This summer marks the seven-year anniversary of the last time the federal minimum wage was raised, from $6.55 to $7.25 an hour, and the buying power of those dollars has fallen by 10 percent because of inflation, according to new analysis from the Economic Policy Institute.
David Cooper, the senior economic analyst at the Economic Policy Institute, and the study’s author, said until the 1960s, the wage was raised at roughly the same pace as increases in worker productivity.
“Had that trend continued since 1968 and we had continued to raise the minimum wage pretty regularly every year, we would have a minimum wage today of close to $19 an hour,” he said.
The Democratic Party recently added a $15-an-hour minimum wage to its platform, and Donald Trump has also come out in favor of an increase. According to the National Federation of Independent Business, raising the federal wage isn’t possible for all businesses, especially in the South and parts of the Midwest.
Groups opposing a ballot initiative in Colorado to pay workers $12 an hour by 2020 say the move could cost the state 90,000 jobs. Lizeth Chacon with the Colorado Families for a Fair Wage campaign said the same claim made about other cities such as Seattle that raised minimum wages have not been borne out.
“They’ve seen that workers are thriving and are more productive in their jobs,” she said. “But there’s no evidence that people have lost their jobs or there has been a loss of jobs by an increase to the minimum wage.”
Recently, the campaign submitted 200,000 signatures, double the number needed to qualify for the November ballot.
Cooper said raising the wage floor also helps middle-class workers get paid more, and has a positive impact on local economies.
“Low-wage workers tend to spend every single dollar that they receive, because they have to just in order to make ends meet,” he explained. “So if you raise the minimum wage, you’re transferring income to folks who are going to go out and spend it right away. That can mean more customers coming through the door for most businesses.”
Public News Service