Why We Need to Raise the Minimum Wage

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When the federal minimum wage law was signed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1938, it was meant to keep America’s workers out of poverty and increase consumer spending in order to stimulate the economy. Since then the federal minimum wage has been increased 22 times with its current value at $7.25 an hour. However, it is a poverty wage which doesn’t keep people from being poor nor has it kept up with the US cost of living. In fact, it’s said a full time job on $7.25 an hour can’t even support even the basic living essentials in all 50 states. Nevertheless, campaigns to raise the minimum wage have recently been gaining momentum across the country ranging from ballot initiatives to grass organizing to major legislative efforts in states and localities. Many have achieved some degree of success. Yet, at Capitol Hill, proposals to raise the minimum wage have gone nowhere, despite widespread popular support across party lines as well as economists. As for me, I feel that not only should the federal minimum wage be increased, it should also be adjust automatically to keep pace with cost of living that doesn’t exempt tipped workers and the disabled. While I do not believe raising the minimum wage would relieve poverty even at $15 an hour, I feel that it’s good responsible policy as well as the right thing to do.

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This graph from the Department of Labor illustrates how the minimum wage has fallen by a third since 1968. If it was automatically adjusted for inflation from that time on, the minimum wage today would at least be $11 an hour.

  1. The Minimum Wage Is an Arbitrary Value-The only good explanation as to why the minimum wage is a poverty wage is mostly due to increases requiring approval by Congress and it doesn’t keep pace with inflation or rising costs of living. This is why the new minimum wage value usually falls from the moment it’s set. The federal minimum wage today is $7.25 per hour. Does it mean it’s higher than it used to be? In terms of real dollars, yes. But in terms of buying power, no. When adjusted for inflation, the current federal minimum wage would need to be more than $8 per hour to equal its buying power in the early 1980s and nearly more than $11 per hour to equal its buying power of the late 1960s. For tipped workers, it’s $2.13 an hour which has remained unchanged for over 25 years. In other words, why the current minimum wage is $7.25 per hour has nothing to do with inflation adjustments. Because despite minimum wage increases, its buying power has dropped and keeps falling. Though President Obama has argued for the minimum wage to increase automatically with inflation which can eliminate requirements for formal congressional action, reduce time between increases, and better help low-income families keep up with rising prices. There’s even a bill called The Raise the Wage Act proposed by Senator Patty Murray and Representative Bobby C. Scott proposing to do just that along with raising the wage to $12 an hour by 2020 as well as set automatic increases starting in 2021 and eliminate the unfair subminimum tipped wage of $2.13 an hour. It’s a policy that makes far better sense the current one. Some states have also enacted rules to do the same thing. So why is the federal minimum wage a paltry $7.25 per hour? Well, since increasing it requires congressional approval, I think it has more to do with politics and employer preference for cheap labor. In other words, it’s an arbitrary value.

2. Most Minimum Wage Jobs Can’t Be Outsourced – While conservatives often argue that raising the minimum wage will lead many people to lose their jobs, we need to understand that most minimum wage jobs are in the service industry. Unlike jobs in manufacturing, it’s unlikely most of them could ever be outsourced overseas with globalization. Besides, when we’re talking about minimum wage employees, their pay has nothing to do with international competition. Because they’re not engaged in the export sector. Competition in the service industry is mostly domestic and localized as well as staffed by local workers and serving a local customer base. In other words, service jobs be in a specific location. The biggest threats to pay in service sectors aren’t foreign countries known for human rights violations but large multinational corporate chains who treat their employees like shit.

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Recent trends show that most job creation has taken place in low wage industries. So it’s no surprise that a higher share of millennials work in low wage industries while lower shares work in mid or higher wage industries.

