Working full time, but living in poverty

Fast food protest
Fast-food workers protested for increased wages. (Miles Dixon)

They are working full time, but they are living in poverty.

One day after President Barack Obama said America should not be a place where people working 4o-hour weeks are still in poverty, New York workers said that reality exists all too often.

During his State of the Union address Tuesday night, Obama said a family with two kids earning minimum wage lives below the poverty line.

“That’s wrong,” he said. “In the wealthiest nation on earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty.”

Obama suggested raising the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour.

New Yorkers want even more – raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour would give full-time workers an annual salary of $20,000, according to a report released today.

Right now, about 1.7 million New Yorkers are trying to live on about $18,530 for a family of three, according to the report. Meanwhile, unemployment increased from 5.3 percent in 2007 to 9.7 percent now, the report noted.

And more than 110,000 full-time workers live in poverty, according to the report, authored by groups The Center for Popular Democracy and UnitedNY.

Many of these are in the low-wage industry, like car wash workers, who often work more than 60 hours a week but make less than $400 per week.

And some are tasked with important services, like airport screening. The report said a survey of 300 airline employees found them paid barely more than $8 per hour.

Last year, many rallied outside their workplaces, with retail workers standing outside the Fifth Avenue Abercrombie & Fitch to demand higher wages. JFK workers also threatened to strike before the 2012 holiday season. And fast-food employees went on strike in November to demand nearly doubling their salary to $15 an hour.

“You can’t even afford to get sick, “ McDonald’s worker Linda Archer told Metro while striking.

The report referenced the struggle to pay New York City prices on a retail or car-wash paycheck.

“After working as a cashier at Abercrombie & Fitch for over a year, I ended up with an average of just 10 hours per week,” one worker said. “That’s not enough to live on and go to school.”

A car wash worker in the report added, “I came to this ‘land of opportunity’ with so many hopes, but I have become disillusioned about being able to help my family.”


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