Monday, November 11, 2013

The Wage Gap - Only 13% of Food Workers Earn a Living Wage

Living Wage

Using the 5 most populous states (Illinois – 12,875,255; Florida – 19,317,568; New York – 19,570,261; Texas – 26,059,203; and California – 38,041,430) and comparing the living wage (as calculated by  MIT's Living Wage Calculator) to the minimum wage as reported by, it's easy to see the wage gap – only 13% of food workers earn a living wage.


The living wage in Illinois for 1 adult is 9.66/hour when working 40 hours per week, or 2080 hours per year. Illinois' minimum wage is $8.25/hour, which excludes tipped employees. Assuming deductions of 20% for taxes taken out of her check, she would bring home just under $14,000 per year.  For a family of 2 (worker and child), that's more than $1500 below the poverty level. At more than a dollar per hour below the living wage, it's not hard to see how food workers in Illinois aren't earning a living wage. More than 11% of Illinois residents live below the poverty level.


Florida's living wage is at $10.12 per hour for one adult working full time (40 hours/week, 2080 hours/year). $7.79 is the minimum wage for regular employees. The discrepancy of more than $2/hour between minimum and living wage illustrates why Florida also has more than 11% of its residents living below the poverty level.

New York

$11.50 per hour is the living wage for residents of New York. Unfortunately, the state's minimum wage is the same as the Federal, at $7.25/hour.  No wonder 14.5% of residents are living in poverty.


Everything's bigger in Texas, right? Including the poverty rate, at 16.2%. It may be because the minimum wage is $7.25 (same as the Federal Minimum Wage), while the living wage is $8.76. More than $1.50 per hour keeps minimum wage employees from earning a living wage.


California's minimum wage is at $8.00/hour. Unfortunately, the living wage for the state is $11.20 … leaving minimum wage employees only 2/3 of the way to a living wage. This had undoubtedly contributed to the state's 13.2% poverty rate.

Workers' Compensation

Now imagine that any one of these minimum-wage employees is injured at work. While off work, the employee is entitled to receive around 80% of their normal pay. If they were living at or below the poverty level on the full amount, how can they be expected to survive – let alone get the medical treatment they need – while on workers' compensation?

If you – or someone you know – is injured in the workplace, steps should be taken to ensure that he or she will be eligible for workers' compensation. Since the workers compensation rules vary depending upon the state, you should contact your HR department to discover the specific rules for your area. In general, though, it is important to document the injury with a supervisor or manager. In addition, you should let any medical personnel you are treated by know that it is related to an accident sustained at work. 


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