Arizona: Making the choice to support low-wage workers, but we need to do more
As an Arizona state legislator, mother, and social worker, I see firsthand the barriers women face to success in my state and around the country. For decades I have worked with women who are marginalized by society and have few opportunities to get back on their feet. Victims of domestic violence sometimes lack job skills and experience because their abusive partners kept them from working and gaining independence. Women leaving abusive situations often have to rely on minimum wage jobs that don’t offer the benefits necessary to support individuals or families. For a female victim, pay equity could be the difference between confidently moving to a new home or having to rely on a women’s shelter .
In Arizona we made the choice to support low-wage workers, the majority of which are women, by indexing the state minimum wage to inflation; however, that is not enough to elevate women to the same wage status as men. The minimum wage in Arizona is $7.80 an hour and equals $16,224 a year for a woman working a minimum wage job putting in 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year. We all know this is not enough to get by, let alone ahead.
Financial independence is the greatest asset victims of domestic violence have as they try to separate themselves from their abusive partner, but reports show that financial independence is difficult to attain for many populations. On average, women make 82 cents for every $1 a man makes in Arizona. Latino women, a growing demographic in Arizona that is a major part of our future workforce and household breadwinners, only make about HALF of what a white male makes in Arizona. Eliminating these pay inequities is essential to ensuring that women can be independent and care for their families.
In Arizona, we can do more to support all of our women and their families by moving legislation that addresses pay inequality, raises the minimum wage, and increases access to paid sick and safe time. No woman should fear leaving her abusive partner or have to suffer economic uncertainty because of her gender. As a state and as a nation we need to address these problems and make women’s economic security a priority.