23 July 2008

Minimum Wage Woes

On Thursday, 24 July 2008, the federal minimum wage will be increased to $6.55. Holly Sklar (a co-author with Susan Wefald of the Ms. Foundation of Raise the Floor) in her latest op-ed piece [Minimum Wage Raise Too Little, Too Late] shows how little this increase provides and calls for change. She notes that since 1973 the wage has gone down while productivity has risen, and that eight of the ten top-rated states for small business have had minimum wage levels above the federal rate.

The July 24 minimum wage raise is so little, so late that workers will still make less than they did in 1997, adjusting for the increased cost of living, and way less than in 1968.

She notes that since 1968, when its value in 2008 dollars hit its peak, the minimum has been worth less over time.

Sklar shares the effort of Let Justice Roll, a national faith, community, labor and business coalition, which is calling for a minimum wage of $10 in 2010. She notes:

Minimum wage raises are stimulus for an economy tanking from a housing bubble gone bust, sharply higher oil prices, extreme inequality, unsustainable debt, and fraud and speculation crowding out productive investment.

Higher wages benefit business by increasing consumer purchasing power, reducing costly employee turnover, raising productivity, and improving product quality and company reputation. They reinforce long-term success.

Read Sklar's full article and see the Ms. Foundation's Raise the Floor Project for more on how a higher minimum wage is necessary, but not sufficient for eliminating poverty. Policies are required to fill the gap between income and the cost of minimum needs, with particular focus on the earned income tax credit, health care, caregiving and housing policies.

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