PHOENIX - Monica Guerrero worries everyday about things a lot of us don’t have to think about often.
“What if my car breaks down? How am I going to be able to afford to fix that and get to work the next day?” she said. “Do I have enough gas money to make it for the next two weeks?”
Some months, if her bills don’t balance out, she goes without a phone.
“It all depends if my kids have enough to eat,” she said, “or rent is covered, or what have you.”
Guerrero makes $8.50 an hour working as a caregiver for the elderly. She’s a mother of four and is also back in school to get her degree in Health Care Administration.
“I’m not one who likes to ask for help or handouts,” she said. “It’s just a struggle.”
Making that wage, even working full time, Guerrero said she often doesn’t have enough money to meet her family’s basic needs.
“I’ve actually worked two jobs at once, and still didn’t make ends meet,” she said.
Its stories like hers that inspired the Arizona Community Action Association (ACAA) to launch Raise Arizona, an initiative aimed at encouraging businesses to pay their employees a living wage, instead of the minimum wage.
“One worker that’s working a full time 40 hours-a-week job at minimum wage is in poverty,” according to Kelly McGowan, Deputy Director of ACAA.
The living wage in Maricopa County now is $14.13 an hour, according to McGowan, though it changes depending upon cost of living throughout the state.
With a living wage, a worker can make enough money to cover their basic needs, she said, so they don’t have to choose between paying their utility bill and buying groceries.
“There’s a pretty big movement in the business community towards this,” McGowan said. “You see big players like Costco and Trader Joe’s and QT, and Ikea just came out. And we’d really like to bring that down to the local level.”
The ACAA received a $125,000 grant to implement Raise Arizona. “We’re going to look to voluntarily recruit and certify employers who are willing to pay their employees a living wage for their area,” McGowan said.
The ACAA will start with the service industry, like local restaurants and hotels, which often don’t pay a living wage.
“We also think that the more employees have dollars in their pocket, the more they can put back into the economy,” McGowan said.
Then, they’re going to work on consumers.
“I think they have an awareness that their dollars and their money can support good, and they can support things that they don’t believe in as much,” she said.
They’ll work to get consumers to support the businesses that sign on to pay a living wage.