Support for Raising the Minimum Wage in Rhode Island
Updated: Feb 8
Call to Action: The Senate will be voting on bills to raise the minimum wage on Tuesday. In advance of the vote, we are asking you to contact your Senator. Be sure to express public support as well. You can use this letter writing tool from RI Working Families Party:
Make sure to share on social media & email the link to others, once you have completed the form!
Read RI Democratic Women's Caucus Chair Liz Gledhill's Testimony in Favor of S-1 and S-143 - Bills for Raising the Minimum Wage on Behalf of the Women's Caucus
On behalf of the Rhode Island Democratic Women’s Caucus, I’d like to extend our organization’s enthusiastic support to Senate Bill S-1 and S-143.
Low income women, women of color, and women with children have borne the brunt of economic contraction due to Covid-19. Restoring Rhode Island’s battered economy requires that we address the special burdens that women in the workplace face. In fact, of the 140,000 job losses recorded in the month of December, every single one of them was held by women.
More than 87,000 people in the RI workforce earn less than $15 hour. Working full-time at the current minimum wage means barely meeting their most basic needs. The Covid-19 crisis has exacerbated an already devastating situation — with the status of in-person learning at our schools changing daily, and with no increased financial support for childcare, women are forced every day to choose between earning an income to support their families or staying home to guide their child through distance learning. Many women work multiple jobs to cobble together enough money to get through the week, many in the service industry. Unequal provisions of the tipped workers’ substandard minimum wage does little to alleviate their dire financial situation.
While a $15 an hour minimum wage does not address the full range of barriers to economic health for Rhode Island’s women, it is a basic first step to constructing a fairer system of support for working families, especially working women. But this bill needs to do more than raise our minimum wage to a livable wage; it needs to provide a living wage to people so that they can work and feed their families with dignity. It is in that spirit that the Rhode Island Democratic Women’s Caucus urges this committee to approve S-1 with the following amendments:
Achieve parity with neighboring states by going to a $15 minimum wage effective in 2023 rather than 2024.
Add tipped workers to Rhode Island’s minimum wage coverage. Seven states already cover tipped workers at the full $15 hour rate and the Biden administration’s proposed Covid-19 stimulus package does the same.
Allow domestic workers, 93.1% of whom are women, to be included in the legislation for $15 minimum wage.
The Women’s Caucus also extends its support to Chair Cicciones’s bill, S-143, as it already addresses many of the deficiencies found in S-1.
For too long, work that was paid minimum or low wages was mislabeled as “unskilled labor,” and this label was used to justify underpaying workers. The pandemic has shown us that the waitstaff and food preparers who provide us meals; the sales associates, stockers, and cashiers who help us purchase necessities; the daycare and education providers who care for our children; the care workers and staff who help run our medical facilities; and so many other low-wage earners are vital to our day-to-day lives. The pandemic has shown us the work of these people is essential, and as such, it deserves commensurate pay.
Rhode Island is at a crossroads, one in which the wrong path could lead our state to an economic collapse that could devastate our already fragile workforce. A $15 minimum wage is but one way we can support those that shoulder the burden of our economic fallout while helping to sustain our state during these strenuous times, and these amendments will help to level the uneven playing field our workforce is facing.
Thank you for your leadership on this issue. We welcome further discussion on other actions the State can take to improve the earning potential of Rhode Island women.
Chair, Rhode Island Democratic Women’s Caucus