The Edmond Sun

Business

December 2, 2013

Candidate, spouse settle in for ‘Living Wage Experiment’

EDMOND — EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a three-part series examining Democratic candidate Cathy Cummings’ Living Wage Experiment in November. Reprinted by permission by The Vista.

Democratic lieutenant governor hopeful Cathy Cummings removed a basket of fried chicken from popping grease in the deli department at Buy For Less. Her hands, cracked and blistered from a long night spent washing dishes and a chilling bicycle ride to work, transferred the hot chicken into a silver pan, polished and ready for the display case.

“I feel like the majority of people in Oklahoma are struggling with something,” Cummings said. “I think it comes down to that you can’t make it on a minimum wage job.”

Cummings and her husband, Sean, left their suburban home on Nov. 1 to begin “The Living Wage Experiment,” an attempt to bring awareness to the minimum wage workers’ everyday struggles. The couple rented out a $425 one-bedroom apartment by the state fairgrounds in Oklahoma City and found minimum wage jobs.

Cummings is working at Buy For Less off 23rd Street and Pennsylvania. BFL pays their employees a “living wage” of  $9 an hour. A “living wage” is considered to be an amount of pay high enough to maintain a normal standard of living. Minimum wage in Oklahoma is currently $7.25 an hour. Cummings will work 30-32 hours a week, which will equal out to be one full-time minimum wage job. She said she believes the store is a great model for Oklahoma companies and that if more companies would pay a “living wage” it would lead to less people on government-assisted programs.

Her husband is working for Uber, an application-based transportation service.

Cummings and her husband have estimated their take-home-pay, after taxes, for two minimum wage workers to be $2,144 a month. After paying all of their expenses, including rent, utilities, car payment, car insurance, health insurance and medicine, they were left with $228 for food and gas the remainder of the month.

Cummings said they have been sharing one car and a bicycle.

Cummings said she got the idea for this project after working as a lunch lady in the Oklahoma City Public Schools system during the summer. Her first paycheck of $259 for 39 hours, sparked the question “how are these people making it, how are they supporting their families?”

Chairman of the political science department at Oklahoma City Community College and adjunct political science professor at the University of Central Oklahoma, Markus Smith, said he thinks the experiment is a great way to shed light on the difficulties of living on minimum wage.

“Unless you actually work for minimum wage, you have no idea how to really survive on it,” Smith said.

Cummings owns and runs Vito’s Italian Restaurant and Sean Cummings Irish Pub in Oklahoma City.

She feels the need to shed light on the low unemployment rate in Oklahoma.

According to Oklahoma’s government website, Oklahoma’s unemployment rate has held close to 5 percent for the past three years.

“With that low of unemployment, that tells me everybody’s working,” Cummings said. “So if they’re working and they still have to live on food stamps and all other kinds of government-assisted programs, then why are they not making it?”

With the sound of struggle in her voice, Cummings said she challenges any politician to do “The Living Wage Experiment,” not to give them publicity, but to give them empathy.

“If I’m going to be second in charge of the state, I want to know how people are living, what their everyday struggles are,” Cummings said.

Smith applauded Cathy in exposing a common reality to Oklahomans who could relate to the struggles that Cathy and her husband are enduring under this experiment.

“If you do not know what it means or feels like to live on minimum wage, then you are not able to relate to these individuals and simply turn a blind eye to the issue at hand,” Smith said.

Cummings said she wants to be a voice for the people. She said she wants them to know that she is concerned about their welfare and that they can voice their concerns to her.

Like many minimum wage working Oklahomans, Cummings’ eyes expressed the fear of living paycheck-to-paycheck, of not knowing what lies next. With under $80 left for food and gas this month, Cummings said she remains hopeful.

 “The main thing that I want people to take away from this,” Cummings said, “is that you need to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes to really understand what they’re going through.”

Elections are scheduled for 2014. A primary election will be June 24 with a runoff election, if needed, set for Aug. 26.

The general election is set for Nov. 4.

1
Text Only
Business
  • A Q&A on ‘Obamacare’ Court Rulings

    On Tuesday, two federal appeals courts issued conflicting rulings on the legality of tax subsidies being provided to people who bought “Obamacare” health insurance policies in Oklahoma and 35 other states.
    Here’s a look at the rulings’ potential impact in Oklahoma.

    Q: I’m confused. What did the courts rule today?
    A: A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals circuit in Washington, D.C., decided that the government can’t provide tax subsidies for Affordable Care Act plans purchased in 36 states where the federal government is operating the health insurance exchange. Oklahoma is one of the 36 states. A few hours later, the U.S. Court of Appeals circuit in Richmond, Va., issued a conflicting ruling that upheld the legality of the health-care law’s tax subsidies.

