It takes a lot of time and energy to be poor. That’s why the Minimum Wage Challenge set out by the SEIU to call attention for the need to raise the minimum wage is so important — and so incredibly well thought out.
When you’re living on low wages you have to be laser focused. Every purchase is strategic. You know how much money you have (none). You can’t get sick. Your car is unreliable. You’re driving on re-treads. You might have expired tags because you can’t afford to renew them. If you’re like me when was a low-wage earner, you have roommates — lots of them. What little spare time you have goes into nurturing your family, or sharpening your skills that can increase your earning power. Likely, you don’t have cable, insurance or pets. Any little unexpected crisis will set you back months, and could end in disaster. You just want to be normal and not have to worry about this stuff anymore.
It’s imperative that our lawmakers understand how difficult this is, and that’s why I’m so excited there are so many amazing lawmakers who announced they’re taking the Minimum Wage Challenge this week. Around October 12 we’ll find out more about the candidates who are taking the challenge.
What is the Minimum Wage Challenge?
SEIU launched the minimum wage challenge campaign on September 28 to call on elected officials and community members to live on Florida’s minimum wage of $8.05 an hour for 5 days and document the experience on social media. The challenge is designed to highlight the need to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and push elected officials to do everything they can to make a $15 minimum wage a reality for Florida workers.
Right now it looks like 20 Florida legislators have taken the challenge, as well as Orange County Tax Collector Scott Randolph. The list seems to be growing by the day. Candidates taking the challenge will officially be announced on October 12, but we know that Susannah Randolph, running for U.S. Congress in CD-10 and Carlos Guillermo Smith running for State Legislature in HD-49 have already signed up. We’re hoping that many more will join in.
Currently I’m blown away by State Representative Victor Torres Jr.’s Facebook timeline documenting his commitment to the challenge. Please check out his work on this here.
You can join in too. Here’s the rules of The Challenge:
1. You have budget of $85 per week or $17 per day for all of your expenses excluding housing, car payments, credit card bills & childcare expenses.
2. You must stick to this budget for all other expenses during the five days of the challenge.
3. Participate in one task per day during the week, as outlined below under “Let’s get started.” You don’t need to do the tasks in that order or on those particular days if that’s not possible with the exception of Monday and Friday tasks.
4. Post a minimum of one social media post per day that includes either a picture or video describing your experience and any challenges that you faced each day. Every social media post should include the hashtags #FLfor15 and #FightFor15
5. At the end of the challenge, post a video to Facebook or Twitter challenging five people to take the challenge. Remember to tag the people that you are challenging.
Let’s Get Started – Recommended Schedule of Tasks for the Week
Day 1 Monday: Announce that you’re taking the challenge
Announce that you’re taking the minimum wage challenge with a press statement (elected officials only) and social media post. Explain why you’ve decided to take the challenge and what you hope to learn from living on minimum wage for five days.
Day 2 Tuesday: Grocery Shopping Trip
Take a grocery shopping trip and post a video and/or photos of this shopping trip to Facebook/Twitter. Talk about what difficult decisions you had to make due to your budget limitations.
Day 3 Wednesday: Transportation
Ride with a low wage worker (if possible) to work or take public transportation on your own to work. Document how long the trip is, how much it costs, etc. How much time do you lose with public transportation vs. taking your car? Post a video and/or pictures to social media of this trip.
Day 4 Thursday: Social Activities
Post on social media posts around social activities. What would you normally be doing that you can’t do this week? Dinner with friends, a movie, etc. Are there affordable options within your budget?
Day 5 – Friday: Summary of Challenge
Today’s social media posts should summarize what you’ve learned this week by living on minimum wage. How will this help you be a better advocate to raise the minimum wage?
Minimum Wage Challenge Budget
We allocated $85 total for the 5 days based on a person making Florida’s current $8.05 minimum wage working 40 hours per week after taxes.
Here’s the breakdown:
Weekly Income. The challenge gives you a weekly budget of $322 per week based on 40 hours of work at $8.05 per hour.
Taxes. From your $322 salary, take out $37 for taxes, so that comes to $285 per week.
Housing Expenses. Deduct $200.00 per week for housing and utilities. This is the average amount a minimum-wage worker in Florida pays for housing.
Final Budget. Deducting the taxes and housing costs from a $285 weekly salary leaves $85.00 per week or $12.14 per day. Since we’re asking folks to do the challenge for 5 days we divided $85.00 by 5 which leaves $17 per day. However a minimum wage worker would really have $12.14 per day. So those taking the challenge are catching “a little break.”
This amount has to cover all non-housing expenses, including food, healthcare, transportation and entertainment.
Here’s the complete list of Legislators who have accepted the Minimum Wage Challenge as of today:
Dwight Bullard, D-Miami
Jeffrey Clemens, D-Lake Worth
Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando
Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach
State House Representatives:
Victor Torres, D-Orlando
José Javier Rodríguez, D-Miami
Amanda Murphy, D-New Port Richey
John Cortes, D-Kissimmee
Bobby Dubose, D-Fort Lauderdale
Kristen Jacobs, D-Coconut Creek
Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg
Barbara Watson, D-Miami Gardens
Sharon Pritchett, D-Miramar
Darryl Rousson, D-St. Petersburg
Evan Jenne, D-Hollywood
Cynthia A. Stafford, D-Opa Locka
David Kerner, D-Palm Springs
Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee
Barbara Watson, D-Miami Gardens
Cynthia Stafford, D-Opa Locka
STATE REP. IN MIAMI AND QUICKLY FAILED MINIMUM WAGE CHALLENGE
Check out this update in the Miami New Times on how State Rep. José Javier Rodríguez of Miami ran into a reality-sized brick wall while on Day 2 of the Minimum Wage Challenge. He was waiting for the bus to get work when he realized it wasn’t coming on time, and he had no choice. He had to get to work. He Uber’ed.
“I had based my timing on the online schedule, but I was there waiting,” he says. “And then finally I got a ride downtown because I had to be at the courthouse.” Getting to the courthouse on time meant taking Uber which blew his budget and meant a Minimum Wage #FAIL. “People living on the minimum wage would have showed up late and gotten chewed out by their boss or gotten up earlier,” Rodriguez says of his experience. “Either way, the commute takes three times as long as it should.”
These are realities that low-wage workers face in Florida every day. In Orlando public transportation could really use a makeover. Some LYNX routes are so convoluted that workers can face up to two-hour commutes — if they can find a seat on the bus. If you can’t find a seat, or your bus is late, you’re the one who gets fired.
Let’s be clear. This is not a failure for Rep. Rodríguez. This is a failure of our system and we aim to fix it.
Here’s an old video I made to illustrate the problem of eliminating bus routes in Orlando. Enjoy.
Brook Hines is a writer, photographer, activist and former alt-weekly publisher, as well as an award-winning advertising creative with more than 20 years’ experience crafting strategy in “words + pictures” for clients ranging from banking and financial services to radical nuns. She’s the Senior Political Correspondent for Progressive News Network, the Communications Chair for the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida, Outreach Chair for the Orange County Democratic Party, and the 2015-2016 Co-Chair of New Leaders Council, Orlando Chapter.
All opinions offered here are her own, delivered from the perspective of social theory and cultural criticism. For topical use only. Apply liberally.
You can easily find Brook Hines on Facebook and Flickr. Read all of Brook’s articles here.
These are her Italian Greyhounds, Trouble and Daphne. Trouble is a rescue and according to some new information, he might be a Whippet. Daphne would just like more attention.