Patchwork of Paychecks: Recommendations


There are a variety of tools that can help ensure that all workers make ends meet. These include:

Increase the federal minimum wage to at least $15 per hour.

Increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour will create a strong wage floor for workers across the country, helping move millions of workers out of poverty.

Support unions and collective bargaining.

Union members earn higher wages than non-union members, and the gender wage gap is less for unionized workplaces than it is for those that are not unionized. In addition, unions put upward pressure on wages for all workers – even those whose workplaces are not unionized.

Further, when employees are able to collectively bargain for contracts that include full-time work and benefits like affordable health insurance, these efforts can go even further in ensuring that workers are able to make ends meet.

Better regulate scheduling practices that leave employees with unpredictable and
part-time schedules.

In many service sector jobs, including restaurant, fast food, and retail work, employees’ schedules can be unpredictable. When these employees have to work multiple jobs, this lack of predictability can lead to the inability to hold down enough hours to meet their basic needs or lead to “clopening” shifts where a worker must close one night and open the next. Regulations on how employers can schedule employees would help when one job isn’t enough to make ends meet.

Create stronger protections for workers against wage theft, and better enforce existing protections.

Workers in the service sector are especially vulnerable to wage theft through forced work during breaks, being asked to clock out before finishing their work, and more. Raising the cost of wage theft for employers by implementing stronger penalties can help deter wage theft. Additionally, creation of independent boards or task forces to provide confidential assistance to workers and ensure enforcement can help protect workers.

Strengthen and enforce
equal opportunity statutes.

Women and people of color continue to be more likely to earn low wages and end up in part-time work rather than full-time positions. Equal opportunity statutes like the Civil Rights Act and affirmative action were designed to help ensure that women and people of color are not discriminated against in the workplace and in other venues, helping give them a fair shot at earning a higher wage and being hired full-time, as well as preventing other discrimination.

However, enforcement of these policies is not consistent, leaving the statutes weak and ineffective. Strengthening and enforcing such statutes can help ensure that the statutes actually benefit women and people of color.

Invest in state and federal safety net programs.

Until there are enough living wage jobs to go around, families will continue to make tough choices. Federal programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) should be strengthened, and state supports like earned income tax credits and child care assistance should be bolstered. Additionally, the cutoff for such programs should ensure that workers not lose these benefits before they earn enough to make ends meet.

Invest in living wage jobs. 

Federal, state, and local contracts should be tied to wages and full-time work and ensure that contracted workers are paid enough to make ends meet.

Additionally, subsidies should go to companies that pay workers a full-time living wage, with consequences for companies that fail to create and retain living wage jobs.

In Conclusion

There are not enough jobs to go around in any state in the country, and in 34 states most job openings pay less than a living wage for a single adult. Additionally, the occupations with the most job openings are more likely to be part-time, and women and people of color are more likely to end up in part-time work rather than full-time employment.

Workers should be paid enough to make ends meet; until wages go up and workers are able to attain full-time employment, that goal will remain out of reach for millions of workers across the country.