Members of Congress Plan to Live on Minimum Wage for a Week
A trio of Democratic politicians are about to find out what it's like to be poor.
Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill. and Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, announced today that they plan to "step into the shoes of a minimum wage worker and live for one week on just $77."
It's part of the Live the Wage Challenge starting Thursday - marking the fifth anniversary since Congress last increased the nation's minimum wage.
From July 24 to July 30, the three politicians will chronicle their experiences on social media in an effort to shed light on the challenges facing minimum wage workers across the country.
A minimum wage of $10.10 pegged to cost-of-living increases would provide Americans who "work hard and play by the rules" a chance at joining the middle class, Ryan said during a call with reporters.
Strickland echoed the congressman's sentiments, saying that full-time workers should not have to "live in poverty or have to choose between food and electricity every month."
The federal minimum wage in the United States is currently set at $7.25 an hour - and has not been increased by Congress in since 2009. The federal minimum wage for tipped workers has remained at $2.13 an hour since 1991.
According to a statement on its website, "the Live the Wage Challenge has called on elected officials, community leaders, advocates and anyone concerned about the growing inequality in this country to walk in the shoes of a minimum wage worker by living on a minimum wage budget for one week."
Earlier this year, Schakowsky - who is partaking in the challenge - said in a statement: "I have listened to hard working Americans in my district who make the minimum wage, or just a bit more. Paying for housing, food, transportation and other necessities stretches them and their families very thin. These workers need and deserve a raise. If we increased the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, nearly one million Americans could get out of poverty and it would give low-income workers a $31 billion raise."
Reps. Schakowsky and Ryan were both co-sponsors of the proposed Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013.
Despite Congress' inability to increase the nation's minimum wage, and a Congressional Budget Office report claiming that $10.10 an hour would increase unemployment, states and localities have taken it upon themselves to increase wages - with apparent success.
"In the 13 states that boosted their minimums at the beginning of the year, the number of jobs grew an average of 0.85% from January through June. The average for the other 37 states was 0.61%," according to the Associated Press.
Ryan applauded the success of wage increases at the state level - citing an open letter to Congress from "more than 600 economists" advocating an increase to $10.10 and a tipped wage of 70 percent of the federal minimum.