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Life at $7.25 an Hour

'It's Tough for Me'

minimum wage
Robert Iles works for $7.25 an hour in Atchison, Kansas - the rate that is likely to become the nation's new minimum wage. (David Finkel - David Finkel -The Washington Post)

So go the calculations of a $7.25 worker, now headed home.

"It's an old trailer," he explained earlier in the day.

The heat doesn't work, he said, and the water heater works sporadically.

One of the bedroom ceilings is caving in. He sleeps in the other bedroom, and his parents sleep in the living room because his father, who has diabetes and had to have several inches of one of his feet amputated, can't really get around.

Also, his father has leukemia. And is legally blind. And his mother, who once made $6.50 an hour as an aide at a nursing home, quit to take care of her husband.

"We're pretty much living off my money," Iles said, and in he went to cook them dinner, bring payday to an end and, the next morning, start the cycle again.

Life at $7.25. Should that be the minimum wage?

"Yes," Iles said.

Even if it hurts job opportunities for people like him, as Dennis Garrett had suggested?

"Yes."

Or causes price increases, as Bill Murphy had suggested?

"Yes."

Or damages businesses such as Always Low Prices?

"I mean, it's tough for me, and I'm already making $7.25 an hour."

Or causes Jack Bower to reduce hours for one of his employees? Perhaps for Iles himself?

"It's just so hard for people. I mean, it's hard," Iles said, and then he went to work.

"I think it'll be bad today," one of the workers suggested as the line at the Wow Only $1.00! cash register began to form.

"Well, it depends on your perspective," Iles said.


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