LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Workers in Little Rock fought for higher pay and union rights Tuesday night.
It was the first public hearing of the people’s wage board to raise pay to $15 per hour in the city.
A New York fast-food wage board’s decision to raise pay to $15 per hour for 200,000 workers across that state inspired these workers to do the same.
Multiple workers shared their testimonies Tuesday about what life is like on minimum wage.
They said they want to raise their wages by whatever means possible because they said working from paycheck to paycheck is no life.
“You can’t survive off of that, not at all,” said Fantacy Mason, a single mother of two making minimum wage. “It’s really hard out there.”
Mason makes $7.75 per hour plus tips at a local restaurant. She has worked in customer service for the past ten years and during that time, she said her pay was not the thing keeping her there.
“I have a lot of experience in it and when you love what you do, you’re going to stick it out and work hard, especially if you’re a dedicated worker,” Mason said.
However, she said every day is a struggle for her and her two little boys.
“It’s stressful because then you have to debate whether you want to leave your dream job to find something else that you’re not completely happy with or to struggle to find another job,” she said.
Mason said she also has to debate bills or food and clothing so she receives help from the community.
“But eventually your community gets tired of helping you after asking for help,” she said.
That is why Mason and other workers in Little Rock are asking to increase the current minimum wage to $15 per hour, about a 50 percent raise. It will go up to $8.50 per hour in 2017. Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles have adopted a $15 minimum wage.
“You can’t have a normal life if you have to work all the time,” said one worker during his testimony.
“Arkansas is predominantly one of those states with low wages,” said Toney Orr with Better Wages for the Workers of Arkansas. “It’s a big fight here, but I believe the people united will never be defeated. You have to take it city by city and say, ‘Will Little Rock be able to support a $15 minimum wage?’ If you can’t support it, then let’s get $12, you know? We just need to get it increasing faster than the fight was these past three years getting it to $8.50. That’s just ridiculous.”
“I’m a person who tells my story everywhere I go because I am a single mother and I’m educated but I struggle,” Mason said. “So when I go out and people ask me how I’m doing this, I tell them I just pray and I work extra hard.”
Mason and the rest of the workers at the hearing are asking the people’s wage board and Governor Asa Hutchinson not only for higher wages, but also for recognition that they are strong workers who deserve the higher pay.
“We work very hard for it,” Mason said. “There are people like me everywhere who are very dedicated to their jobs and make very little money and it shouldn’t be that way. Not at all.”
Members of the wage board include State Representatives Vivian Flowers and Charles Blake, Justice of the Peace on the Pulaski County Quorum Court Donna Massey and Executive Director of Interfaith Arkansas Rev. Steven Copley.
Show Me 15 based in St. Louis organized the meeting.
The group did not know when members would hold another public forum but said Tuesday’s would not be the last.