Poster child for a raise

Los Angeles Times - - MONDAY BUSINESS -

McDon­ald’s grill cook Dou­glas Hunter is lit­er­ally the poster child for a $15 min­i­mum wage: The Chicago man’s pic­ture and story are fea­tured in the “Fight for $15” na­tional cam­paign.

Hunter’s cur­rent pay of $9.25 an hour leaves lit­tle left for the sin­gle fa­ther and his daugh­ter, Seren­ity.

When Hunter, 53, couldn’t af­ford her ju­nior prom out­fit, he sewed a black lace dress for her, even as they fought along the way about the hem­line.

“She picked the ma­te­rial,” he said. “I got to pick the length.”

Chicago’s min­i­mum pay goes to $10 an hour in July. But a steep pay raise would bring un­in­tended con­se­quences for Hunter, a di­a­betic with mul­ti­ple med­i­cal con­di­tions whose care is cov­ered by Cook County’s pro­gram for the unin­sured and poor.

At $15 an hour, his an­nual in­come would be­come too high to qual­ify for Coun­tyCare un­der the cur­rent in­come limit.

So any salary gains could be wiped out by the price of his med­i­ca­tions and sup­plies, in­clud­ing two kinds of in­sulin at $403 a month and drugs to con­trol high choles­terol and blood pres­sure that add an ex­tra $330 a month.

And that’s not in­clud­ing the sy­ringes, health check­ups and eye­glasses he re­ceives for free, al­low­ing him to avoid choos­ing be­tween main­tain­ing his health and pro­vid­ing for his teenager.

At $15, he fig­ures he’d need to re­duce his to­tal work hours to en­sure his new in­come didn’t dis­qual­ify him from his cur­rent benefits.

“That’s go­ing to be a prob­lem,” Hunter ac­knowl­edged. “A raise will kick me out of Coun­tyCare. Then the medicines are go­ing to cost so much I won’t be able to af­ford my apart­ment.”

John J. Kim Chicago Tri­bune

Dou­glas Hunter


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