3. New Job Growth Has Been Concentrated in Disproportionately Low Wage Industries– Today more families than ever rely on low wage and minimum wage jobs to make ends meet especially since job losses during the Great Recession have hit higher wage sectors like construction, manufacturing, and finance hard. And according to a 2012 report by the National Employment Law Project, 58% of all jobs created post-recession were low wage occupations. This isn’t a short term trend either since 6 of the top ten growth occupations projected by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics for the next decade are low wage jobs, such as home health aides, customer service representatives, food preparation and service workers, personal and home care aides, retail salespersons, and office clerks. Raising the minimum wage would boost pay scales in these jobs where millions of Americans spend their careers today. And for many it’s getting harder for many workers to move beyond a low wage job. Thus, raising the minimum wage right now is more important than ever.

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Here’s a picture on the hazards of domestic labor. Now people in these jobs usually earn minimum wage or less. Some of them earn more. But what this chart tells you that it’s anything but easy. In fact, it’s hard and thankless work. The same can go for many low wage jobs.

4. Most Minimum Wage Jobs Aren’t Easy– Those opposed to minimum wage increases argue that anyone could do a minimum wage job which doesn’t require a lot of responsibility. But that has no bearing on reality whatsoever. Service industry workers often have stressful work days as well as unpredictable work schedules. A lot of them don’t have nice work environments either. Not to mention, a lot of these jobs lack health benefits, paid leave, opportunities for advancement, and job security. Many minimum wage employees work on weekends and holidays. A lot of them work 8-hour days while some can work even more. Some even have more than one job if they work part-time. Some may even experience workplace injury or illness. A lot require constant human interaction, time management, and multitasking. Let’s just say there’s a very good reason why a lot of minimum wage jobs have high turnover rates. These aren’t easy jobs anyone can do. They’re thankless, stressful, and grueling jobs while these workers receive little respect for all the crap they put up with on a regular basis. I spent a Christmas season working at Macy’s which paid $8 an hour. I spent hours on my feet that I had a lot of aches and pains. I also had to deal with hours of Christmas music in the background. By the end of my shift I was exhausted. I have often seen ads for many of these jobs which have a long list of duties and responsibilities as well as skills like patience, knowledge, care, and communication. There are plenty of caregiving jobs with educational requirements that pay minimum wage like home healthcare and childcare. Hell, even hairdressers and manicurists can earn low wages and they have to go through cosmetology school. Some low wage jobs can require at least an associate’s degree or even a 4-year college education. Building services may also require special skills. For instance, janitors may have a wide range of duties besides indoor cleaning like maintenance, security, and yard work. The cleaning industry is known for hiring 17-23% of undocumented immigrants as well as posts a median pay of $10.68 an hour (though many school janitors get paid more than the teachers so it’s not always a low wage job). Bank tellers, data entry keyers, cooks, pharmacy assistants, clerks, hotel receptionists, and security guards can also be paid minimum wage. In many ways, I think the terms “low-skilled” or “unskilled labor” just refers to jobs with shitty pay.

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Many people argue that low wage work is such because they don’t require a lot of skills, education, and lack social value. If that were true, then explain to me why Cesar Chavez became so famous for organizing farm workers for better conditions. Yeah, that doesn’t hold up.

5. Most Minimum Wage Jobs Don’t Lack Social Value– When most people think of jobs paying minimum wage, they tend to think about people working at fast food restaurants which only consist of 5% of low wage jobs. In fact, most low income jobs pay poor may have little to do with their value in society. Or if they do, then it might be a reason they’re paid so poorly in the first place. At any rate, they’re all around us which include security guards, nurse’s aides and home healthcare aides, child-care workers, educational assistants, maids and porters, janitors, call center workers, bank tellers, data entry keyers, food preparation workers, waiters and waitresses, cooks, pharmacy assistants, hairdressers, manicurists, fish and meat processors, sewing machine operators, laundry and dry cleaning operators, ambulance drivers, parking lot attendants, and farm workers. Sure there may be people in these jobs who make good money like a janitor at a public school or hairdressers. But we’re talking about general trends. We’re not necessarily talking about people who make no contribution to society. In fact, we’re talking about people in jobs that don’t get much respect. If you don’t believe me, then think about how Caesar Chavez became so famous for organizing California farm workers in the 1960s. Or why so many workplaces and corporations in the service industry take major steps to keep their low wage workers from unionizing.

