The death of Maria Fernandes, who juggled three jobs at three Dunkin’ Donuts stores in New Jersey to make ends meet, has cast a light on the plight of low-wage, part-time workers. Ms. Fernandes was only 32 when she died of carbon monoxide and gas fumes from an overturned gas can while trying to take a nap in her car between shifts, and her tragic death is being held up as a symbol of our country’s low wage, part-time economy and the growing gap between the rich and poor.
Too many workers like Ms. Fernandes are struggling to survive in low-wage wage, part-time jobs with erratic schedules. It doesn’t have to be this way. Increasing the minimum wage and providing workers with fair, flexible, and reliable scheduling is a simple way to ensure that workers have the hours and wages needed to make ends meet.
Unfortunately, too many Congressional Republicans have turned their backs on American workers by failing to advance legislation to raise the current federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and index it to inflation. And while the states and localities that have raised the minimum wage to levels higher than the current federal rate of $7.25 per hour should be lauded, providing all Americans with a living wage is an issue that must be addressed at the federal level.
Congressional Republicans have also failed to consider the Schedules That Work Act, which would provide workers with modest safeguards and begin to curb the most abusive scheduling practices. This legislation includes a presumption that workers who need a schedule change due to child care, school, a second job, or medical needs will receive that change unless there is a bona fide business reason not to. The legislation also provides workers advance notice of their schedules and guarantees minimum pay when they are sent home from work before completing their entire shift.
This is an election year and the Retail Justice Alliance urges our lawmakers to consider the millions of low-wage, part-time voters across the country who are struggling to make ends meet, much like Ms. Fernandes was, and address these two important issues.