Toeing the line of minimum wage

The increase in prices and COVID-19 relief raises the importance of a higher minimum wage



Raising the minimum wage has always been a contentious issue within the political sphere, especially in recent years. So while the federal government has been unable to reach a consensus since 2009, state governments have started taking the issue into their own hands.

In 2020, a total of 21 states still adhered to the federal minimum wage requirement of $7.25 per hour. However, the other 29 states and D.C. have set new state guidelines for minimum wages, with D.C. leading the wave with a $15 minimum wage.

A $15 federal minimum wage has been the platform many Democrats have advocated for since 2012, the number staying the same despite rising inflation and rates of productivity. This has to change.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the poverty line (for the continental U.S.) in 2021 for a household of 2 is set at $17,240 per year. In the states where there is no higher mandated minimum wage, a full time worker earning minimum wage makes approximately $15,080. Despite having a full time job, that household and its provider would be living under the federal poverty line. 

When the minimum wage was created under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, the purpose was to protect the well-being of American workers by establishing a minimum standard. So why does the current federal minimum wage not protect workers from residing below the poverty line? 

Now, many hold the belief that minimum wage jobs are just for high school and college students meant to bridge the gap before entering their adult careers. However, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, workers under the age of 25 only make up less than half of all minimum wage workers in the United States. 

It is no secret that currency inflates. It’s not an uncommon occurrence to hear older generations reminiscing about the days where you could buy candy with quarters or when gas only cost a dollar and some change. Now, you’re lucky if candy costs a dollar, and a gallon of gas can cost you between three or four dollars depending on the season. So I ask those who oppose the movement, why should the minimum wage not reflect the inflation rates that have occurred?

Between 1979 and 2009, the federal minimum wage was raised 10 times to combat rising inflation. So if that’s the case, why hasn’t the federal government been able to pass a minimum wage adjustment in 12 years? 

However, there finally seems to be progress on the topic of a $15 minimum wage. It was initially included as a clause within the last coronavirus relief bill that passed in the House of Representatives, but was soon taken out due to the lack of consensus between the 50 Democrat senators. 

I think that it’s important that when the minimum wage is raised, it is put into place gradually, because workers are still struggling due to the pandemic and the effects on the working class will likely linger far longer than the virus. 

The ironic thing for me is that progressives have been advocating for a $15 minimum wage for almost a decade. At the time, it was often dismissed as too far-fetched, but due to inflation and rising costs of living it is now a necessity in order to sustain the working class of America.