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Working Families Need More

June 3, 2014
By
Original Author: By Bay City News Service

From left to right, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, U.S. House of Representatives Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, and President, Center for American Progress, Neera Tanden at the San Francisco Forum on Working Families.

Image Credit: From left to right, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, U.S. House of Representatives Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, and President, Center for American Progress, Neera Tanden at the San Francisco Forum on Working Families.

Nobody in this country who works a full-time job should have to live in poverty.

Thomas Perez

U.S. Labor Secretary

Working families need higher wages, access to affordable quality child care and paid sick and family leave in order to succeed and drive economic growth, according to a gathering of politicians, policy leaders, advocates and business leaders in downtown San Francisco on May 27.

The San Francisco Forum on Working Families brought together Bay Area congressional representatives, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and others in a series of panel discussions to discuss the challenges faced by working families and the solutions they believe are needed.

“Nobody in this country who works a full-time job should have to live in poverty,” Perez said.

Perez, noting that the federal minimum wage has lost 20 percent of its purchasing power since the 1980s, said the federal minimum wage should be raised from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour.

“It’s a false choice that we either grow our economy or we help our families,” Perez said. “We can do both.”

Inflexible jobs, tight finances and expensive childcare make working families feel like they have to choose between work and family, Perez said.

“I need to make enough money to put food on the table, but I also want to get home to eat dinner at that table,” said Perez, paraphrasing the conflict he hears expressed by working mothers.

More than 60 percent of people earning the minimum wage are women, Pelosi said. Seventy percent of low-income workers have no paid sick leave, according to Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress.

Perez said childcare costs consume 38 percent of the average family’s wages.

Mothers shouldn’t have to choose between taking a sick kid to the doctor and having their paycheck docked, Pelosi said, calling for mandated paid sick leave.

“When women succeed, America succeeds,” Pelosi said.

The event was one of five regional forums leading up to the White House Summit on Working Families to be held in Washington, D.C., on June 23.

Mayor Ed Lee noted that San Francisco was the first city in the country to establish its own minimum wage, which is now $10.74 per hour. But Lee said that minimum wage should increase, and reiterated his commitment to build 30,000 new housing units by 2020, with one third of them affordable housing.

“We know our city is an expensive place for working families,” Lee said.

San Francisco’s middle class has declined 10 percent in the last four years, said Rep. Jackie Speier, whose district includes part of San Francisco and San Mateo County.

“It is time for us to change the policies that are preventing us from working well together as families and working well together as workers,” Speier said.