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This is a graph from the Economic Policy Institute illustrating how a minimum wage increase would affect American families. After all, low wage workers are usually responsible for half of their family’s earnings. Not to mention, 1 out of 5 kids has a parent who’d be helped.

6. Raising the Minimum Wage Will Benefit Workers and Their Families– Even if you work full-time at $7.25 an hour, you’re lucky to retain $225 a week or $12,000 a year after taxes and deductions. This is precisely threshold of poverty for a single person. Not enough to pay rent or take care of dependent children. In fact, it’s barely surviving. In no state can a minimum wage worker afford a 2 bedroom unit at a fair market rent, working a standard 40 hour work week. Or at least without paying more than 30% of their income. But a lot of minimum wage workers are trying to pay rent and have dependent children to support sometimes by themselves, which is why many are on welfare and food stamps. In addition to the 1.3 million people working at minimum wage, raising it to $10 per hour would help 1.7 million working below it, and 21 million working above the minimum but below that amount. So you’re talking about a third of the workforce. 17.5 million children will also benefit since at least one of their parents will get a raise. Raising the minimum wage to $12 or $15 an hour could benefit even more. Not to mention since women and minorities are disproportionately represented in low wage jobs, raising the minimum wage could help close significant gender and racial pay gaps.

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Here’s a snapshot on how many hours a person would have to work a week on $7.25 an hour to afford rent in the country. As you see, all the values are above 40 hours.

7. Raising the Minimum Wage Benefits the Economy– When workers are paid more, they’re more likely to spend more, especially when it comes to their own companies or hometowns. This explains why Henry Ford decided to pay his workers high wages to make and later buy his cars. Now Ford wasn’t a nice guy. But even he knew that workers are customers and the better a worker’s ability to participate in the economy as a consumer, the better off businesses and the economy will be as a whole. Though businesses might experience a dip in their profits, they’re able to pay higher wages without reducing employment because the savings can be substantial even if greater productivity and lower turnover may not fully pay for the minimum wage increase. Workers earning low wages are less committed to their jobs and less likely to stay for long. Employee turnover forces businesses to constantly find and train new workers, costing them significant money and time. Most of the time the new recruits may not be as optimally efficient during their training period as the experienced and productive workers they replaced. This can incur indirect costs to businesses from lost sales and imperfect customer service as new workers learn on the job. Add to that the fact a lot large retail companies like QuikTrip, Mercadona, Trader Joe’s, and Costco not only invest heavily in their employees, but also have the lowest prices in their industries, solid financial performance, and better customer service than their competitors. They also have better reputations, more work satisfaction, and less employee theft. 89% of small businesses in the country also pay their employees more than the federal minimum wage. Many small business owners believe higher wages level the playing field by preventing larger and less scrupulous firms from gaining a competitive advantage through very low labor costs. A strategy adopted by large corporations such as retail giants like T.J. Maxx, Walmart, Gap, and Ikea which have enjoyed record profits for years as well as employ 2/3 of all low wage workers. It’s no surprise why most small businesses support increasing the minimum wage to at least $12 an hour, some to even $15. In many ways, this makes a lot of sense since these large retail giants see workers as expendable while small businesses need to hold onto their best employees for as long as they can. Small businesses and large companies have proven that the key to their success is a combination of investment in the workforce and operational practices benefiting employees, customers, and the company.

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This map show the lot of tipped workers many of whom can earn below minimum wage at a rate as low as $2.13 an hour + tips. But the system in paying tipped workers is so complex that these workers are subject to manipulation and abuse. Many have had their tips stolen by their bosses. And many live in poverty.