    July 22, 2014

  • June healthy month for Oklahoma jobs

    Nearly 10,000 new jobs in Oklahoma were created in June, according to the U.S. Labor Department.
    Gov. Mary Fallin said Tuesday the state experienced one of the largest increases in employment in the nation in June. More than 9,600 additional people joined the state’s workforce in June.
    The unemployment rate in June dropped to 4.5 percent, its lowest ratio in six years. June’s rate was down a percentage point from 4.6 percent in May and April, according to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.

    July 22, 2014

  • UCO campus 3.jpg University of Central Oklahoma recognized as having friendly work environment

    The Chronicle of Higher Education named the University of Central Oklahoma as one of the “2014 Great Colleges to Work For.” Central is the only higher education institution in the state recognized on the list and one of only a handful of institutions in the nation given the distinction of being named to the Honor Roll for being cited most often among all the recognition categories.          
    Central joins Duke, Baylor and Notre Dame on the list of the 10 universities named to the large institution honor roll.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Council approves funds toward ADA update

    City Council members have approved a $398,800 professional services contract with Accessology, a McKinney, Texas, firm, to establish an Americans With Disabilities Act transition plan for the city.
    Title II of the ADA requires state and local governments to make their programs and services accessible to persons with disabilities. It includes access to government facilities, programs and events and relevant policy changes.
    Accessology was selected out of a pool of five finalists by a five-member committee to create Edmond’s plan. The firm will partner with Kimley-Horn and Associates, a design consulting firm located in North Carolina.
    Edmond’s last ADA transition plan was created in 1992.

    July 21, 2014

  • Panel approves jail services agreement

    City Council members have approved renewal of the city’s jail services agreement with Oklahoma County for prisoners incarcerated at the county jail on city charges.
    The current annual agreement expired June 30. It provides the feeding, care, housing and upkeep of said prisoners. Edmond uses the county jail when the city jail is at capacity.
    The sheriff’s office proposed a slight increase from $46.25 to a $46.50 daily rate per prisoner. City staff said the current agreement is working satisfactorily and believe the proposed rate is reasonable. The new agreement took effect July 1. The city can hold prisoners in its current jail  up to 10 days; a new jail with 10 male and five female cells will be available inside the new Public Safety Center next year when the facility opens.

    July 21, 2014

  • Panel establishes 911 phone rate

    City Council members have established the rate for the 911 emergency phone service fee for calendar year 2015
    Council members set the rate at 3 percent of the recurring charges as designated by the tariff for exchange telephone service or its equivalent within Edmond beginning Jan. 1, 2015.
    Fees collected by wireless and voice over Internet protocol companies are established under a separate statute. To continue collection of the locally authorized service fee on landline phone bills, local governments must approve a resolution on an annual basis to set the actual fee.
    Governments must also through the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments notify the appropriate incumbent local exchange carrier and competitive local exchange carrier phone companies by Sept. 1, 2015.
    ACOG recommended for calendar year 2015 to maintain service fees at their current level of 3 percent.

    July 21, 2014

  • Council approves $2.5M extra for utility

    City Council members have approved the transfer of a $2.5 million appropriation for Edmond Electric.
    The action was needed due to higher natural gas prices. Those increased prices caused wholesale electric purchase costs to exceed the department’s budget estimates for Fiscal Year 2013-14. To cover the increased costs, a transfer of funds from the “Transfers” category to the “Other Services and Charges” category was necessary.
    It will maintain state law requirements and not increase Edmond Electric’s budget.
    The action occurred during Monday’s meeting and was approved unanimously.

    July 21, 2014

  • The Escape Edmond entrepreneurs sleuth their way to success

    Tripadvisor.com led Andrew Gipson to an industrial complex outside of Dublin, Ireland, about a year ago. The recent University of Central Oklahoma graduate was in the midst of an extended stay in Australia and the United Kingdom when he walked through the doors of XIT Live Escape Adventure Game. According to Tripdadvisor, it was the top attraction in Ireland. He had to go.
    An hour later, Gipson, 24, exited the facility inspired.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • McAlister’s Deli sets ‘Free Tea Day’ for July 24

    McAlister’s Deli, a leading fast casual restaurant, will celebrate its sixth annual Free Tea Day on July 24.

    July 19, 2014

  • Steffen and Farrow Steffen and Farrow celebrates 40th anniversary

    Steffen and Farrow Orthodontics recently had a ribbon cutting at its Edmond location, 1601 S. Boulevard, to celebrate its 40th anniversary.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

Stocks