What Minimum Wage and Marriage Have in Common

Felix B. is a mild, cheerful man.  He lives in an immaculate apartment he shares with his fiancée, Nicole.  Felix is currently employed by a temporary agency making molds in Oconomowoc for $7.25 an hour.  Nicole has a minimum wage job at Wal-Mart. They have been together for 10 years.

Felix has had some legal problems in the past and getting a job has been difficult. It took him 45 days to find his current job after being laid off from a previous temporary job.  He is hoping his current job will last.  He likes the company and the work, and thinks they like him.

His workdays are long.  He works second shift requiring him to leave his apartment at 12:30 p.m. to make it to the temporary agency on the south side.  He rides a van from the agency to the factory he works at, arriving by 2:30.  Felix begins his work at 3:00 and his shift ends at 11 p.m.  The van picks him up and drops him off 12 blocks from his home.  He must walk home and usually arrives at 12:30 a.m.

But for all of that effort, there is little left at the end of the week.  For a 40 hour week, Felix’s gross pay is $390.  The agency requires that workers take the van and charges them $7.50 per day. His net pay is only $202 per week. How many people can survive on $750 a month?

Nicole works between 24 and 36 hours per week.  When both of them are working short hours, their budget is stretched even more.  This month the overtime is very helpful. On April 15 Felix’s WE Energies bill must be paid or their electricity will be turned off.

Felix doesn’t understand people who don’t want to raise the minimum wage.  “I don’t think they understand how hard it is to make a living on minimum wage,” he said.  He challenged those who want to keep minimum wage low to live on it for a month.  “As long as they don’t dip into their bank account or use a credit card and can say the minimum wage is fine, I’ll keep quiet.  But they need to understand what life is like earning so little.”

When asked what he would do with a raise in his wage, Felix hesitated and smiled. “I would like to get married.  But I want a little financial stability first."

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