Low-Income Workers Voice Frustrations With Minimum Wage Laws

All across the country, families are demanding and fighting for a minimum wage of $15 an hour. In New York City, the “Fight for $15” campaign began in 2012 when more than 200 fast-food workers walked off their jobs to demand more pay and union rights.

Their action sparked a broader movement seeking to protect the rights of fast-food workers, home health aides, child care teachers, airport workers, adjunct professors, retail employees and low-wage workers everywhere.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has signed a bill phasing in a rise in the minimum wage to $15 statewide by 2020.

Still, some low-income workers like Kristal Middleton of Far Rockaway, Queens, are not convinced that a higher minimum wage will fix everything.
“I thought, O.K. it’s a step in the right direction, but then the price of milk went up, the price of gas went up,” Ms. Middleton said. “The price of Pampers went up,. So, what’s the point of raising the minimum wage?”

Tia Warner, 33, who also lives in Far Rockaway, is a single mother of three. She says she struggles every month to make ends meet and provide for her family.

Because of the demands of getting her children to and from school, Ms. Warner is able to work only four hours a day as a home health aide. While her job allows her to work a limited schedule, she struggles to make enough to support her family. Along with her $13-an hour-wage — under the statewide plan, New York City’s minimum wage will not take full effect until 2019 — she depends heavily on government subsidies that are still not enough to provide for her family.

“We want to save, we want to build, we want to have more for our kids,” she said. “But if we aren’t making anything, what is it to save?”