‘It’s shameful’: Nearly a third of US workers make less than $15 an hour

At a time when the prices of food, gasoline and other essential commodities have soared to new heights, nearly a third of US workers earn “poverty wages” of less than $15 an hour.

That’s according to new data analysis from global poverty organization Oxfam, which found 51.9 million US workers earn less than $15 an hour, or $31,200 a year.

“It is shameful that at a time when many US companies are boasting of record profits, some of the hardest working people in this country – especially people who keep our economy and society running – are struggling to make ends meet and falling behind,” said report author Kaitlyn Henderson, senior research advisor at Oxfam America.

Women and people of color are “far overrepresented” in these low-wage jobs, found the report, with 47% of blacks earning less than $15 an hour versus 26% of whites. About 50% of employed women of color (14.7 million) make less than $15 an hour. About 25% of men of all races make less than $15 an hour compared to 40% of women.

Single parents have it particularly hard: More than half (57.5%) make less than $15 an hour. Despite the stereotype that younger workers earn low wages, most of those earning less than $15 an hour are not teenagers – 89% are at least 20 years old.

“These are the workers who tend to our loved ones, transport and harvest our groceries, stock our shelves, and deliver our packages.”


— Kaitlyn Henderson, Senior Research Advisor at Oxfam America

The state minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour and was last increased in 2009. “The purchasing power of the minimum wage just hasn’t kept up,” Henderson said in a statement. That’s especially true as incandescent inflation has soared to a 40-year high. Rising home and food prices are hitting low-income households particularly hard, as they spend the majority of their income on these costs, the Oxfam report says.

Implementing a universal minimum wage and raising it to $15 an hour would “lift millions out of poverty and benefit the US economy,” Oxfam said, urging lawmakers to pass the 2021 Wage Increase Act, which would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour over five years.

Legislation that would have fulfilled President Joe Biden’s campaign promise to raise the minimum wage to $15 has stalled in Congress. But some big employers, including Amazon AMZN,
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and target TGT,
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have already increased their starting salaries to this level and above to attract employees in a tight labor market.

The US Chamber of Commerce opposes raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, saying it will cost jobs and push up prices for consumers. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said a $15 minimum wage would “really help a lot of these workers” and have “very little” impact on jobs.

People earning less than $15 an hour often do critical work that keeps the economy running. “These are the workers who tend to our loved ones, transport and harvest our groceries, stock our shelves, and deliver our packages,” Henderson wrote. “Without this workforce, our economy grinds to a halt, as does the functioning of our society.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, US workers earned an average of $1,010 per week, or $52,520 per year, in the fourth quarter of 2021.

See also: No, Wharton students, the average US worker doesn’t make $800,000

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/its-shameful-nearly-one-third-of-u-s-workers-make-less-than-15-an-hour-11647971091?rss=1&siteid=rss ‘It’s shameful’: Nearly a third of US workers make less than $15 an hour

Brian Lowry

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