Raising the Minimum Wage
by Havann Brown, staff writer
MARCH 2021 – On July 24, 2009, the federal minimum wage was raised to $7.25 from $6.55 per hour. While the federal minimum wage has not been raised in almost twelve years, the longest stretch without an increase since its creation, twenty-five states raised their minimum wage earlier this year. Among those states, Ohio’s minimum wage increased by ten cents to $8.80 per hour for non-tipped employees beginning January 1, 2021. Despite the incremental progress, advocates for a $15 minimum wage remain committed to the fight of raising the wage.
A living wage is defined as the lowest wage at which a worker and their family can afford the most basic costs of living. Before Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 passed as part of New Deal legislation and effectively created the minimum wage, he expressed his strong support for a living wage. In 1933, during FDR’s statement on the National Industrial Recovery Act, he explained that “no business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country.” This statement essentially created the framework for the battle between the living and minimum wage. During that year, the minimum wage was established at 25 cents. To put that into perspective, according to several online inflation calculators, $1 in 1938 would be equal to $18.55 today.
People have been pushing for a rise in the minimum wage for years. The fight for $15, a grassroots movement, began in 2012 when two hundred fast-food workers walked off the job to demand increased wages and union rights in New York City. It has since grown into a global movement in over 300 cities on six continents. The support for a $15 minimum wage has shifted from a protest movement to legitimate political action. President Biden has become one of the main proponents of a $15 minimum wage by 2025.
The topic of raising the minimum wage has been highly debated by both politicians and top economists. When asked about the minimum wage, Bio-Med students shared some varying opinions.
Two Juniors expressed their support for raising the minimum wage.
“The minimum wage is too low; people cannot live on it, let alone provide for a family,” said Maddy Ross.
“There are people at my job, who have been there for 16 years and only make $9 an hour,” said Kaitlyn Davis. “That is not enough money to live on so they are forced to pick up a second job. It’s so sad that people have to work all those hours just to barely survive.”
According to researchers at MIT, the living wage in the United States was $16.54 per hour, or $68,808 per year, in 2019, before taxes for a family of four. Statistically, the minimum wage does not provide a living wage for most American families. A typical family of two working adults and two children needs to work nearly four full-time minimum-wage jobs to earn a living wage. Single-parent families need to work almost twice as hard, which is nearly the equivalent of working 24 hours per day for six days, to earn a living wage. The minimum wage only currently accounts for a portion of what it would take to earn a living wage.
Opponents of raising the minimum wage cite inflation and job loss to support their differing views. Juniors Adam Lang and Nick Wholwend believe the minimum wage should remain the same.
“The minimum wage is not meant for a career wage. As it gets higher, so does the cost of living. It would also make it harder for businesses to pay their employees,” said Adam Lang.
“The big thing that I think about when talking about the minimum wage is job sustainability,” said Nick Wholwend. “McDonald’s pays around $9 an hour, but if they got a machine to start taking orders and flipping burgers, they wouldn’t have to pay all of their employees $15 an hour. Instead, they would just have to spend a couple thousand dollars on the machine. In the long run, hiring a machine would save them money.”
A report published by the Congressional Budget Office describes many of the positives and negatives associated with raising the minimum wage. It states that an increase would offer raises to 27 million people and lift 900,000 people above the poverty line, but it would also cost 1.4 million jobs while adding $54 billion to the budget deficit over the next decade. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce supports efforts to increase the minimum wage but indicates that $15 may be too high.
Two current seniors are unsure about the efforts to raise the minimum wage.
“Based on what I’ve heard compared to the rate of productivity and other living expenses it is too low, said Drake Duncan.
“I think the minimum wage should be raised slightly, but the current plans that are being pitched seem a little extreme,” said Zane Price.
Junior Maddy Ross expressed a need for compassion: “People have many excuses for not wanting to raise the minimum wage, but honestly, at the end of the day, it’s about your care for other people that are struggling. If you care about other people and their issues then you would not mind paying an extra dollar for a gallon of milk.”