Federal minimum wage long overdue for an increase
“Poverty, contrary to popular belief, is not a result of an individual’s moral failings. It is the result of systems and policies that inhibits a person’s ability to live life fully. 40% of adults in the US cannot afford a $400 emergency,” The National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis TN, Oct. 2022. (“Report of Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2017 Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve 2018.”)
The federal minimum wage, the absolute minimum to be paid no matter where you live in is $7.25 per hour, not raised since 2009. This is the longest period of time without an increase since implementation by the Roosevelt administration in 1938. After increases in cost-of-living, it’s a pay cut for low wage workers, currently living below the poverty line, unable to pay the bills in any state, no matter where one lives.
Sadly, the marginal federal minimum wage of $7.25 continues as status quo in more than 40% of states, mostly Republican dominated states, specifically Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Hampshire. North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
24 other states, 35 cities and counties have raised their own minimum wage, exceeding the basic federal minimum wage to $10 or more per hour to provide a better standard of living. (* indicates states to raise the current minimum wage again in 2023) They are: Alaska $10.34, Arizona $12.80, Arkansas $11.00, California $14.00*, Colorado $12.56, Connecticut $13.00*, Delaware $10.50*, Florida $10.00*, Hawaii $10.10, Illinois $12.00*, Maine $12.75, Maryland $12.50, Massachusetts $14.25*, Minnesota $10.33, Missouri $11.15*, Nevada $10.50*, New Jersey $13.00*, New Mexico $11.50*, New York $13.20, Oregon $13.50, Rhode Island $12.25*, Vermont $12.55, Virginia $11.00*, Washington $14.49, District of Columbia $15.20. The highest minimum wage in effect is in West Hollywood, Ca. for hotel workers only, $17.64.
Essential workers comprise about half of all workers in low-paid occupations. During the pandemic essential workers risked their health on the frontline and kept the country functioning as thousands lost their lives. No one working 40 hours per week should live below the poverty line, especially essential workers.
President Joe Biden continues to push for a federal minimum wage of $15 per hour. He signed an executive order to move the minimum wage for federal workers to $15 per hour. Legislation to lift the federal minimum rate to $15 an hour, thwarted by Republicans, failed. Representatives who fight to keep the federal minimum wage below a living-wage promote poverty.