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Tucson Opinion: Vote yes on Prop 206 to raise the minimum wage to $15/hr.
Tucson Opinion

Tucson Opinion: Vote yes on Prop 206 to raise the minimum wage to $15/hr.

The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer:

By the time I moved to Tucson after college I was already used to making pennies stretch.

Growing up in Kentucky with three siblings and two public school teachers for parents, I learned at a young age how to budget and save money any way I could. As someone with type 1 diabetes, I’ve always known that in this country, money matters when it comes to accessing quality health care.

Here in Tucson, too many people like me are struggling to get by. Everything has gotten more expensive — from rent to groceries to prescriptions — and the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated too many of our neighbors. I know from experience that no one making the current minimum wage of $12 an hour can truly afford to live a decent life.

That’s why I’m voting “yes” on Proposition 206, the ballot measure that will raise our city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next few years. Anyone who lives in Tucson and understands what it’s like to worry or struggle should vote “yes” too. In fact, you can vote starting this week when mail-in ballots are sent out to all voters in the city.

Right now, I work at a local non-profit focused on supporting at-risk youth. I have loved this job — it has been fulfilling and important to the community. But throughout my time here, I’ve been paid just over $12/hr. That’s just not enough to get by.

Like so many in Tucson who are paid the minimum wage, every month I wonder how I am going to pay rent and afford groceries. I’ve had to put off important doctor appointments because I couldn’t afford them and have worried that I might not have enough to cover medicine and insulin.

The uncertainty has made me feel anxious and exhausted. I know I’m not alone because many of the families and young people I work with are going through the same things, stuck in the endless cycle of poverty.

But I also know what it feels like to get a raise to a living wage. This summer, I took on a side job that paid me $15 an hour. As soon as I saw my first paycheck, I felt a weight off of my shoulders.

For the first time, I knew I had more than enough to make it to the next paycheck. Maybe a $3-per-hour difference doesn’t sound life-changing to everyone, but it was huge for me. I went to the dentist for the first time in years, easily paid off my utilities and put some money into savings. And soon, I’ll be working at a new non-profit that pays $17 an hour.

At my next job, I’ll finally be making a living wage. It’s time for the Tucson community to come together to support Prop. 206, which stands for the principle that one paycheck should be enough for you to afford to live a decent life.

I know that a raise to $15 an hour would lift up tens of thousands of people in Tucson, including many of the families I currently work with at the non-profit.

In other states and cities across the country that have won their fight for $15, higher wages have benefited everyone. Workers have better mental and physical health. Employers are able to hire and retain more effective and happier workers. And the local economy gets a boost that lifts up everyone and makes communities stronger.

Raising the minimum wage is an investment in our communities and allows workers and families to thrive rather than just survive. It will not only give more people a foothold for their future, but help our city continue to grow.

So, my fellow Tucsonans, join me in voting “yes” on Proposition 206.

Rachel Cummings is a recent graduate of University of Arizona with a master’s degree in public health.


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