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Local opinion: Raising minimum wage would make 'huge difference'
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Local opinion: Raising minimum wage would make 'huge difference'

The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer:

I’ve always looked up to my mom. She immigrated to the U.S from Mexico, worked extreme hours to provide for me and my brother, and always found a way to make us feel special. But it wasn’t until I started working at a job that paid me the minimum wage that I had a full appreciation for everything she did for us — and a sense of outrage that workers in Tucson and elsewhere in Arizona are forced to raise families on poverty wages.

Growing up, I sometimes felt embarrassed that my life was different than my friends’. I couldn’t afford to go to the movies with everyone. I was ashamed of my family’s apartment. But I knew my mom worked hard. She came to this country to work, provide for her family and start a new life.

For decades, she worked a variety of minimum wage jobs including waitressing at restaurants and cleaning houses and office buildings. She came home exhausted every day, and somehow found the extra energy to take care of me and my brother. She played by the rules, worked multiple jobs, did everything right and it was just barely enough.

She’s my inspiration for getting involved in the fight to pass Proposition 206 and raise the minimum wage here in Tucson to $15 an hour. A living wage of at least $15 an hour — one that can fully support a family like mine growing up — should be the bare minimum workers in Tucson are paid.

Just like my mom, I’ve worked minimum wage jobs, getting paid $12.15 an hour and not getting enough hours to make ends meet. Even with roommates, I’ve often been barely able to afford my rent, let alone insurance or medical bills. I’ve had to go into credit card debt to pay for food and groceries. I had no savings. I had no safety net. A single accident or unexpected expense would have meant disaster.

Making $12.15 an hour just didn’t add up. That’s because anything less than $15 an hour isn’t enough. No one should have to work 80-hour weeks just to afford the necessities. But the current reality is that too many workers and families are being forced to take extreme measures to make ends meet. Tucson needs a higher minimum wage, and we can make it happen by voting Yes on Proposition 206.

I recently began working a new job that pays me $15 an hour and noticed a difference immediately. Now, I can buy fresh fruits and vegetables. I can afford therapy sessions and more regular doctors appointments. I’m starting to build savings every month. My lifestyle is healthier, safer, and more secure.

Other states and cities have benefited greatly when they raise the minimum wage to $15, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Workers take home more, U.S. Census Bureau researchers found. Businesses see less turnover, economic studies show. More families can afford to put dinner on the table, according to the Century Foundation. Higher wages can even reduce racial inequality, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley found. Voting yes on Prop 206 will lift up everyone and make Tucson stronger. And, over 100 small businesses and local organizations agree.

I think about how someone like my mom, an immigrant mother of two taking care of her family on a minimum wage, would benefit from Prop 206. She would have been able to spend more time with my brother and me. She would have had more agency at work and better conditions, and the opportunity to focus on her own health.

Raising the minimum wage would have made a huge difference for my family. It would make a huge difference for me now. And it will have a tremendous impact on so many Tucson workers and their families. Join me in voting Yes on Prop. 206 so that workers can stop worrying about making it to the next paycheck and start enjoying everything our beautiful city has to offer.

Daniela “Dani” Sherrill is a resident of Tucson and graduate of Northern Arizona University. She is a volunteer with Tucson Fight for $15.

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