8. Current Tipped Minimum Wage Laws Are Terrible– According to the National Employment Law Project, an estimated 4.3 million people work in predominantly tipped occupations in the US. Employees classified as tipped workers if they receive at least $30 per month in tips and the current federal tipped worker minimum wage is $2.13 an hour, which is less than a third of the current federal minimum wage and has remained unchanged since the 1990s. While most tipped workers are in the restaurant industry, these include car wash workers, nail salon workers, valets, and airport attendants among others. Two thirds of tipped workers are women which makes the subminimum tipped wage a form of legislated pay inequity. Many tipped workers use these tips to support their families and to pay for higher education like student loans. Labor movements have called to eliminate the tipped minimum wage. 7 states already have and their tipped workers earn full minimum wage + tips which I strongly think is how tipped workers should be paid anyway. New York’s tipped minimum wage is $7.50 which is more than 83% its full minimum wage. And in Hawaii, tipped workers only earn less than half minimum wage if they receive more than generous tips. Other states and D.C. have also increased their tipped minimum wage above $2.13 an hour. But these rates aren’t equal and aren’t always fair. And personally, I find the idea of a subminimum tipped wage as absolutely unfair and ridiculous. Add to that the fact employers are required to make up the difference if a tipped worker’s base wage and tips doesn’t add to the full minimum wage. But this is a complex system that’s both difficult to comply with and largely unenforceable for these reasons:

  1. It requires extensive tracking and accounting tip flows which even law-abiding employers find burdensome and difficult. This also allows less ethical employers to take advantage of this notorious complex system to illegally keep a portion of tips for themselves. Thus, this results in many tipped employees failing to receive the tips which they’re entitled to as well as have their income prone to manipulation and abuse.
  2. Employers are allowed to average tips over the course of the work week and required to “top up” only if an employee’s average hourly earnings are less than the full minimum wage. They’re also allowed to estimate their workers’ tips in order to determine how much tax to withhold. Though this estimation approach isn’t sufficient for federal minimum wage compliance, many employers use this anyway though they don’t actually verify that their workers really do receive enough tips to bring them up to the full minimum wage. One southern New Jersey waitress told NELP, “They just take our total sales for the day—say it’s [a couple] hundred dollars—and they just [estimate] 15% of that.” Under the federal minimum wage law, this is illegal as well as overstates tips since many customers tip less than 15% and “a few times a week” a customer leaves no tip at all.
  3. Tips are allowed to be pooled among various types of restaurant employees, giving a portion of those tips a server receives to legitimately be reallocated to other workers. This is a frequent and sometimes legally dubious practice at many businesses across the country as well as creates other opportunities for unethical employers to illegally skin off a portion of these tips for themselves or use to pay other employees whether they’re tipped or not.
  4. Tipped workers who’ve experienced tip-stealing or other forms of wage theft are often reluctant to demand what they’re owed in fear of reprisal. Many of rely on their supervisors to schedule their shifts and make more or less in tips depending on what shifts they’re given. So complaining about being ripped off might lead to being scheduled on a less profitable shift or simply fired.
  5. Tip stealing is rampant in industries that employ tipped workers who are often victims. Tip violations can take various forms but ultimately, they all result in tipped workers losing some of their tips to improve the employer’s bottom line. Some employers simply pocket a portion for tip pools while others can be less direct such as including non-tipped workers in the tip pool so they can be paid the lower minimum wage for tipped workers. Sometimes restaurants can take advantage of communication barriers among workers. The National Employment Law Project mentioned a waitress setting aside 15% of her tips for bussers but was expected to pay upfront and didn’t know whether they got it. They also discuss how waiters and waitresses in an upstate New York town exposed that managers had simply pocketed a portion of their tips they deducted, supposedly to share with the bussers. Additionally, they also talked about a Maryland waitress who already shared her tips with a captain, bussers, and host who finally contacted a union for help when the restaurant’s managers tried to take a portion of her tips for themselves as well. Several high profile lawsuits have recently been filed in response to these practices.
  6. According to a 2014 report by the White House Economic Council and the Department of Labor, 1 in 10 surveyed tipped workers reported hourly wages below the federal minimum wage, tips included. This compared to 4% of all workers reporting earnings below minimum wage.
  7. Compliance and enforcement challenges aside, despite requiring employers to make up the difference between tips and statutory minimum wage, it remains the case that customers are directly responsible for paying a portion of workers’ wages under this system. Thus, instead of being a gratuity for good service, having a subminimum tipped wage renders tips a customer-funded wage replacement and lowers labor costs for employers in a few select industries.
  8. Work for tipped employees is inherently uneven and often unpredictable with most making substantial amounts on Friday and Saturday nights and much less other days of the week. In addition, bad weather, a bad economy, seasonal change, and a host of other factors can cause sudden drops in tipped income and economic insecurity. Also, tips can fluctuate widely and are often paid in cash.
  9. Nationwide, the median tipped wage for servers is $10.11 per hour and $9.89 for waitresses. This despite claims from the restaurant industry that servers make a median between $16 and $22 per hour. The median wage for all workers nationwide is $16.48 per hour. Median wages for tipped workers in general are nearly 40% lower than overall median hourly wages.
  10. 46% of tipped workers depend on public assistance from the federal government which is well over the rate of 35.9% for all workers. 12.8% of tipped workers in the US live in poverty, including 15% of restaurant servers. In fact, servers experience poverty at well over twice the rate of the overall US workforce. They’re also only a quarter as likely as the workforce as a whole to receive employer-provided health insurance and are twice as likely to be uninsured. In states the federal tipped minimum of $2.13 per hour is implemented, 14% of tipped workers and 18% of servers live in poverty. In states where tipped workers are paid full minimum wage + tips, the poverty rate for them is 10.8% and 10.2% for servers.
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Despite fierce contention in the media and in Congress, raising minimum wage has wide support among Americans. This NELP graph illustrates this.

