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Poverty wages

December 18, 2013

Recently, more than 100 U.S. cities have seen protests by fast food workers demanding a living wage. They are among the poorest paid workers in the country. Almost 60% of U.S. minimum-wage workers are in food service or sales. Farm workers and homecare aides also join the ranks of the lowest paid.

The top ten U.S. companies that pay their workers the least are Wal-Mart, McDonalds, Target, Kroger, KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell (YUM! Brands), Sears and Kmart (Sears Holdings), Olive Garden and Red Lobster (Darden Restaurants), Macy’s, TJ Maxx and HomeGoods (TJX Companies) and Starbucks (

For these ten corporations, the average hourly wage is between $7.25 (today’s federal minimum wage) to just under $10 an hour. At $7.25 an hour, 40 hours a week/52 weeks a year, a worker will gross $15,080. If you have to support more than yourself on this wage, you are officially poor.

This year, momentum has been building to raise the minimum wage. In November, New Jersey voters approved a hike from $7.25 to $8.25 effective in January. Voters in SeaTac, WA approved $15 an hour. Currently, campaigns are on in 10 states, plus the District of Columbia. On Capitol Hill, a “Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013” has been introduced proposing $10.10 an hour by 2015 (in three 95-cent increments), with a cost-of-living adjustment proposed to kick in in 2016. Last week a new poll showed 63% of Americans favor a $10.10 federal minimum wage.

We at The River Reporter believe the time has come for a decent minimum wage that does not leave gainfully employed workers to live in poverty.

One of the most eye-opening news stories of the recent Thanksgiving holiday was how a Wal-Mart store near Canton, OH put out food collection bins with this sign: “Please donate food items here, so associates [Wal-Mart clerks] in need can enjoy Thanksgiving dinner.” A Wal-Mart spokesman pointed to this as evidence of “the company’s culture to rally around associates and take care of them when they face extreme hardships.” Low-paid Wal-Mart workers, however, see it as proof of inadequate wages.