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Things must change, including our wages


It’s time for the U.S. Senate to #RaiseTheWage

By: Jamika Ruffin, worker leader D-15
Oct 29, 2019

Jamka Ruffin

I joined the Fight for $15 a couple of years ago because like most parents I want to create a better life for my children. By the time my two beautiful children become adults, livable wages should be the standard for all working people; not just something enjoyed by a lucky few.

It’s been about 100 days since I sat in the gallery of the U.S. House along with other members of D-15 and other Fight for $15 member leaders as Congress passed the Raise the Wage Act.  With each day that passes, I worry that this bill to raise our federal minimum wage to $15 will die in the Senate.

I also worry our Senators are not listening to the voices of working people across the country calling for them to raise the federal minimum wage after a decade. That’s why I recently came to Washington, DC to share my story.


It’s important that our elected officials know the realities faced by millions of working parents around the country; not just myths.  For example, I often hear people say the minimum wage doesn’t need to be higher -- that I should just find a better job. I’ve tried. I’ve had all types of jobs but all the jobs around my Detroit-area neighborhood are minimum wage jobs.

Another big stereotype about poverty is that people are poor because they mismanage their money.  However, the truth of the matter is the math doesn’t add up when you make poverty wages.

Working at McDonald’s, I take home between $400 and $500 a month—and I have to pay $500 a month for rent. I also pay other bills, buy food, and take care of my kids’ other needs on $9.45 an hour. My rent recently went up by $100 and now that winter is coming, my heating bill is going to spike too.

My expenses are quickly changing although my wages are not so I rely on food stamps and Medicaid just to make ends meet every month. Nobody wants to rely on public assistance. I’d like to stand on my own two feet.

It hurts not to make enough money and know that I could be put out of my home because I can’t pay rent; or that my electricity could get turned off.  Sadly, my story isn’t unique especially in my neighborhood where most houses are abandoned, we have no streetlights and there are no school buses to take our children to school.

If the Raise the Wage Act were signed into law, it would help empower my entire community. If we were making more money we would be able to come together to do more to make our community great.

That’s why this fight for a federal $15 minimum wage and a union means so much to me. This fight shows that when working people like me stand up for ourselves we can win anything.  It’s already improved life for families in seven states and dozens of cities but that’s not enough. We need the Senate and President Trump to follow the House’s lead, and make a $15 minimum wage the law of the land for each and every state in our country if we want to put all our children on a better path.

In the future, I want my children to do more than just survive. I want them to live. I want them to have good union jobs where their voices will be respected.  And I want them to know that their mother took a chance to help change things by joining together with other working men and women and speaking out so that all people will be paid enough to lead a decent life and provide for their family.