By Rontel Batie, HuffPost Black Voices

When Patricia Stephens led a group of black college students to sit and order foot at a “white only” Woolworth’s lunch counter in Tallahassee, Florida in 1960, they were told, “The South is not ready for that.”

When Fannie Lou Hamer led a group of black neighbors to the courthouse in Indianola, Mississippi in 1963 to register to vote, they were told, “Mississippi is not ready for that.”

When fast-food workers led primarily by black women walked off their jobs in 2012 to strike for $15 minimum wage and a union, they were told, “America is not ready for that.”

Time and again, women of color have changed the world through their resilience and fortitude to never settle for less than first-class citizenship, even if the forces against them said it’s not yet time for progress.

The time has come for a minimum wage that meets the basic needs of workers in the 21st century. Raising the minimum wage would boost pay in low-wage jobs where millions of men and women now spend their careers. Low-wage occupations in food service, home health care, retail, and customer service are projected to see the most job growth over the next decade.

The typical worker struggling on less than $15 an hour is a woman over 30 who works full-time but still cannot make ends meet. While only one-third of white workers earn less than $15 an hour, most women of color do.

A $15 minimum wage (or $31,200) a year for full time) could go far in helping women and people of color make ends meet, closing persistent gender- and race-based pay and wealth gaps, and improving educational and health outcomes for children. All labor has dignity, but when workers bring home paychecks that don’t pay for basic necessities, it’s hard to find the dignity in being working poor.

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