Ten years in, the movement to raise the minimum wage is gaining momentum across the country.

by Sharon Johnson, The Progressive

Kimberly Baker did everything right. She was at the top of her high school class and began working at the age of seventeen in a grocery store in Lincoln, Nebraska. She completed a degree in foreign languages while working full time in the insurance industry. But despite her skills and perseverance, the thirty-eight-year-old single mother earns only $13.26 an hour, too little to rent a modest apartment.

“I get by because my sixteen-year-old son and I live with my parents, retired nurses who own their home,” Baker says. “Although I supplement my earnings in the insurance industry by working as a tutor of Latin and a translator of French, it is impossible for me to take vacations or to save for my son’s college education or a master’s degree that would enable me to land a job in a better-paying industry.”

Demonstrators gather for a Fight for $15 protest outside of McDonald's restaurant at Harrah's hotel-casino in Las Vegas, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016.

Baker’s experience is common, says Ben Zipperer, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a think tank that studies the impact of economic trends on workers.

“Unfortunately, low wages are widespread throughout the labor market,” he tells The Progressive. “It is not just a problem of a teenager working after school to earn spending money, but an enormous burden for adults working two or three jobs for substandard wages that barely keep food on the table.”

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