9. Raising the Minimum Wage Has Wide Support– Most Americans feel the minimum wage is too low and are concerned about rising inequality. A 2014 Public Policy Polling shows that 80% of respondents don’t believe they could support themselves or their families on minimum wage. Other polls show that 7 in 10 Americans believe that income inequality is getting worse and nearly as many believe the government has a role to play in reducing the gap between rich and poor. A 2013 Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 57% of Americans want lawmakers to address income inequality. The Hart Research Associates shows that 75% of Americans support raising the minimum wage to $12.50 or more by 2020, including 92% of Democrats, 53% of Republicans, 73% of Independents, 80% of women, and 72% of non-college whites. On the small business front, support for increasing the minimum wage is 61% or 3 in 5. 63% of Americans support a $15.00 minimum wage. 71% of Americans favor eliminating the subminimum tipped waged to ensure tipped employees the same minimum wage as other workers. 82% support automatic annual minimum wage increases to ensure it keeps up with the annual costs of living. There is no reason why Congress should be unable to pass The Raise the Wage law right now, even with a Republican majority. At least as far as the American people are concerned.

10. Minimum Wage Laws Unfairly Exempt Disabled People– Under the current federal law, the Secretary of Labor can issue special wage certificates to employers allowing them to pay disabled workers a subminimum wage, sometimes just a few cents per hour and in segregated work environments where they often perform mundane tasks that don’t use their existing skills, interests, and talents. Yet, this exemption is based on an antiquated notion that encourages disabled workers to rely on Social Security Income, Medicaid, food stamps, or other government programs in order to get by. There are also current training and employment strategies to assist those with even the most significant disabilities to obtain integrated and meaningful work. And when paired with the right rehabilitative tools, training, and expectations, employees with disabilities can be as productive as their nondisabled peers. It’s also discriminatory since nobody should be paid below the minimum wage, disabled or not. And I say that even if the minimum wage is too low.

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During the Gilded Age, those in blue collar professions worked in terrible working conditions with long hours and shitty pay. Many of these workers were children, some of them as old as kindergartners, mostly because their parents worked in the same place and didn’t earn enough to support a family. Still, we should also acknowledge that once workplace regulations and protections were in place, these large companies still earned money and lost nothing.

