Raising the minimum wage is an issue of vital importance to women. Women make up a large percentage of those who earn the minimum wage.
“Men make up a larger share of the U.S. labor force than women (53%-47%). But among those who earn the minimum wage or less, 62% are women and 38% are men.” (PewResearch)
The minimum wage became national law in 1938, under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, to insure that all would earn a living wage.
The federal minimum wage in the United States is $7.25 an hour. Because this wage has not kept pace with the cost of living, many states have raised their state minimum wages. In New York, the minimum wage is $8.75, and scheduled to go up to $9.00 in December, 2015.
In January 2015, New York Governor Cuomo proposed raising the minimum wage to $11.50 in New York City and $10.50 elsewhere in the state. Because the New York State legislature did not act on this proposal, Governor Cuomo directed the labor commissioner to impanel a Wage Board, to examine the minimum wage in the fast-food industry. The board will return with its recommendations, which do not require legislative approval.(NY Times Article)
The governor is targeting the fast food industry because it is one where many workers labor for subsistence wages, even though the industry makes billions in profits. The Wage Board recommended that the wages of fast-food workers be raised to $15 an hour, and on September 10, 2015, Acting State Labor Commissioner Mario J. Musolino signed an order designating a $15.00 per hour statewide minimum wage for fast food workers. At the signing, Governor Cuomo proposed that an all-industry minimum wage increase should be phased in to mirror the fast food wage order, taking full effect by December 31, 2018 in New York City and July 1, 2021 for the rest of New York State. (Full Article
Those opposed to raising the minimum wage claim that most of those who earn the minimum wage are teenagers, students working for pocket change. However, the facts are that most minimum wage earners are adults, often the sole support of themselves and their families.
“According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, three quarters of minimum wage earners are 20 or older. According to the Economic Policy Institute’s State of Working America, a stunning 35 million Americans – 26 percent of our workforce – earn less than $10.55 an hour.” (More Information)
Those who oppose raising the minimum wage claim that doing this would cost jobs. But studies have found that the opposite occurs when the minimum wage is raised: the extra money is spent immediately, providing such a stimulus that it more than pays the cost, and creates jobs. (More Information)
This stimulus effect can be seen in the results in those states that recently raised their minimum wages: every state that recently raised its minimum wage experienced job group significantly higher than that in every state that did not raise its minimum wage!
“New data released by the Department of Labor shows that raising the minimum wage in some states does not appear to have had a negative impact on job growth, contrary to what critics said would happen.
In a report on Friday, the 13 states that raised their minimum wages on Jan. 1 have added jobs at a faster pace than those that did not.” (NPR Article)
When those who do not earn enough money for the basic necessities of life get more money, they spend it immediately, stimulating the economy. On the other hand, when those who already have more than enough money for everything they want as well as everything they need get more money, for example by cutting the taxes of the wealthy, it does absolutely nothing to benefit the economy. Yet many of those who oppose raising the minimum wage to a living wage advocate for cutting the taxes of the wealthy as a prescription for all that ails our economy!
Those earning the minimum wage are not the only workers who benefit from increasing the minimum wage: it has been found that there is a ripple upwards effect, so that when the minimum wage is raised, the income of those making more than minimum also go up. (Brookings Article) “An increase in the minimum wage tends to have a “ripple effect” on other workers earning wages near that threshold. This ripple effect occurs when a raise in the minimum wage increases the wage received by workers earning slightly above the minimum wage. This effect of the statutory minimum wage on wages paid at the low end of the wage distribution more generally is well recognized in the academic literature. Based on this recognition, we quantify the number of workers potentially affected by minimum wage policy using the assumption that workers earning up to 150 percent of the minimum wage would see a wage increase from a higher minimum wage.”
The United States has fallen behind many of the modern, industrialized countries of the world in the rate of its minimum wage. Such countries as Australia, Luxembourg, Belgium, Ireland, France, Netherlands, New Zealand, Germany, Canada and the United Kingdom have higher minimum wages. (Business Insider Article)
It is time for the United States to reclaim its place as an economic leader in the world, and one way to do that is by raising the minimum wage to a level where it provides a living wage.