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.

Publications

Increasing the Minimum Wage to $15/hour by 2025 Would Raise Wages for Over 2 Million Workers in Pennsylvania. Who Are They?

Wrapped into his 2019 budget proposal, Governor Wolf has proposed to raise the minimum wage in July 2019 to $12/hour, with yearly 50-cent increases until it reaches $15/hour in 2025. After 2025, the minimum wage would be adjusted for inflation. Also included in this plan is to eliminate the separate tipped minimum wage of $2.83/hour—tipped workers would earn $12 in July 2019 and would follow the same scheduled changes each year.

This increase is needed to make up for the declining value of the minimum wage over time. Figure 1 shows the minimum wage relative to the median wage for full-time, full-year workers in Pennsylvania over time. In 1968, the minimum wage was 51% of the median wage in Pennsylvania; the minimum was $1.60 compared to the median of $3.15. As you can see by the dark blue line, this value has decreased steadily over time. Today, the minimum wage is only 30% of the median wage in Pennsylvania. Doing nothing and maintaining a $7.25 minimum wage will result in this falling to 26.3% by 2025. Alternatively, Governor Wolf’s plan to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour by 2025 will bring the minimum back to about half of the median wage, where it was in the late 1960s.

The Effects of Boosting Hawaii’s Minimum Wage

Raising the minimum wage to $17 by 2024 would give 269,000 Hawai‘i workers a pay increase. This means that, in 2024, about four in 10 Hawai‘i workers would earn roughly $4,356 more each year than they do today. This raise would especially help working women and parents in low- to middle-income households, helping to keep them and their families out of poverty and homelessness.

By 2024, Hawai‘i’s minimum and near-minimum wage workers would receive a total of over $1.3 billion in additional wages. Not only would such a pay increase help to improve the living standards of affected Hawai‘i workers, it but would also strengthen local businesses, as low-wage workers plow almost every additional dollar of earnings back into the local economy.

Decades of research has shown that past minimum wage increases have achieved their intended effects: raising pay for low-wage workers with little to no negative impact on employment. Moreover, studies that have looked beyond the narrow question of employment impacts have found clear, meaningful benefits from higher minimum wages to low-wage workers, their families, and their broader communities and economies.

State of Working Philadelphia 2018

Each Labor Day the Keystone Research Center releases an annual checkup on the health of the Pennsylvania labor market, “The State of Working Pennsylvania.” (https://www.keystoneresearch.org/SWP2018). The 2018 edition focused on state-level data, mostly available through June 2018. This addendum to that report focuses on 2017 data released last month by the Census Bureau on incomes and poverty for Philadelphia. We complement the Census data with statistics on employment and unemployment from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to provide a comprehensive assessment of the performance of the Philadelphia economy since 2005. We start with the year 2005 as that is the first year in which data at the county level are available from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

Roadmap to a Stronger New Mexico

New Mexico’s unique cultural diversity, great natural beauty, and strong sense of community make it a resilient state, but there’s much more work to be done to achieve our full potential. Tax cuts for the wealthy and well-connected have bled New Mexico of the funding we need for critical investments in education, health care, and other services that help children succeed. After years of these race-to-the-bottom economic strategies, we’ve hit rock-bottom — we’re last in the nation for child well-being.

In our Roadmap to a Stronger New Mexico, we encourage elected officials to prioritize children in policymaking and budget decisions. We ask them to make the sometimes-tough decisions to put children and families first – because that’s the best way to strengthen New Mexico.

To move forward, we must:
• Invest in working families.
• Grow good jobs by investing in education.
• Invest in health.
• Promote equity and ensure that our communities have the tools they need to prosper.
• Restore an effective and efficient government that works for everyone.