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It's #WageWeek: A Push for Living Wages in NC

This is #WageWeek in North Carolina, a social-media campaign to help raise awareness of unfair pay gaps and a minimum wage that isn't lifting families out of poverty.(Monochrome/Flickr)
This is #WageWeek in North Carolina, a social-media campaign to help raise awareness of unfair pay gaps and a minimum wage that isn't lifting families out of poverty.(Monochrome/Flickr)
July 27, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Fair wages are a hot topic at this week's Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. In North Carolina, fair wages also are top-of-mind for organizations participating in #WageWeek, a campaign working mostly through social media to raise awareness about the need for fair pay for all workers - with a particular emphasis on raising the federal minimum wage.

Ana Pardo with the North Carolina Justice Center's Workers' Rights Project - the group coordinating the campaign - said it's important to understand not everyone can find work that pays enough.

"There's a broad assumption in our society that the minimum wage should be enough to live on, and if it isn't, then you're not trying hard enough,” Pardo said. "I can just tell you from my own experience, growing up in a rural part of North Carolina, that that simply isn't the case. People are working harder than they ever have before, and they're still not making it."

The federal minimum wage was last raised nine years ago this week, from $6.55 to $7.25 per hour. But in most North Carolina counties, research indicates a living wage averages between $11 and $12 per hour. Advocates for an increased minimum wage emphasized the potential benefits for children - particularly in North Carolina where one in four children now lives in poverty.

According to the Workers' Rights Project, boosting the wage-floor to $10 per hour would affect about one million of the state's workers. Pardo said this could have a significant impact on the economy.

"What happens when an individual worker doesn't have enough money to cover all their basics?” she asked. "They're not spending any extra money at local businesses. They're just squeaking by, and they're taking on bad loans that make them weaker financially in the long run. And what that does to the fabric of communities is it weakens that too."

In addition to efforts to raise the minimum wage, the #WageWeek campaign highlighted income disparities for minorities and women. The group said women make 79 cents for every dollar a man earns - and for black women, that figure drops to 64 cents.

More information on #WageWeek can be found here.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC