Wages

The vast majority of American households’ income comes from what workers receive in their paychecks – which is why wages are so important. Unfortunately, wages for most workers grew exceptionally slowly between 1979 and 2012, despite productivity—which essentially measures the economy’s potential for providing rising living standards for all—rising 64 percent. In other words, most Americans, even those with college degrees, have only been treading water—despite working more productively (and being better educated) than ever.

EARN groups provide key research and policy analysis describing how these trends have played out at the state and local levels, and what policymakers can do about it.

Publications

Florida Policymakers Need to Reassess How the Minimum Wage is Enforced

In November 2020, Floridians made the historic decision to move an estimated 2.5 million Floridians closer to a living wage with the passage of Amendment 2. The state minimum wage increase goes into effect in September 2021, increasing from $8.65 to $10 per hour, then rising by $1 per hour each year until it reaches $15 in 2026.

In anticipation of this increase, Florida Policy Institute (FPI) and Rutgers University’s Center for Innovation in Worker Organization (CIWO) assessed the extent to which the current state minimum wage is enforced. FPI and CIWO analyzed over 15 years of U.S. Census data and recent records obtained from the Florida Attorney General’s Office to do so.

Failing to pay workers the minimum wage is but one of many forms of wage theft. However, given the timeliness of Amendment 2, wage theft in this report refers solely to minimum wage violations among low-wage workers (those with incomes in the bottom 20 percent) unless otherwise indicated.

FPI and CIWO’s analysis finds:

  • The minimum wage has been largely unenforced for at least a decade.
  • After Florida’s 2005 minimum wage increase, its minimum wage violation rate more than doubled to 17 percent by the end of 2007.
  • Victims of wage theft lose 18 percent of the minimum wage to which they are entitled, on average, or $1.32 per hour.
  • Floridians in the state’s top industries (agriculture, service, and real estate) suffer the highest wage theft rates.
  • Black, Latina, and immigrant women are more likely to face wage theft than their peers.
  • If these violation rates persist, Florida could expect to lose an average of $25.3 million in sales tax revenue each year over the next six years.

Before Amendment 2 goes into effect, Florida policymakers should mitigate these unsettling trends by reintroducing a State Department of Labor equipped with the authority and resources necessary to ensure working Floridians are paid the wages they are entitled to.

Why A $15 Federal Minimum Wage Will Help Colorado Workers

Highlights

  • Even though Colorado voters have approved a minimum wage in excess of the Federal wage, the current $15 per hour plan to gradually increase the federal minimum wage would increase wages for more than 550,000 Coloradans by 2025
  • The proposed federal changes in the wage level restore the purchasing power of the minimum wage to levels not seen since the late 1960s.
  • Workers who earn low incomes tend to spend—rather than save—a high percent of their income. This increase in wages can increase local economic activity.

Minimum Wage Increase to $15 Means More Income for 1.6M in PA

Governor Wolf’s budget includes a plan to raise the current $7.25 per hour minimum wage to $12 in July 2021, followed by 50-cent increases yearly until July 2027, where it will be set at $15 per hour. This proposal also aims to eliminate the tipped minimum wage, allowing currently tipped workers to join the climb to $15 starting with $12 in July 2021. In this report, we outline the demographic characteristics of workers who will benefit from this plan to increase the minimum wage.

The State of Working Connecticut: Advancing Economic Justice in the Labor Market

Connecticut Voices for Children released their annual State of Working Connecticut report entitled, “Advancing Economic Justice in the Labor Market.”  This year’s report examines the economic standing of Connecticut’s workers and calls for a sweeping, antiracist program to advance economic justice; additionally, it offers six recommendations to combat rising wage inequality and to address the substantial racial wage gaps in the U.S. and Connecticut.