11. Blue Collar Jobs Used to Have Shitty Pay– Yes, I’m well aware that a lot of jobs in the service industry pay minimum wage or even less than that. And yes, I know many argue low wages are a cost-driven necessity for these jobs. On the other hand, you have a lot of blue collar jobs in mining and manufacturing which many people see as good paying jobs that many working class people lament leaving their hometowns or being outsourced. However, we should also acknowledge that blue collar jobs were the shit jobs of 19th and early 20th century industrialization with dangerous conditions, long hours, and very low pay. And I mean like working in the mine for 14 hour days on a wage that can’t support your family. So now your eight year old has to drop out of school and go to work with you. It wasn’t unusual for whole families to work in a factory, including the kids who could be as young as four years old. Now we’re talking about a time when there were no workplace safety protections, no minimum wage, no workers’ rights, and institutionalized child labor. So what changed? Well, these workers organized into unions and went on strike for their rights, not just risking getting fired but also getting killed. And they faced staunch opposition from their robber baron bosses. Yet, once they got what they wanted, these blue-collar jobs were no longer seen as shit jobs by later generations. In fact, they were seen as jobs that could support a family and local economies benefitted just the same. But this shows us that the existence of shit jobs has more to do with an employer’s desire for cheap and expendable labor than what the job entails. Also, keeping workers dependent on them that they’ll put up with any abuse they give them. Not to mention, it supports the argument that low wages are a choice and not a cost-driven necessity. This is why a lot of corporations don’t want to raise the minimum wage or have their workers unionize. Not only that, but also that the shit jobs of today don’t have to be the shit jobs of tomorrow if we invest more in our workers. Raising the minimum wage is a good place to start.

12. Raising the Minimum Wage Saves Taxpayer Money– With wages being what they are, many low income workers have relied on public assistance because their paycheck can’t cover basic expenses. Even if they work for companies that could certainly afford to pay them a raise and benefits. American taxpayers spend an annual $153 billion in taxpayer money helping low wage earning families get by. This includes food stamps, Medicaid, CHIP, TANF as well as childcare subsidies and reduced-free school lunch programs. These programs help Americans meet a basic standard of living despite being targets for cuts and reductions. But having workers rely on public assistance has more to do with their employers paying them nothing more than poverty wages. Therefore, the government is indirectly subsidizing these companies that refuse to pay more. In fact, some companies like McDonald’s doesn’t even hide that half their workforce is on welfare and even encourage their employees to seek public assistance. Higher wages at work save taxpayer money since they lift more people out of poverty and produce more tax revenue. Sorry, libertarians, but cheap labor doesn’t come cheap.

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This is a graph from the Economic Policy Institute that shows what the average minimum wage worker. Despite the stereotype of a teenage working after school, most minimum wage earners are adults who work full time as well as earn more than half of their family’s total income.

13. Low Wages Don’t Relieve Poverty– Contrary to what conservatives said about minimum wage jobs being for teens trying to earn extra money and experience, 89% of minimum wage workers are 20 years old or over while many are women and people of color. 37% of them have at least some college education. A third of them are over 30. Not to mention, 57% of minimum wage jobs are full-time and are unlikely filled by teens anyway. Some low wage industries don’t hire teens at all. That being said, statistics show a lot of low wage workers make nearly to over half their family’s income and 28% of them are parents. Sometimes they could be the family’s chief breadwinner, especially in single parent households. In every state working the minimum wage leaves a full-time worker with two kids below the poverty line. Not to mention, low-income wage earners may work multiple jobs which gives them even less time to spend with their kids as well as take care of themselves. At worst this could lead to a case like Maria Fernandes who worked so hard to make ends meet that she died from gas fumes in her car while napping between shifts. Fernandes was said to work 4 jobs and sometimes didn’t sleep for nearly a week. There were a couple occasions when single mothers were busted for leaving their kids unsupervised due to working 3 jobs and lack of available childcare options. Many low income workers have also experienced a considerable toll on their health while their children suffer in school and in life. No one who works for a living should have to live in or near poverty, especially full-time.

