For many Americans, Thanksgiving is a time for family, home cooking and celebration. But for the more than 41 million workers across the country who make less than $12 per hour, it’s another day of hard choices.
Many working families won’t be celebrating the holiday with a large meal or a day off. In 48 states, it takes nearly a full day’s work at minimum wage to afford Thanksgiving dinner. For some, taking the day off to stay home with family isn’t even an option.
But when it comes to the ongoing fight against economic inequality, there’s been major progress we can all be thankful for.
Starting in January, eight million low wage workers in Arizona, California, Colorado, Maine, Washington and Washington D.C. will see bigger paychecks, and some will even get paid sick leave thanks to ballot initiatives that either passed on Election Day or motivated lawmakers to take action.
January will mark the first of several raises in the years to come, ensuring that eight million hardworking Americans can cover the basics — putting food on the table, paying back student loans, saving to retire or just keeping the lights on.
These hard-earned raises were won through the hard work The Fairness Project’s partners on the ground, working to raise the wage for themselves and their neighbors. Meet some of them:
For over two decades, Corletta has worked in various nursing facilities in Colorado, participated in professional training courses to hone her skills and juggled her duties caring for elderly patients while raising four children. This year, she volunteered with the ballot initiative campaign to raise Colorado’s minimum wage because she feels higher pay will not only help her family but also translate into better care for seniors.
Next year, thanks to her work and the efforts of countless other volunteers, Corletta’s wages will start increasing to $12 by 2020. She believes higher pay will attract more qualified caregivers to the nursing profession and make it easier for her to feed her children and pay for gas to take them to school. This increase is a validation that her work matters. With more in her pocket, Corletta can provide more stability for her family and improve the lives of her clients.
Across the country in Maine, Heather is working as a server in a local Portland restaurant. Heather is a single mom who volunteered as a lead spokesperson for Maine’s campaign to raise the minimum wage and eliminate tipped wages. Her activism gave voice to the thousands of single working moms throughout the state.
A bigger paycheck means Heather might be able to tuck her eight-year-old into bed or be home in time for dinner. While this might be a simple pleasure for many American parents, Heather’s hectic work schedule has prevented her from spending this time with her child for months.
Having taught in Arizona’s public schools for almost three decades, Carlota Wilson knows how difficult it is for working families to ensure their children are living healthy and thriving.
It’s why at age 73, she began volunteering her time to raise Arizona’s minimum wage and guarantee earned paid sick days so parents can take care of a sick child without losing a paycheck. Sixty percent of Arizonans agreed with Carlota: better wages and paid sick leave will make for stronger communities.
“It’s very important,” Carlota says, “It might not be for me, but it’s something to give to the community. It’s as simple as that.”
Guillermo and Carmen
And on the West Coast, a groundswell of support behind California’s ballot initiative for higher pay drove legislators to pass a $15 minimum wage, impacting millions of working Californians like the Alvarado family. Guillermo and Carmen struggle to cover costs for their two high-achieving daughters, like singing lessons for eight-year-old Daniela or a computer to help seventeen-year-old Karla with her Honors classes. Their work volunteering to rally support for California’s $15 minimum wage will lighten the burden of poverty wages for millions of families in years to come.
At The Fairness Project, we’re unspeakably grateful for the 4,939,810 voters who showed up for their neighbors and their families to vote YES to raise the minimum wage and the 3,036,583 voters who also said YES to paid sick leave.
We are grateful for the thousands of volunteers who put their backs into passing fair pay and paid sick leave for their communities and, in some cases, put their own livelihoods on the line by donating time they didn’t have. Thanks to them, Thanksgiving will come easier for millions of working families with each coming year.
And we’re so thankful for the privilege to do this important work and promote ballot initiative campaigns for economic fairness. We are proud to have worked alongside talented teams in Arizona, California, Colorado, Maine, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
That’s the kind of country we believe in — one where people can take power into their own hands to fix America’s broken economy and build one that works for us all.
We’re just getting started. Corletta, Carlota, Heather and the Alvarado family will have more money in their pockets come January, but there are still countless other workers who are one emergency away from losing their car or their home, or one illness away from unemployment.
This holiday weekend, my family is giving thanks that eight million working people will soon see fairer wages, and I hope we can say the same about millions more next year. Join us and give millions of people the power to make real economic solutions a reality for working families in 2017 and beyond.