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Labor Day Hangover: Low Wages Plague NC Citizens

Organizations such as the North Carolina AFL-CIO are helping workers fight for livable wages. (Steve Rhodes/
Organizations such as the North Carolina AFL-CIO are helping workers fight for livable wages. (Steve Rhodes/
September 6, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. – Thousands of North Carolinians enjoyed a welcome reprieve from work during the long Labor Day weekend, but many of them are returning to work today, making less money than they need to pay their basic bills.

The minimum wage in North Carolina is $7.25 an hour, about $5 short of what some consider a living wage in the state.

Marybe McMillan, secretary-treasurer of North Carolina AFL-CIO, says low wages trap workers in a cycle difficult to escape.

"Unfortunately, far too many working people are struggling because they are stuck in these jobs that pay wages that don't enable people to provide for their families," she states.

The AFL-CIO is among the groups behind the Fight for 15 campaign, aiming to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

New York and California recently raised their minimum wage to that amount.

The issue of raising the minimum wage is among those being discussed in the presidential campaign, with Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton supporting a raise, and Republican Donald Trump at times opposing it and at other times supporting it.

McMillan says studies show that entire communities benefit when everyone is paid a fair wage.

"Working people are what drive our economy,” she stresses. “We are consumers, so when we earn a living wage, when we have more money in our pockets, we spend more at businesses.

“We also are taxpayers, so we pay more in tax revenue which provides more revenue for our local government."

New research from the Economic Policy Institute and the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that the decline of unions in the U.S. is impacting the income of all workers.

In addition, union workers earn 30 percent more on average than non-union workers.

Reporting for this story by North Carolina News Connection in association with Media in the Public Interest. Media in the Public Interest is funded in part by Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.

Stephanie Carson/Scott Herron, Public News Service - NC