Tag Archives: minimum wage

2020 State Minimum Wages

Raising Minimum Wages, Good So Far

New Orleans       While much of the country is stuck at the level of the federal minimum wage, there are enough states and cities that have nudged the numbers up that economists and others are starting to be able to tell with certainty whether the competing claims are correct.  Opponents argue that raising wages above plantation level reduces the number of jobs.  Proponents, and I’m in that number, have claimed that the benefits of increasing wages, lowering inequality, and putting more money into local economies, wildly offsets any small job loss, if in fact, any jobs at all are lost.

Arindrajit Dube, an economist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, did a study of state minimum wage increases in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Massachusetts, and New York.  These states had bumped up the numbers in recent years to at least $10.50 per hour through 2018.  The impact would have been directly felt by 20% of the workforce, not counting the multiplier impact of increases for other workers in order to prevent compression of wages causing non-minimum wage workers to feel crimped and resentful of the increases.  Professor Dube found that the job losses were minimal, although not painless.  He found that some businesses raised prices, others improved production methodology, and some actually absorbed the increases by reducing their profit margins.

All of this is good news for our case.  Additional studies in New York State, as well as reporting by the New York Times, seem to confirm that even in the border counties between New York, with an escalating minimum wage now, and Pennsylvania still stuck at $7.25, there were minimal adverse impacts for workers on job losses.  Obviously, it helps that the economy has been good and unemployment low, making this an ideal time, economically, to push wages up from the bottom.

In the days of ACORN’s living wage campaigns, we have gone back and forth over the years with Professor David Neumark, an economist at the University of California at Irvine, who has long studied minimum wage impacts on workers.  He cautions that the results in these relatively higher wage states might not translate in the South “where low-wage workers aren’t evenly distributed across industries and ‘you have fewer and fewer avenues of adjustment.’”  Since there’s absolutely no immediate danger of Southern states getting the raise wages religion for workers, it will be awhile before we have to struggle with this problem.  Meanwhile we are forced to live through the galloping gap between lower wage and higher wage states that is occurring with no action on the federal minimum wage, meant to cope with this problem.

Now, if only the reason that wages weren’t rising was based on the facts, rather than stone cold ideology, we would be in good shape.


Raise the Wage Act

Washington    Landing in President Trump’s “swamp” in Washington early in the morning, I turned on my phone for email.  There was an ACTION ALERT!  I knew it was important, because it was all in capital letters, the universal signal for emergency.  Scanning quickly, it was not an emergency for me at all, but a panic email from the National Restaurant Association.  They wanted everyone to bombard their Congressional representatives with messages, and to do it PDQ, pretty darned quick. Why?  The Raise the Wage Act is coming up for a vote in July.

The Raise the Wage Act is the bill that would finally raise the federal minimum wages after a decade of being frozen in place.  The proposal would boost the wage from its current nadir of $7.25 per hour to $15 by the year 2024, a five-year period.  And, oh my goodness, this NRA, not the ones with guns, but the ones with spatulas, was horrified that one of their most oppressive accomplishments of the past, freezing the tip credit, was going to be totally abolished.

Wouldn’t that be wonderful!  Heck, it might even pass this time.  Pass the House of Representatives that is.  No chance in the Senate, but maybe, just maybe there’s the possibility with the election coming up, and Trump perhaps thinking he should deliver something to this left-behind base he likes to claim as a populist, that he might jump on the bandwagon for a bit of a raise.  Probably, not for eliminating the tip credit, which allows servers to be paid a tad over $2 per hour with tips making up the rest, but, you know, maybe something.

Why do I get these emails?  Another good question!  Fair Grinds Coffeehouse, our social enterprise in New Orleans supporting organizing, offering 100% fair trade products, and a community center of sorts in the neighborhood, has to be licensed to operate.  There’s no special coffeehouse license of course, so we have a restaurant license, which is fine by us, but that also means we have to have someone with a SafeServ license and of course the Restaurant Association, like most business unions, has created a monopoly there on the training and certification, so, voila, we get the constant barrages from the NRA, archenemy of living wages forever and ever.

Maybe they shouldn’t worry so much.  The National Employment Labor Project (NELP), one of the good soldiers in this fight in Washington issued a report on wage theft as I hit the ground as well.  We know the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor has been eviscerated with budget and staffing cuts, so there wouldn’t be a world of enforcement on minimum wages anyway, so it would be left to the states.  The vast majority of states do not have adequate laws to protect workers who report wage theft, according to the National Employment Law Project study. Only six states — Arizona, California, Florida, New York, Oregon and the District of Columbia — provide “essential retaliation protections” for wage theft, while six others don’t have laws on the books on the books at all.

Even if we win this battle in whole or in part, there’s a larger war that we all have to fight continuously.  Meanwhile, do I as I do, not as the NRA says, and call or write your Congressperson and ask them to vote for the Raise the Wage Act, and damn the torpedoes.


Please enjoy Rising Appalachia Featuring Ani DiFranco

and Matt Woods’ Jailbird Song.

Thanks to KABF.