Minimum Wage

The federal minimum wage was established in 1938, as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), to ensure that all work would be fairly rewarded and that regular employment would provide a decent quality of life. Congress makes periodic amendments to the FLSA to increase the federal minimum wage; however, since the 1960s, Congress has adjusted the federal minimum wage infrequently, enacting raises that have never been adequate to undo the erosion in the minimum wage’s value caused by inflation. This decline in purchasing power means low-wage workers have to work longer hours just to achieve the standard of living that was considered the bare minimum almost half a century ago. The decline in the value of the minimum wage has contributed to wage stagnation, and is directly responsible for widening inequality between low- and middle-wage workers.

In light of Congressional inaction, many states, cities, and counties have enacted their own higher minimum wages, with EARN groups providing the key research and analysis evaluating proposed minimum wage increases. In doing so, they are taking steps to help workers afford their basic needs, bring them closer to the middle class, and ensure that even the lowest-paid workers in their jurisdictions will benefit from broader improvements in wages and productivity.


Fact Checking the Empire Center/American Action Forum Analysis of New York’s Proposed $15 Minimum Wage: Flawed Methods Produce Erroneous Results

The Empire Center and American Action Forum (EC/AAF) have released a report, “Higher Pay, Fewer Jobs,” predicting that Governor Cuomo’s proposal to phase New York’s minimum wage up to $15 by 2021 statewide (and by 2018 in New York City) would result in the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs across the state. But while the impact of a proposed minimum wage increase on New York’s workers, businesses and economy is an important question, the EC/AAF report sheds little light on the answer.

A Fair Wage for Human Services Workers: Ensuring a government funded $15 per hour minimum wage for human services workers throughout New York State

The Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, Fiscal Policy Institute, and Human Services Council applaud Governor Cuomo’s proposed minimum wage increase. Full time work at a minimum wage should meet families’ basic needs, not leave them in or on the brink of poverty. The Governor’s proposal will enhance the opportunity of upward mobility for individuals and families across the state, while strengthening the State’s economy and decreasing the need for public assistance. This wage increase will be especially impactful for human services workers, given that over half are currently paid
under $15 per hour; 30 percent under $10.50.

More than 200,000 human services workers are the driving force behind services like afterschool programs, child welfare, early education, services for older adults, public assistance programs, and many others vital programs. Even with full-time hours, their current wages do not meet the basic needs of individuals and families in most areas of the State; low-wage human services workers are often eligible for the same benefits as the clients they serve.

Raising the New Mexico Minimum Wage

Raising the minimum wage is an important and effective strategy for reducing poverty particularly given the erosion of the purchasing power of the state wage since it was last raised in 2009. In New Mexico, approximately 112,000 workers are earning the current state minimum wage of $7.50. In January, New Mexico lawmakers should act to raise the minimum wage to $10 per hour by 2018. While this increase should not be considered a living wage, thousands of families would benefit.

There will probably be a proposal to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10 an hour in the 2016 legislative session. That would be the first minimum wage increase for the whole state since the present minimum wage of $7.50 took effect in January of 2009. This report assumes an increase in two steps, to $8.50 an hour in 2017 and to $10 an hour in 2018. In 2018, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), there will be about 771,000 workers statewide making an hourly wage in New Mexico. The EPI estimates that 112,000 workers would be directly helped by raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour. An additional 79,000 workers would be indirectly affected – their wages would rise due to spillover effects from raising the wage to $10. The total number of workers affected would be 191,000 or almost 25 percent of hourly workers. This report describes the characteristics of these low-wage workers and looks at the EPI’s estimates of the wage impacts of raising the state’s minimum wage.

The Case for a County Minimum Wage

Inaction by Congress and state legislatures has led many cities and counties to adopt a local
minimum wage. We show that a $15 county minimum wage, phased in by 2020, would raise the
incomes of at least 19,300 workers in Johnson County and 24,300 in Linn County; the majority
would be full-time workers over age 20, and many would have families. This in turn would
increase spending in local retail and service establishments, boosting the local economy