14. Raising the Minimum Wage Has Expert Support– In January 2014, over 600 economists across the country sent a letter to President Obama and congressional leaders arguing for a minimum wage raise to $10.10 by 2016 and then indexed to protect it against inflation. 7 of these were Nobel Prize winners. Even the Department of Labor supports this measure and think it’s a better idea than the current minimum wage laws we have now.

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Here’s a map from the Wall Street Journal showing the minimum wage increases within each state. Of course, some pay below or have no minimum wage laws at all.

15. The Minimum Wage Has Been Raised in Localities and States– As of 2016, 29 states, D. C., as well as countless localities have raised the minimum wage, many in recent years. Some have even enacted measures to increase the minimum wage automatically with inflation and the costs of living. Not only that, but despite congressional Republican opposition, raising the wage in these states, D.C., and other jurisdictions weren’t just mere liberals pushing for it. Sure Washington State, Oregon, California, New York, Illinois, and Massachusetts voted for minimum wage increases. But so have red states like West Virginia, Arkansas, South Dakota, Nebraska, Alaska, Missouri, and Montana. Swing states like Florida, Michigan, Arizona, and Ohio have also raised their minimum wage. The fact minimum wage increases have passed in states of various political leanings should emphasize its widespread support among party lines.

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Despite that many opponents of minimum wage increases argue that raising it would kill jobs or raise prices, keep in mind that none of them bring up this argument when it comes to skyrocketing CEO pay while regular wages remain stagnant. Seriously if your company can afford to give a CEO a generous severance package of a few million bucks, they can raise wages on their lowest paying workers. It’s not hard to see.

16. Opposition to Minimum Wage Increases Has More to Do with Self-Interest and Ideology– I know there are people who argue that raising the minimum wage would hurt the economy as well as kill jobs and raise prices. However, we need to understand that despite bipartisan and expert support, raising the minimum wage is still seen as a mainly liberal issue in the halls of Congress. Why? Because a lot of Republican politicians are bankrolled by big corporate lobbies who would rather use cheap labor, many of whom boast record profits and very much can afford to pay their workers more. There are a lot of libertarian and conservative economists and think tanks to back them up, some of whom want to abolish minimum wage which just makes workers even more prone to further exploitation. Believers in free market and trickle down economics usually see low wage jobs as a cost-driven necessity for economic prosperity. But employers often use this argument to justify not giving their impoverished employees a raise for decades, including your Gilded Age robber barons. Besides, no Fortune 500 CEO uses this argument when it comes to their own pay, which has skyrocketed dramatically. I mean the median CEO to worker pay ratio has risen from 20-to-1 in 1965 to 204-to-1 in 2015. Some of the highest paid CEOs make 300 times more than their typical employees. There are plenty of CEOs with million dollar salaries as well as stock options/grants, bonuses, benefits, and other perks. Hell, even bad CEOs receive generous severance packages whenever they left their companies in worse shape than when they took over. Yet, no libertarian or conservative argues that raising their pay will contribute to higher prices, job loss, or worse economies. Or why people end up paying higher prices and lose their jobs while worker wages remain stagnant. Yes, I know that a CEO’s job may require more skills, education, and talent than a lot of minimum wage occupations and that we’ve been through a recession. But it doesn’t convince me why conservatives and libertarians think raising the minimum wage will lead to economic ruin while raising CEO compensation won’t. Surely a company that can generously compensate its own CEO can pay its lowest earning workers $15 an hour, which is just small potatoes. So I think it’s more of a matter of corporate greed and self-interest.

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This quote by Chris Rock perfectly explains why we need the federal government should raise the minimum wage. Most companies will not give their employees a raise by themselves. They need to be mandated to do it.

