By: Tyler Curry
The workers walked in an act of civil disobedience, on Thursday, organized for their right to higher pay. The movement lasted one day – and spanned 150 cities – to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that 63% of Americans supported the wage increase, though not quite so high. Officials warned that a raise to $15 per hour would be harmful to the economy and reduce the number of jobs available. Duly noting that more education and job training would lead to higher pay. Still, front line staffers rallied for the right to unionize, health benefits and improvements in overall quality of employment – along with higher wages to make ends meat.
Bare minimum, hourly wage was a hot topic of debate. Should fast food cashier be compensated at the same level as some entry-level college graduates? Is a higher minimum wage, which accurately reflects inflation rates, a human right? We used Visart to explore the historical federal minimum wage, compared by state and the world. Perhaps there is a happy medium to be achieved.
While the dark blue indicates a pretty gradual increase in pay since 1960, light blue illustrates how unstable real wage dollars can be. Media responses were wide ranging – either advocating for, warning against or criticizing low wage staff demands, but perhaps they knew there would be a tipping point in 2009. It is officially a valid argument.
It hasn’t been the same since 1968. The 2012 US dollar shows an unstable relationship with the cost of goods that dips every few years. Today an employee who makes $7.25 per hour, working 40 hours per week, could expect to earn roughly $14,000 per year – barely $2,000 higher than the poverty line.
Congress increased the federal minimum wage in 2009 that reached the $7.25 figure, but peaked comparatively in the late 1960s. At the time the minimum wage was $8.56 in 2012 dollars. Since 2009, inflation has risen and the dollar has depreciated.
Labor rallies have organized across the country for higher pay, especially in those with lower hourly rates. There were 13 states above the federal wage requirement in 2009. At the same time, there were 25 states below that requirement. While 24 states in the US set their wages higher than the federal standard, in Arkansas, Georgia and Wyoming have hourly rates at $5.15 per hour. In Alabama, South Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee, there is no minimum requirement.
So who are the workers? Minimum wage in the US is among the highest in the world, but the 16 to 24 year old bracket is the most affected among low-wage staff. That’s right, the large majority are high school and college aged. Perhaps this is where one would refer to Singapore’s progressive wage model in the cleaning sector – pay based on productivity.
President Obama green lit the demands, saying he would raise the hourly wage for federal contractors to $10.10 per hour. According to a survey collected by the Economic Policy Institute, raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would affect over 129 million workers with an average $2,046 increase added to the annual income.
Los Angeles and Seattle are among the early adopters of the new labor relations. Each city has compromised. Los Angeles promised a $13.25 wage increase, and Seattle with the gradual advance to $15 per hour beginning in 2015.
What do you think – Is $15 per hour too much for a low-skilled worker, or is $10.10 the real mockery? What affect do you think such pay increases would have on American jobs and economy? What will be the outcome of their civil disobedience?