being able to be more generous with others who have fallen on hard times, like family and friends, or people in places being ravaged by climate change, because sharing what I have is important to me. It's about living in a society where everyone does their part as they're able. A fairer society, not one where I feel I will never get ahead because I'm not making at least $15/hr. I want to live a good, active, productive life in Vermont, not just work and exist here." — "J" (who asked to remain anonymous), Burlington.
The Myth of Job Losses
“The vast majority of the most rigorous modern research on the impact of higher minimum wages—including robust increases to $13 or more—shows that these policies boost worker earnings with little to no adverse impact on employment.” — Yannet Lathrop, National Employment Law Project, in testimony to the Minimum Wage Study Committee on November 21, 2017.
The Need is Now
"Income inequality and all the problems that go with it are on the rise, and much of that inequality is driven by the stagnation of wages from the middle on down to the lower end. We can’t always do much about economic forces at the state level, but this is one we have the power to control. Raising the minimum wage to a livable wage starts to push back against the forces driving inequality. We need to start with the premise that addressing the needs of workers and families is the way to a stronger economy, not the other way around."—Stephanie Yu, Public Assets Institute, in testimony to the Senate Economic Development, Housing & General Affairs Committee on January 17, 2018.
Source: Rights & Democracy 1.25.2018