17. Large Employers Are Unlikely to Increase Wages on Their Own– While many conservatives and libertarians might tell us that workers would be better paid if it weren’t for all those pesky taxes regulations, it is not the case. The robber barons during the Gilded Age didn’t pay federal income taxes until the 16th Amendment passed in 1916 and none of their tax dollars went to benefit their impoverished, overworked, and underpaid employees. Not to mention, their workplace policies are the reason why we have so many regulations and agencies to protect workers today. Besides, there are plenty of large corporations exploit federal tax loopholes so they don’t have to pay at all. And yet, conservatives and libertarians claim that if we get rid of the tax burden with social welfare programs and regulations, the “free market” will provide and take care of workers. Uh, excuse me but during the Gilded Age, those tax supported social programs didn’t exist and I’m pretty sure the free market didn’t take care of those low wage workers. Unions and the government policies they lobbied for while facing staunch opposition from these large companies. Besides, corporations lobby at all levels of government like crazy for direct and indirect public assistance like bailouts, subsidies, special tax breaks, deductions, tax and policy loopholes specifically designed for them, so-called “right to work” laws, and more. Say what you want about welfare, but I’d rather have my tax dollars go to assisting poor people than to a $3 billion a year corporate jet subsidy, a $200 billion Wall Street bailout, special tax breaks to hedge fund managers allowing them to pay a 15% tax rate, or a $70 billion a year home mortgage deduction with 77% going to people earning over $100,000. Sure corporations may like lower taxes and less regulations but even if they get what they want from their political lackeys, they will not give workers a raise unless they’re pressured to either by unions, government policy, or both. But wait, what about companies that pay workers better wages like Costco? Yes, there are big businesses that treat their workers generously like Costco but the Costcos in this world are the exception to the rule, especially in sectors that hire low wage workers. Therefore, federal government action to raise the minimum wage is necessary.

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By raising the federal minimum wage to at least $10.10 an hour, corporations will only have to spend just 1/3 cent of every dollar spent on wages, according the the Congressional Budget office. So I’m confident these large companies with minimum wage labor can totally afford it.

18. Raising the Minimum Wage Is the Right Thing to Do– Economics aside, we should consider the fact that as earnings from corporations and the top 1% increased to dramatic new high, wages have stagnated or lost value even as productivity also rose. This could never be more true for low income workers. Raising the minimum wage will protect the most powerless in our workforce. Now could anyone say whether it’s fair for businesses to boast big profits while paying their employees poverty wages? Of course not. Is it fair for someone to live in poverty despite working a full-time job? Hell no. And if raising the minimum wage hurts their profits, why should I care? I mean a big company like McDonald’s is unlikely to lose business if they pay their workers $15 an hour since they’ll usually make a big profit anyway. Besides, most small businesses pay their staff more than minimum wage anyway since they can’t afford replacing them while retaining a competitive edge against their larger counterparts. As for price increases, well, they usually rise whether wages increase or not. And studies show that the increases won’t be much. What about jobs? If raising the wage results in reduced hiring and hours and more job loss by big companies, it won’t be due to economics. It would be more or less because of greedy executives who’d use just about any excuse to cut their workforces. Small businesses, on the other hand, are more worried about poor sales than being trounced by their big business counterparts than anything. Even if raising the minimum wage does hurt the economy like its critics have predicted, what about the concept of economic justice? I think that should matter. After all, labor is critical to a business’s success and workers who dedicate their time and effort into that company should get a bigger cut in that. Look, from how I see it, there’s no good reason to not raise the minimum wage. And above all, no one working a full time job should live in poverty. Even though I know that raising the wage won’t cure poverty any time soon, at least it can show a good example by making businesses invest more in their workforce. It’s about time.

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As FDR said himself, nobody should work a full time job and still live in poverty. Workers have a right for a decent living wage which has been denied to many in the name of profit. So raising the minimum wage is the right thing to do. Besides, what’s wrong with economic justice for God’s sake?

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