This weekend was the 12th anniversary of the establishment of the $7.25 an hour minimum wage. Unfortunately, in the ensuing 12 years that amount has not changed.
This is the longest period since the first minimum wage legislation that the amount has not been adjusted. As a result, the federal minimum wage is worth 24% less than it was in 2009 and 34% less than the minimum wage in 1968. The impact of this has been devastating for workers and their families.
A full-time employee earning the minimum wage would make around $15,000 per year before taxes. That is not a living wage. The National Low Income Housing Coalition reports minimum wage employees working 40 hours a week can no longer afford a two-bedroom rental anywhere in the country. They add that a full-time minimum wage earner can only afford a one-bedroom rental in 7% of all U.S. counties, and workers would need to earn almost $25 per hour to afford a two-bedroom rental in most areas. WFLA TV reports that A Florida minimum wage worker would have to work 93 hours a week to afford a one bedroom apartment in the Tampa area.
Although the minimum wage in Ohio is higher at $8.80, it would still require an employee to work over 80 hours per week to afford a 2 bedroom apartment in Columbus based on data from rentdata.org. To make matters worse, the Pandemic has resulted in reduced availability of rental properties and has increased rents.
Clearly there is a need for action to increase the minimum wage. That is obvious to everyone, except some politicians and business leaders. They tell us the minimum is enough. It might have been had the wage been indexed for inflation. The 1968 minimum wage of $1.60 per hour would now be over $10 today by accounting for inflation and over $21 per hour if it were adjusted for increases in productivity.
While some claim raising the minimum wage would harm the economy and lead to more unemployment, an increase to $15 per hour would raise over 100 million Americans out of poverty, providing them with more money to spend on basic needs. As we emerge from the pandemic we see employers claiming unemployment benefits are keeping workers from returning to work, but they also raising the minimum will hurt employment. You can’t have it both ways. Increasing the minimum will help the economy by attracting more workers giving employers more choice over whom they hire. It will also reduce employee turnover, further reducing the expense of recruiting and training new employees.
We are also told most workers earning the minimum are teenagers or part-time employees. This argument is also false. Oh his website, Dr. Robert Reich points our only 10% of minimum wage workers are teenagers, while more than half are adults between the ages of 25 and 54. They claim increasing the minimum wage would cause inflation and wipe out any gains even though past increases in the minimum did not produce significant inflation.
Raising the minimum wage would be good for workers, help the economy, and would create jobs. Instead of holding back workers and their families, it would offer new opportunities for them.
It’s been 12 years since the last increase. The time has come.
CALMC activities, including our blog, are made possible in part by the continuing support of our members, such as The Central Ohio Labor Council, AFL-CIO, The Electrical Industries Labor =Management Cooperation Committee, Sheet Metal Workers Local 24, Skinner Diesel Repair, and the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association/AFSCME Council 8 and the Union Education Trust.
Contact us for more information about Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee or to become a member,