Lawmakers Take On The 'Minimum Wage Challenge'

While Republicans in the House of Representatives are busy blocking bills that would raise the minimum wage, several lawmakers in Florida, Colorado, and Michigan are attempting the "minimum wage challenge," i.e. feeding themselves on minimum wage for a week. This means that they'll have only $42 to attempt to buy groceries for seven days, three meals a day. Which is, if you wondered, an average of $2 per meal.

This minimum wage challenge was organized by Progressive States Network, which, according to its website, works with "state and national leaders to advance public policy solutions that uphold America's promise to be a just and equitable democracy."

This week, on Monday, April 7, PSN called for a "National Week of Action" and asked lawmakers across the country to take the challenge of surviving on just $42 in a week. While many states have improved their minimum wage laws or are working to improve, as PSN noted on its website, there are still too many working families on minimum wage who are just barely making it.

Minnesota appears to be ahead of the curve, with several lawmakers already having undertaken the minimum wage challenge back in February.

PSN used $42 as the maximum lawmakers could spend, because the Department of Agriculture estimated that is the necessary amount for a person with a minimum wage budget to survive on and still eat nutritiously.

According to Rashida Tlaib, a state representative from Michigan, the point of the minimum wage challenge is to "raise awareness and bring visibility to the issue." Tlaib had already had the rude awakening of taking a trip to the grocery store, picking out food items, and then upon arriving at the counter realizing that she had three items too many for the budget she was on.

The experience inspired Tlaib to put more of her efforts into getting a minimum wage raise initiative on the state ballot. "As soon as [a higher wage] is on the ballot, all I’m going to do is work on making sure it passes," she told ThinkProgress.

That said, several law makers, including Tlaib and Michigan State Senators Hoon-Yung Hopgood and Jim Ananich, do have concerns that the challenge will only appeal to those who are already on board with raising the minimum wage. Still, this minimum wage challenge is just one event of many: Other lawmakers have taken the food stamp challenge, and spent nights in homeless shelters. Will these measures be successful in convincing opposed lawmakers to pass minimum wage laws? Only time will tell.