While Congress Dithers, a Few Red States Are Trying to Raise the Minimum Wage

Cheyenne Mauzy loved her job working as a part-time childcare worker. It provided her the flexibility to take care of her 10-year-old son, who has an autoimmune disorder and frequently needs to see doctors three hours from their home in Springfield, Missouri. The problem was that making the minimum wage, just $7.85 in the state, barely made a dent in her household expenses.

“It was very hard to even pay one bill with my paycheck,” says Mauzy, a 28-year-old mother of three. “I loved certain parts of my job—I loved the flexibility that I had, that I didn’t have to worry about child care expenses, but it made it really hard because it wasn’t really supplementing the income my husband had.”

Even though Mauzy started a new full-time job in insurance billing a few weeks ago, making $11.22 an hour, she says the cost of childcare means the choice to work full time has just led to more financial tradeoffs for her family. Her situation as a working mom is exactly why she decided to get involved in phone banking and sharing her story for Missouri Jobs with Justice, a group that has been organizing in support of a ballot initiative that, if approved by voters in November, would raise the state minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2023.

“Seventy-seven cents an hour doesn’t seem like a lot,” Mauzy says, “but that’s a lot in a pay period. That adds up a lot when you’re a mom who has to go back to work.”

Voters in Missouri and Arkansas will decide at the ballot box in November whether to raise the minimum wage, an increasingly common tactic for the national fight for a fair wage. The federal minimum wage was raised to $7.25 an hour in 2009 and hasn’t budged since. Over the past nine years, that federal minimum has dropped drastically in spending power thanks to inflation.

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