By Amanda Litvinov/Photo: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) speaking at minimum wage press event
In communities across the country, “lunch lady” is a term of endearment.
It’s shorthand for “the caring, hard-working gals who make sure our kids have healthy food to eat in a safe, clean environment.”
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But even after putting in full-time hours taking care of hundreds of students and working amid hot ovens and steaming dishwashers, those women too often struggle to support their own families—especially those making only minimum wage. Fifteen percent of full-time food service workers in schools even qualify for public assistance.
Raising the minimum wage is one crucial step in bettering the lives of working women and their families, a point emphasized on Capitol Hill by a group of U.S. Senators supporting passage of the Minimum Wage Fairness Act.
Nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women, and raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour as the Act proposes would especially help 15 million American women.
Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said at a press event on Tuesday that now is the time for Congress to pass the increase. “I truly believe that it’s part of making our economy work,” she said.
“Republicans have to decide whether they are really going to block giving 15 million American women a raise,” Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said at a similar event in January.
“My hope is that … our Republican colleagues do a little soul searching as they prepare for this vote. I also hope they talk to the millions of American women who are struggling to get by on $7.25 an hour, particularly at a time when many of these women are the sole caregivers and breadwinners in their families.”
The focus on families is welcomed by Edith Kimball, a food service worker from Lee, Florida, who traveled to Washington in February to tell a Senate Committee how raising the minimum wage would help families just like hers.
Like too many education support professionals, Kimball works full-time and doesn’t earn a living wage. Not only is it hard to pay the bills each month, it’s nearly impossible to put anything away for the future.
Passage of the Minimum Wage Fairness Act would mean that Kimball would take home another $200 each month.
“The biggest difference that would mean for me is I could open a savings account for my kids to go to college or vocational school,” said Kimball.
She is exactly who the Senate women are fighting for.
“No American woman should ever work a full-time job and still raise her children in poverty,” Senators Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) recently wrote.
“It’s not rocket science: If you work hard and play by the rules, you should be able to provide for your family and have an opportunity to get ahead.”