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Workers Strike for Living Wage on Tax Day

PHOTO: Workers plan to go on strike demanding living wages on tax day. Some employees have made gains in recent weeks when Walmart and McDonalds announced pay raises. Photo credit: Benjamin G. Robinson/Wikimedia Commons.
PHOTO: Workers plan to go on strike demanding living wages on tax day. Some employees have made gains in recent weeks when Walmart and McDonalds announced pay raises. Photo credit: Benjamin G. Robinson/Wikimedia Commons.
April 14, 2015

DENVER - Colorado workers are planning a new round of protests for higher wages on tax day Wednesday.

According to a new report from the U.C. Berkeley Labor Center, when jobs don't pay enough, workers turn to public assistance to meet their basic needs, costing U.S. taxpayers over $152 billion annually.

Carrie Turrentine is a personal care attendant in the Denver area. She helps the elderly and people with disabilities with daily necessities like dressing, toileting and cooking, and says she'll join the protests.

"When you make less than a living wage, you're a burden to society, which is the exact opposite of what working is supposed to do," she says. "Working is supposed to make you an independent person who's able to take care of yourself."

A report from the Colorado Fiscal Institute found that some 600,000 Coloradans earn less than $12 an hour, a wage that would put a family of four just above the federal poverty line.

The National Restaurant Association says increasing wages could cost jobs.

From 2000 to 2013, 20 percent of Colorado's lowest-paid workers saw their pay drop by eight percent when adjusted for inflation.

Workers have made gains in recent weeks, winning $10 an hour at Walmart, and roughly five percent of the overall workforce at McDonald's will get paid one dollar above the local minimum wage. Turrentine says those increases still keep workers in poverty, and that living wages and union representation will benefit more than just workers.

"Fifteen dollars and the ability to form a union will not only benefit me and other caregivers," she says. "I can absolutely guarantee it will provide sustainable, long-term, quality care in your home."

The National Restaurant Association charges the protests, which are supported by labor unions, are about boosting membership and bolstering union dues. The association claims that 90 percent of restaurants are small businesses operating on razor-thin profit margins.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO