Member Feature, Kinyata: Wages haven’t kept up with cost of living

By Kinyata Fulton
9to5 Community Intern

As someone who was born and raised in Colorado and lover of all things history I was beyond excited to spend my summer volunteering as a teacher’s assistant at the then Denver Museum of Natural History. The city was bringing in many new exhibits including the Egyptian Mummies that I’d have unlimited access to, not to mention the plethora of events geared toward myself and the other 100 or so teen volunteers that summer. The icing on the cake would be the smiling faces I taught each week and earning a whopping $5.25 per hour, at 12 years old, life didn’t get any sweeter. The year was 1997.

Fast forward 18 years. My passion for children has increased, my skill set has increased, but unlike my experience and love of youth, wages have yet to increase in proportion with my talent. As a youth advocate at a local group home for teenage girls I earn less than double the rate of my 12 year old self. To further put the issue of low wages in such professions in to perspective I provide this example: the youth I care for at the group home are paid the same $10 per hour rate for their summer work program positions that I, a 30-year-old single mother, am paid to serve them. Both positions are funded through the state. Needless to say that under such lacking circumstances, even with a great support system, I am still forced to work two and three jobs to provide a decent quality life for my son and myself yet taking away from our quality time together. Many mothers are faced with the same obstacles; forced to leave their families for extended amounts of time in order to provide.

Across this land of the free I search for the brave. Those who will require our government to create, enact, and uphold a right to EARN A LIVING FOR ALL! Currently within the U.S it is the federal government that determines the minimum wage nationwide while allowing room for individual sates to increase the wage rate. Federal wages had not increased in a decade prior to 2007. The last increase was six years ago. From 1938-1981 wages increased on average every 3-5 years with the rate being increased by $1 or more starting in 1956 with the exception of 1961 & 64. While wages remain low, the cost of living continues to increase disproportionately. I can easily identify with those suffering, left dealing with the cost of low wages at every turn across this nation.

We are asking for a comprehensive, nationwide policy that will regularly increase wages in direct proportion to the current cost of living. We will take this state to state if needed.  We are not asking for services and handouts. We are demanding our right to earn a living, to provide for our families. We are declaring our work equal, worthy, and valuable.  Pay us as such.

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