Minimum Wage and Paid Sick Leave Story
Michelle moved to Tucson when she was 18, in order to attend college. To cover her tuition at the University of Arizona, she took on a part-time job while she was a student that paid $9 per hour. Soon after, she got a second job at the same hourly rate, as one job was not enough to pay for tuition and living expenses. Along with going to school as more than a full-time student, she worked 25 hours a week between the two jobs. To make ends meet, Michelle took out financial aid, too.
All this was enough to get Michelle by, but only if she did not miss a day of work. There was no paid sick leave from either job, and missing a day would impact her ability to pay the bills for the month. So Michelle often went to work sick. She lived paycheck to paycheck, and never asked for any time off. “I couldn’t afford health insurance, so I would drive to Mexico on the weekends if I needed to see the doctor.”
The hardest part for Michelle was the inability to ever miss work. “If I missed work, I felt as if I wouldn’t be able to even afford my textbooks for the semester.” During the four years of college, Michelle only got a raise of 10 cents at one of her jobs, which was not nearly enough to reduce the burden of her schedule. If she had earned a higher hourly wage, Michelle would have been able to “go to the doctor when I needed to. It used to ruin my entire week, having to work while sick.”
Michelle was able to graduate from college, but was not able to enjoy the time she spent there. “I was stressed throughout my entire college experience, and at times worried more about paying my bills than my grades.”