Minimum Wage Workers Hoping For Increase - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News


Minimum Wage Workers Hoping For Increase

Minimum wage workers are closer to getting a raise. Wednesday, the House of Representatives approved an increase in the minimum wage, to $7.25 an hour over the next two years. Right now the federal minimum wage is $5.15.  If this measure passes the Senate and is signed by President Bush, it would go up to $5.85 60 days after being signed into law.   A year after that, it will increase to $6.55.  Then finally one year later, it'll go up to $7.25 an hour.

If the increase does take effect, that would mean more than $4,000 in increased wages to millions of workers when complete. Currently full-time, minimum wage workers earn $10,712. With the first increase, that amount would go up to $12,168. The second increase would raise their amount to more than $13,624. The last increase would make their salary jump up to $15,080.

For those East Texans making minimum wage, the increase could be the beginning of a better life. Laura Molina, 26, works as a hostess at "El Charro Restaurant" and works two nights a week at the Tyler Literacy Council. The mother of two says she made $13,000 last year.  She says even with her husband's salary, she cannot afford daycare for her youngest child. "You really have to learn how to manage the little money that you have to try to make it through the year," said Molina.

Another hostess at El Charro, Christi Vergara, is a college student.  The 18-year-old has been saving up money to get her own place next month. Christi makes about $180 a week before taxes. Monthly, she earns just over $700.

Christi says she and a roommate split the cost of rent and electricity. On top of that, Christi has to pay for car insurance, gas and other basics. She says to afford to live on her own, she'll have to cut back on costs. "I'm not going to be paying for food while I'm at home, just gonna eat here or at home," said Vergara.

Christi believes an increase in the minimum wage is long overdue. "With the economy today, you can't live off $5.15 an hour," said Vergara.

Both Christi and Laura say they're making plans for the extra income they would receive. "Any extra money I'm saving for college to pay off loans and stuff," said Vergara. "I can afford to send my youngest to school and I can probably work a little more hours," said Molina.  

Oralia Ortega, Reporting.


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