April 14 was a day of action for those fighting to raise the minimum wage. Groups like Fight for 15 and 9 to 5 gathered outside of a McDonald’s in Atlanta to protest for livable wages and the right to form workers’ unions.
This ongoing fight is growing in recognition as we get closer to the presidential election. Both Democratic candidates have raising the minimum wage as a part of their platforms, but that would only affect the federally mandated minimum of $7.25 an hour.
Georgia, which has a minimum wage of $5.15, would have to see legislation passed at the state level for any change to happen. Yet the Georgia Legislature has shown no signs of progress on the wage front.
In 2014, Georgia had 119,000 people working for minimum wage or less. Of those 119,000, 62,000 were paid below the federal wage, working for small businesses that make less than $500,000 a year. This means that 62,000 Georgia residents were making less than $15,080 a year working full-time.
The vast majority of these workers are not teenagers but 20 years of age and older. That leaves many Georgia families not being able to survive, especially when a full-time worker in Georgia would have to earn $15.71 an hour — more than twice the federal minimum wage — to afford a two-bedroom apartment.
McDonald’s made 27 billion dollars in 2014 and they have yet to signal any plans to give their employees a fair wage. The employees are often portrayed as the bad guys for daring to fight for a living wage, while CEOs continue to collect their millions.
Small business owners in Georgia are not in the same category as McDonald’s, but they owe their employees a decent wage. If someone is working 40 hours a week at your establishment, they should be earning a living wage. The federal government also needs to set a standard of what a living wage looks like so the states can follow suit and adjust to the new reality.