by Congresswoman Donna Edwards
We are now on day three of the When Women Succeed, America Succeeds bus tour, which has taken us from Seneca Falls, through Albany, Lowell, Boston, and to Columbus, Ohio today.
All along the road we’ve heard from brave women about their challenges in finding affordable childcare, their struggles with balancing both home and work life, and their experiences of surviving on the minimum wage.
Their stories are sadly not unique in America today. There are far too many women who work and provide for their families full-time yet still live on the brink.
Their challenges are personal to me because I faced so many of them myself. Just like so many women across this country, I know what it’s like working not just for the minimum wage but the tipped minimum wage - a paltry $2.13 an hour that hasn’t been raised in 20 years. I didn’t take the job because I wanted some extra cash - I took the job because I needed to pay the bills.
Think about this: today, in America, a single mother with two children, working full-time, year-round, and earning the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour only makes $15,080 per year, or $4,450 below the federal poverty level for a family of three. In the wealthiest nation on Earth, it’s shameful that people who are working full-time are living in poverty.
So many of the women we’ve met on the road are also moms - moms who juggle a full-time job and care for a child. As a single mom myself, I know what it’s like having to think every second of every day about what childcare arrangements I’d need to make for my son.
It feels like yesterday that I wondered whether I’d be able to pay for childcare, and then putting myself – like so many moms do – and my son into a childcare arrangement that was actually unsafe and unhealthy.
I got to meet an amazing woman, Marti Ripley, who spoke so eloquently on this issue today in Columbus, Ohio. A proud mother of two children under the age of seven, Marti talked about her struggles with finding a job because she couldn’t afford childcare, and didn’t have a stable support system to help her take care of her kids.
It wasn’t until she was able to enroll her children into a Head Start program that they could access quality early education and care, and Marti could find gainful employment to support her family. As Marti said, programs like Head Start are “not hand-outs but hands-ups.” She couldn’t be more right.
We need to stand up for working women, like Marti, and make sure that they earn a fair wage and have access to affordable, quality childcare. We need to make sure that in today’s economy, women have a fair shot and an equal playing field to be successful.
As our bus rolls on to Chicago, we’ll continue to carry on our message that when women succeed, America succeeds.