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PUBLISHED: 3:59 PM on Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Floyd Dryden Voices: Battle of the Richest
You're an adult living in a 2 bedroom apartment shared between you and possibly, up to 5 other people. Every night, you eat a very limited selection of food and at times not having enough food for everyone. You are just barely able to make it through the month with the small amount of money you get working two jobs for minimum wage. Imagine if this was true for you and your family. For millions of Americans, this is their reality and this is also why we need to raise minimum wage.

People truly cannot live off the $7.15 an hour minimum wage here in Alaska, or the even smaller minimum wage in other states. Minimum wage workers who work eight hours a day, and five days a week only make $1144 a month. This is a very insignificant amount of money that is supposed to last a whole month paying for rent, groceries, bills, and other necessities. Sadly, a vast majority of minimum wage workers can't even afford health care for themselves, or their families, which is why so many people in this situation have to work two or more jobs. For single parents, or even married families, it also leaves very little family time if you are stuck working eight or more hours a day just to afford to live. Barbara Enrenreic, author of "Nickel and Dimed" says, "I think there is something very wrong when you play by the rules... you work hard, and you still can't make it." People have truly forgotten that minimum wage workers are working. They're not just people who don't choose to work. It's mainly the prices of materials these days that makes it hardest to live off of.

The prices of gas are skyrocketing here in America, and the housing market is not at its best, making it near impossible to live off of minimum wage. In Juneau, gas costs over $3 a gallon, and apartments all over town are going anywhere from $650 a month to $1600 a month. Electricity, housing, and water bills combined can cost the majority of your paycheck, leaving you with only a few hundred dollars to live off of until the next one.

In 2006, Morgan Spurlock, the creator of "Super Size Me", and his wife Alex went on a mission to find out what it would be like living off minimum wage for one month in Columbus, Ohio. They found an apartment going for $400 a month in what was said to be the worst part of town. Alex went on a search for jobs, and found one working as a waitress in a restaurant for about $6 an hour. Morgan however applied to the temp agency and found jobs like painting, making boxes and washing dishes in a nearby restaurant, only making about $6 an hour. They both did their best to save money, by taking the bus to work on rainy days, but walking on others. Half way through their experiment, they had their niece and nephew come and join them to act as their children to find out what it was like living off minimum wage with kids. Morgan said that it was probably one of the hardest things he'd ever done.

On a special on the Oprah show, she interviewed people working minimum wage jobs, who are at, or below the poverty level. Sheila Nestle was one of the people being interviewed and said, "I see people buying nail polish... Who wants to spend $3? That's a meal for my family." Michelle Horn, another one of the interviewed said, "I used to think people were lazy and didn't want to work, who were on food stamps, but now that I'm on them, I've changed my mind completely." Michelle also goes on to say that hairspray, shampoo, and even toilet paper are luxuries for her because of the situation she's in.

In America alone, 37 million people are either at, or below the poverty line, meaning it's very hard to even afford living. If we were to increase the nationwide minimum wage by even two dollars, minimum wage workers in Alaska would make a check of $1,606 a month from working eight hours a day, and five days a week. This means they could afford a decent apartment, possibly a car, and most importantly, health insurance. Also by raising minimum wage, the amount of impoverished people in America would decrease by millions.

So, before you think twice about raising minimum wage, remember what it would be like having to share an apartment with co-workers, or even unfamiliar people, and having toilet paper be a luxury.


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