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Raise the minimum wage, women’s foundation urges

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To commemorate Labor Day this year, the Ms. Foundation for Women is urging a raise in the minimum wage.

The foundation produced a 220-page paperback book, "Raise the Floor: Wages and Policies That Work for All of Us," written by Holly Sklar, Laryssa Mykyta and Susan Wefald.

It begins like this:

"They work five days a week, often more. They work full-time in the richest nation on earth, yet they can't make ends meet. . . . Their wages are too low. They are health-care aides who can't afford health care. They are child care teachers who don't make enough to save for their own children's education. They work at vacation resorts, but they have no paid vacations. They care for the elderly, but they have no pensions. They pick . . . lettuce, tomatoes, peaches. . . .They work in meatpacking plants. . . . They work ringing up purchases at discount stores. . . . They work cleaning the homes and hotel rooms of people who make more in a day than they make in a year. . . ."

The authors, policy analysts by profession, have come up with what they call a "minimum needs budget." Their budget is much higher than what federal analysts have set as "the poverty level." One reason for that is it does not assume that workers have health-care benefits through their employers. Sklar, Mykyta and Wefald obtained their numbers by averaging the cost of living in large East and West Coast cities, Midwestern mid-size cities and small Southern towns.

The federal government says a single person needs about $8,960 per year to live above poverty; the Ms. authors say a single person needs $16,550 — which presumes an hourly wage of $8. The government says a single parent with one child can get by on $11,870 a year; the authors say it would take more like $28,800 to get by — which is an hourly wage of about $13.80.

The government also says the poverty level for a two-parent, two-child household is $17,460; the authors say it is more like $35,640 a year — which means that if only one parent is working, he or she would need to earn more than $17 per hour. Again, the authors say their numbers could be reduced if the employees had health benefits.

E-mail: susan@desnews.com