Fight to increase min. wage gets personal in South Bend - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Fight to increase min. wage gets personal in South Bend

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Rose Tinder-O'Brien makes just above minimum wage, but she says she still can't afford healthcare for her daughter Rose Tinder-O'Brien makes just above minimum wage, but she says she still can't afford healthcare for her daughter
South Bend labor unions and community activist groups amped up their efforts to push for higher wages at a town hall meeting. Local and state legislators and representatives attended the town hall, held at Ivy Tech Community College in South Bend.

"About once every quarter," said Rose Tinder-O'Brien, an SEIU worker in South Bend who spoke at the meeting, "I have to go to the food pantry. I can't even tell you how it feels to walk in there."

O'Brien works full-time at $10.50 per hour. That's more than $3 above minimum wage. But she says even that's not enough. O'Brien's daughter suffers from a rare auto-immune disorder and requires frequent treatment and medication. But O'Brien says she can't afford her employer's healthcare.

Her husband died eight months ago. That means this Friday's paycheck will need to go towards his funeral costs. O'Brien still owes $1,800. Rose says her bills keep her and her daughter awake at night.

"She worries a lot," said O'Brien. "Way more than what a child of 17 should have to worry about."

That's why O'Brien decided to speak up at the town hall meeting, Thursday. She hopes sharing her story will inspire politicians to act. She hopes that one day, families won't have to go to bed worried about how they're going to pay for breakfast when they wake up.

"This week, I put my last $6 in my gas tank and have to pray that I will be able to take my daughter to and from school everyday and make it to work until I get paid next," said O'Brien at the town hall meeting.

Opponents of raising the minimum wage say it would hurt small business owners. The National Retail Federation says that the higher costs for employers would mean less jobs for entry-level and low-income workers.

But Indiana University South Bend Labor Studies Professor, Paul Mishler sees things differently.

"Most minimum wage workers aren't working in those places," said Mishler. "They're working for Wal-Mart and McDonald's. So we're supposed to be sympathetic to 'mom and pops,' but that's a very, very small sector of our economy."

Irregardless of whether or not wages increase, O'Brien knows that she and her daughter will be OK.

"The Irish are a people that never give up. So if you have that blood in you, you're lucky. Because you know you're a fighter."

Last March, the Indiana state house rejected a bill to raise the state's minimum wage by one dollar. The current rate is $7.50 an hour.

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