Janet Rowland, a single mom in Raleigh, N.C., told reporters on Friday a bit of what it’s like to earn $7.25 an hour working full-time at a fast-food restaurant and support three children.
Rowland was part of a conference call with Labor Secretary Tom Perez and U.S. Reps. Nancy Pelosi and George Miller, D-Calif., on 10-10, or what Democrats call “Minimum Wage Day,” for their effort to raise the wage to $10.10 from $7.25.
“People like me who work full time should not live in poverty,” Rowland said. “Working full time, I cannot make ends meet.”
She said she works from 2 p.m. to closing time, which means getting home as late as midnight. Her daughters, 6 and 8, and her son, 4, hardly get to see her, she said, adding that the proposed $10.10 wage would be “a great relief,” allowing her to pay bills, buy books she needs at Wake Tech Community College and possibly save.
Rowland said she left school at 16, earned a high school diploma through an equivalency test and was enrolled in business administration at the college but unable to register because of financial hardship. She said she used the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and government help for child care.
Miller, the sponsor of legislation in the House to raise the minimum wage, said Rowland’s was a “story of courage and persistence” that many Americans shared.
Added Perez: “There’s no dignity in a 40- or 50-hour week when at the end of the week you go to the food pantry.”
Pelosi said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, should call Congress back into session to vote on a higher minimum wage and on authorization for war in Syria and Iraq. The House and Senate are not scheduled to go back into session until after the Nov. 4 election.
The minimum wage also came up in Thursday night’s North Carolina’s U.S. Senate debate among Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan, Republican Thom Tillis and Libertarian Sean Haugh.
Hagan supports it, and Tillis and Haugh don’t. Tillis said the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated 500,000 jobs would be lost if the minimum wage went up to $10.10. The CBO in the same report also estimated that overall income would rise by $2 billion and 900,000 people would be lifted above the poverty line.
Thirteen states and 10 city and county governments have raised the minimum wage since President Barack Obama proposed the increase in 2013. As of Jan. 15, 2015, 26 states and the District of Columbia will have a higher minimum wage than $7.25. Rowland’s home state of North Carolina is not among them.