How far does $15 an hour go?

Renata Sago Oct 2, 2018
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A visitor checks in at the Amazon corporate headquarters in Seattle, Washington. On Oct. 2, 2018, Amazon announced U.S. workers would receive a minimum of $15 per hour. David Ryder/Getty Images

How far does $15 an hour go?

Renata Sago Oct 2, 2018
A visitor checks in at the Amazon corporate headquarters in Seattle, Washington. On Oct. 2, 2018, Amazon announced U.S. workers would receive a minimum of $15 per hour. David Ryder/Getty Images
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Amazon is raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour  for its U.S. employees starting next month. The pay boost is expected to help the company’s 350,000 full-time, part-time, temporary and seasonal workers, who will now be making more than double the federal minimum wage. The move follows similar announcements from big box retailers. Earlier this year, Target announced a phased-in hourly increase to $15 an hour by 2020 and Costco has bumped its starting pay to $14 an hour. But is $15 an hour enough for people to live on?

Alex Harris is 22 years old and works two part-time jobs in Florida. He makes $16 hourly as a community organizer and $9.50 an hour at a fast food chain. He said he’s able to pay his bills and bus fare, but earning $15 an hour full-time with health benefits would help.

 “What I ultimately need is a permanent job making full-time hours,” he said. “I feel like if I did forty hours every week or more, then that would make my life so much easier.”

Sharon Rosinski Peterson, who is 42 years old and lives in Utah, called herself a “professional job hopper.” She has made $15 an hour in the past working odd jobs and said she was able to manage as a single woman. Now that she lives with her husband and is raising two kids, she relies on renting out rooms in her home. And her parents chip in money.

“If we hadn’t bought this house when we did, we wouldn’t be able to survive on $15 an hour. There’s no way,” she said. “Rent — or even housing in Utah is a nightmare and it’s just going up.”

Alexander Saunders received a raise last month after a few years of making a little over $15 an hour. The 28-year-old credited that wage with him being able to pay off his debts. 

“I actually just paid off a car loan,” he said.

But, Saunders credited his living situation with the ability to do that; has three roommates. 

  “Splitting rent with somebody was an enormous help.”

While workers in cities like New York, Los Angeles and Seattle already have the all clear for $15 an hour, the fight for 15, as it’s known, continues. Now, Amazon employees across the country will find out how far $15 an hour will take them.

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