You have seen the rallies and heard the chants. The so-called Fight for $15, a movement toward a $15 minimum wage started by fast food workers in New York has grown over the last four years. Organized rallies have spread through the United States, including Memphis.
33-year-old Carol Jones, a mother and home care worker in Memphis, agreed to share her story with Local Memphis to shed light on what life is like for people who live on minimum wage, or close to it.
“I work 40 hours a week on one job and I make $7.70. My other job is $7.25 and I only work like 16 hours,” said Jones.
Starting at 6:00 a.m. Jones goes to each client’s home to help care for them. She makes sure they eat, then she helps them with everyday tasks. For some, it can mean changing diapers, some light cleaning, or making trips to doctor’s appointments.
“My clients are my life. I don’t care what nobody say. Those are my babies,” said Jones.
Jones said her work is her passion, but since her two income home split up four years ago, she struggles to take care of her son Kee’shawn and make ends meet. Jones said she had to send him to stay with her mother in Texas.
“I couldn’t work and take care of him as far as getting him up for school when I gotta be at work at 6:00, when school don’t start until 7:00,” said Jones.
Since August, Jones has been sending her mother money to help care for her son, and to reduce expenses, Jones moved in with her sister.
“All the bills got kinda backed up at the house or whatever, so I came here to kinda better myself a little bit where I can save a little bit of money,” said Jones.
Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show with baby boomers aging, demand for personal care aides is expected to grow much faster than other jobs.
The average pay in 2015 was $10.09 an hour. Jones does not make the average pay.
After years of constantly carefully crunching numbers Jones recently joined the “Fight for $15.”
Fast food workers may have started the movement, but home care workers and other industries have joined the fight, including child care workers and airport workers.
“I want them to see that we all come together in solidarity to fight for what is right. That’s dignity in our jobs, a living wage and that we’re not going anywhere,” said Sepia Coleman, a home care worker in Memphis and a volunteer for the local Fight for $15 chapter.
Looking at Jones’ most recent income and expenses between a full time and part time job, not counting overtime, she brings home about $1,556 each month. Her expenses include rent, utilities for her current and past home, food, phone, and the money she sends her son, which all adds up to about $1,160.
That leaves her about $396 for the month, or about $198 at the end of each pay period, to handle unexpected expenses such as car repairs and emergency room visits. Jones has unpaid bills for both.
“$15 would help out a whole lot. Combine $15 plus 40 hours that would help out a whole lot. I can sit back on one job and go to school and maintain to take care of my child,” said Jones, “I don’t want my son to struggle like we struggling.”
Jones said she is working on going back to school to get her nursing degree, hoping it will help her get back on her feet.