Protesters demanding higher wages and unionization for fast-food workers march in New York City on September 4, 2014.
The debate over the minimum wage has moved from the halls of Congress into the streets. On September 4, groups of workers at fast-food businesses staged demonstrations in 150 cities demanding a $15 per hour wage. Organizers of the coordinated protests claim that some 500 workers were arrested while conducting civil disobedience at McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, and KFC franchises. The demonstrators also demanded to be allowed to join a union without retaliation from their bosses.
The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, and the actual minimum wage varies from state to state—to as high as $9.32 in Washington State. Most states match the minimum wage set by the federal government, though the trend is for increases at the state or city level. (If a state sets a wage above the federal minimum, workers are paid the higher amount.) The federal minimum wage has not been changed in more than five years.
Economists disagree on the impact of increasing the minimum wage. Obviously a raise would put more money into the pockets of those already employed. The disagreement centers primarily on the impact on jobs and hiring. Because the minimum wage serves as a “floor,” when it is raised, it tends to push wages in general up. Facing higher labor costs, an employer might cut staff or postpone hiring new workers. The Congressional Budget Office issued a forecast earlier this year that raising the minimum wage now would result in a loss of half a million jobs. Studies of the effects of minimum-wage increases have produced mixed results.
To the extent that individuals earning the minimum wage are poor, raising it can serve as an antipoverty measure—bringing workers closer to a “living wage.” But not all minimum-wage workers are struggling to make a living; many are teenagers who are not otherwise poor even if their jobs are low-paying.
Image credit: © Andrew Burton/Getty Images
- Arrests in Fast-Food Worker Strikes
Read about protests for a higher minimum wage among fast-food workers; includes a video.
(Source: CNN Money, September 4, 2014)
- Does Raising the Minimum Wage Kill Jobs?
This article explores both sides of the question: what is the impact of minimum-wage increases on jobs?
(Source: NPR, March 6, 2014)
- A Mall with Two Minimum Wages
This tale reports what happened in one California mall that bestrides two cities with different minimum wages.
(Source: NPR, August 28, 2014)
- List of Minimum Wage Rates for 2014
See this list for the differences in the minimum wage from state to state.
(Source: About.com; accessed September 3, 2014)
- History of Federal Minimum Wage Rates under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 1938–2009
This webpage of the Department of Labor provides the history of minimum-wage increases.
(Source: Department of Labor; accessed September 3, 2014)