Jenny: More than ever, Seattle is a city of
income inequality. Gucci purses on one arm, and battered messenger
bags on the other. 20 year old autumn brown has been carrying
this one since high school.>>This is an Americano?
Do you need any room for cream?>>Jenny: Autumn, she’s one of the latte makers,
33 hours a week, and a full time student.>>Right now, I make $11 an hour.
>>Jenny: That’s Seattle’s new minimum wage. Is it enough to survive in this expensive
city?>>I rely a lot on shift meals, food from
work, just kind of food from work, so yes.>>Jenny: Autumn knows thousand stretch a
dollar. She doesn’t go out, cuts her own hair.
>>I’ve been pretty much doing the same thing since high school.
>>Jenny: Like the roughly 100,000 workers in Seattle who make less than $15 an hour,
housing takes the biggest bite out of autumn’s carefully crafted budget.
She shares a house on a busy road near northgate mall with two roommates and a roommate’s 3
year old son.>>It’s $2200 a month.
>>Jenny: That’s doable at $11 an hour.>>It just comes at the price of having so
much on my plate at one time, it’s really stressful, and if I make one mistake, I feel
like it could all just fall apart.>>Jenny: That may already be happening.
>>I drove into a fire hydrant, and now, I owe the city about $3,000.
��>>Jenny: Autumn doesn’t know where that money
is going to come from. Her biggest fear is that she’ll have to drop
out of college and won’t be able to become a web designer.
Imagine if she made the federal minimum wage, $7.25 an hour.
>>Just seems really unfair.>>Jenny: $77 a week.
That’s the national average of what minimum wage workers have to spend on transportation
and food and other life necessities. ��
$77 a week for bread, milk, cereal, oranges, toilet paper, razors, and laundry detergent.
>>And it’s like an alligator jaws that’s just getting wider and wider and people are
being caught in that crunch. 74 ��
>>Reporter: Diana pierce felt set with the real cost of basic needs.
Pierce, a senior lecturer at the university of Washington school of social work has created
an alternative method, which is being used in 37 states.
According to her self sufficiency standard, even Seattle’s minimum wage, the highest in
the country, isn’t a family wage.>>Two adults with a preschool and a school
age in Seattle each have to earn now well over $15 an hour, each of them working full
time year round, just to meet those basic needs, with no extras.
>>If you’re, you know, a low wage worker and you don’t have insurance, things could
snowball very quickly. Housing especially is a big issue.
>>Jenny: Meet Willie fowler. He lives in Everett building planes.
>>The job is like assembly, it’s for Boeing. And pretty much, I do assembly work put in
and gather parts. And I send them all down the line using heavy
power tools.>>Jenny: Fowler lives in Seattle’s queen
Anne neighborhood, in tent city, a homeless camp at Seattle Pacific university.
>>Currently, right now, I work at the tent. So I don’t make a lot of money at all, just
enough to get by. Now, I make 9 bucks.
>>Jenny: The first thing Willie noticed about Seattle when he moved here from Nevada, it’s
tough to get a permanent full time job. Willie was a medic in the military.
>>With my military experience and my background, coming here to Seattle, it wasn’t good enough.
And that was one of the things that I was just sucked about that.
>>Jenny: The second thing Willie noticed, in Seattle, landlords call the shots.
>>First, last month’s rent, a security deposit, a damage deposit, which is different from
the security deposit. If you got pets, they want a pet deposit.
This is where I sleep.>>Jenny: Four years ago, Willie was living
in an apartment with his wife and two stepsons and a baby on the way.
>>And then what really made it hard at the time was when I got let go.
And finally, we ended up getting evicted.>>We, meaning all of us together, pay when
families fall apart.>>Take this out.
>>Jenny: Fast forward to today. Willie is divorced, his baby girl lives with
her mother. Willie and his fiancee are saving up to leave
tent city and Seattle.>>Just recently found out that my significant
other is expecting another one.>>Jenny: Willie believes it will be easier
for him to support his new family some place where the job market isn’t so competitive.
>>I can’t imagine how people that run these businesses can sleep at night, knowing that
their employees are not able to pay their bills.
>>Already, what’s next for you? Anything else for you today?
>>Jenny: Michael McGovern moved to Seattle from Florida because he heard Seattle’s economy
was booming.>>Two egg sandwiches off the grill.
>>Jenny: It’s a bet that’s paid off for him.>>Due to the new contract signing, I saw
approximately a $3 an hour wage increase.>>Jenny: Michael works at Seattle co op in
Capitol Hill, where every employee already makes at least $15 an hour, because of this.
�� Central co op’s general manager took the message
of Martin luther king’s March on Washington to heart.
He also did the math.>>If we think about the $2 that Dr. King
and the other folks were asking for in ’63, and we adjust for inflation, that comes out
to about the $15.36 that we’re offering right now.
>>Jenny: He proposed to offering the highest grocery store wage to employees at the co
op and the others said okay.>>I think our store is one that others need
to hear. It is possible to be sustainable and keep
a thriving business going, and also make sure that you treat people well.
>>Jenny: The raise has allowed Michael and his wife the luxury of dreaming about their
future in Seattle.>>We moved out of an apartment, that was
a one bedroom apartment, and now, we have a house that will allow us to have a family.
And now, we can afford to plan, as opposed to just afford to live.
>>Do you want your receipt? Okay.
I’ll recycle that for you.