video courtesy of OurDC

LANHAM, Md. (CBSDC) — D.C. Councilmember and mayoral candidate Tommy Wells is attempting to raise awareness about the struggles of the city’s minimum wage workers by limiting his own lifestyle for a week.

He’s not only riding the bus, shopping the sales and skipping Starbucks runs, he’s documenting his experiment on his Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Wells has set his food and transportation budget for Dec. 11 through Dec. 17 at $98.28, about 36 percent of what a 40 hour per week minimum wage earner would bring home after taxes.

“While not an exact science, it’s an estimate of the amount of money that would be left over for the week after paying off bills and other housing expense,” he says.

The city’s minimum wage is currently $8.25 per hour, a dollar more than the federal minimum wage. The city council recently voted unanimously to increase the local minimum wage to $11.50, one of the nation’s highest, by July 2016.

That measure still needs to clear one more council vote before it reaches Mayor Vincent Gray’s desk.

Wells reflected on his first day of minimum wage living on his website.

“I was honored and impressed with CeCe Butler, a mother of two living on minimum wage,” he wrote. “Ms Butler made today’s experience enjoyable and educational. She was very aware of what foods she could afford and what she needed.”

Butler, who works full time at McDonald’s, coached Wells on his grocery shopping Wednesday, telling him which foods were or were not good investments based on what he had to spend.

“She brought about a simple awareness I had not confronted before. There are shelves of foods at a typical grocery store—from specialty cheeses to pre-made cakes and pies—that a person with her salary cannot even consider purchasing. I have not had that experience in many years. I almost always have choices. Even when I had little money, I felt I had choices. And she did not.”

With Butler’s help, Wells managed to leave the store with only a $36.26-dent in his limited budget for the week.


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