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During an all-candidates’ Democratic forum in Rock Hill, S.C., on Nov. 6, 2015, host Rachel Maddow of MSNBC asked Bernie Sanders how he could win the support of African-American voters, a crucial Democratic voting group in the early primary state of South Carolina.
Maddow noted that Sanders was polling at 8 percent in a recent poll in South Carolina and asked if he would be able to convince African-American voters that he could press for their issues.
Sanders responded in part by citing his economic platform, which he said would positively impact African-Americans.
"I have the economic and social justice agenda now that, once we get the word out, will, in fact, resonate with the African-American community," Sanders said. "We're talking about raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. … Over half of the black workers in this country earn less."
We wondered whether Sanders was right that "over half of the black workers in this country earn less" than $15 an hour. So we took a closer look.
We turned to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which, among other things, tracks the median weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers by race.
The bureau’s data for the third quarter of 2015 shows that the median weekly earnings for African-American workers was $624. If you divide that by the standard 40 hours in a workweek, it works out to $15.60 per hour.
That means that half of African-American workers earned less than $15.60. So Sanders was close on this but exaggerated slightly. His claim is off by a little more than 4 percent.
When we asked Sanders’ campaign for their source, they pointed us to a report issued earlier this month from the National Employment Law Project that found that 54.1 percent of African-American workers earned less than $15.00 an hour.
The group calculated that figure using data from 2012 through 2014. That’s a reasonable measurement, but while our figure covers a briefer period of time, it’s also more current, reflecting the continued economic growth since the end of 2014.
Sanders said that "over half of the black workers in this country earn less" than $15 an hour.
Depending on the time frame used, the data shows that roughly half of black workers earn less than $15. The most recent data shows that half earn less than $15.60, which is a little higher than what Sanders said, but his number is not far off. We rate his claim Mostly True.
Bernie Sanders, comments at Democratic candidates’ forum in Rock Hill, S.C., Nov. 6, 2015
Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Table 3. Median usual weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers by age, race, Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, and sex, 3rd quarter 2015 averages, not seasonally adjusted," accessed Nov. 10, 2015
National Employment Law Project, "The Growing Movement for $15," November 2015
Interview with Warren Gunnels, spokesman for Bernie Sanders, Nov. 10, 2015
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