KC Voices: We deserve a $15 minimum wage. If Senators Hawley and Blunt care about the working class, they should be fighting for it in Washington.

Img 0009 1

Virginia Vann (left) at an SEIU Local 1 event.// Courtesy of Ankur Singh

We’ve been asking members of the KC community to submit stories about life, beliefs, and the future. if you’ve got a story you’d like to share, please send it to brock@thepitchkc.com for consideration. Today, Virginia Vann, a Kansas City janitor who has been working on the front lines during COVID-19 discusses the urgent need for a minimum wage increase. Vann, along with SEIU Local 1 (a trade union representing 2,500 janitors and other workers in the Kansas City area) are urging Sens. Blunt and Hawley to vote on passing a $15 minimum wage in Congress.   

My car broke down the other day. It finally broke down because even though I knew it needed fixing, I don’t make enough money to take it in. I couldn’t get to work because it doesn’t pay me enough to ensure I have a reliable way to get there. 

These are the kinds of unsolvable problems working people struggling to make ends meet deal with every day. When you don’t have enough money in your pocket, you have to prioritize every single dollar. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, janitors like me have been deemed essential. Early in the crisis, I worked at a local hospital that was treating COVID-19 patients and worried for my health every day. When I first heard of the virus I thought we would die, but I still headed in. 

Despite being called essential, we don’t get treated like it. Wages from one job aren’t enough to get all my bills paid. To live a decent life I need to have two jobs. Poverty was a crisis before COVID-19, but the pandemic has made it even worse. Low wages cost taxpayers $100 billion a year while corporations pull in record profits. I’m on the front lines barely making ends meet. 

Raising pay for working families is an issue that cuts across racial lines and different backgrounds. No matter where we live or where we come from, most of us want the same thing: the stability we need to support our families. In 2018, Missouri voters across the state voted to increase the minimum wage to $12 an hour. Just last year, Florida voters approved a $15 minimum wage at the ballot box.

A $15 minimum wage would give 32 million Americans a much-needed raise. Voters know this issue is important to making our economy fairer for all, but our elected leaders are still far behind the rest of us. Our senators Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley refuse to support a common-sense plan to put money in the pockets for working people. Senator Hawley talks a big game about low wages on Twitter, but in Congress, he refuses to take action to back it up. 

If our senators are serious about lifting pay for Missouri working families—for big box store workers, for janitors, for healthcare workers, fast food workers, anyone working yet still struggling to make ends meet—there’s a very simple solution. They can vote to raise the wage to $15. 

With a $15 wage, I wouldn’t have to rely on two jobs to make ends meet. I wouldn’t have to downsize my apartment when I can’t make rent. My story is similar to so many others in Kansas City. We work hard, sometimes two or even three jobs, but it’s still not enough, and it’s not right. 

$15 will go a long way towards helping us support our families. Our senators should know that actions speak louder than words. If they’re so concerned about low wages, they have the power to take action for their constituents. Anything else is just empty words, and words don’t pay the bills. 

Categories: Politics