Has the minimum wage reached its maximum?

Author: Ivo Knorr
January 29, 2021

The minimum wage in the United States was first introduced in 1938. For the first time, all workers were entitled to at least a certain amount of payment for their work. Since 1938, it has been raised 22 different times. Since July 24, 2009, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. It has not been raised in over 11 years. Is it time for another increase?

Some states and cities already have higher minimum wages, and most minimum wage workers already do earn more than the minimum of $7.25, making the effective minimum wage (The average a minimum wage worker earns) around $11.80 per hour. Still, there are many people and movements that are fighting for a higher official minimum.

One of these movements is called “Fight for 15”. They are fighting for a minimum wage, as their name suggests, of 15 dollars. This movement organizes many strikes and protests throughout the country in order to get their message across and make the United States aware that a wage of $7.25 is inhumane and can not be lived off of. They say minimum wage workers have stressful working conditions on top of the already low pay, and that they deserve more. An example of this is the fast food industry. This is a big industry with many minimum wage jobs. Yet, these are not necessarily the easiest jobs. These workers are under constant pressure because they are expected to deliver the food fast and efficiently. 

The movement has already seen successes in some areas. Several states, including Florida, California and New Jersey have already passed laws that raise minimum wage gradually over time to 15 dollars per hour or more. Big cities like New York or San Francisco already have raised their minimum wage to 15 dollars. The idea of a nationwide minimum of 15 dollars has become more and more popular. A big advocate of the minimum wage is 2016 and 2020 Presidential candidate and United States Senator Bernie Sanders. In both his campaigns, the raising of the minimum wage was one of his main campaign points.

Very recently, the democratic party has reintroduced the Raise the Wage act, that was initially introduced in 2019. The Raise the Wage act is a  bill that would increase the federal minimum wage to 15 dollars an hour by 2025. This bill also has the support of current president Joe Bidenit has the support of president Joe Biden. Although this bill is widely supported by almost all Democrats, most Republicans oppose this bill. 

The Republicans have several reasons for this. They say that when there will be a federal minimum wage of 15 dollars, this has negative consequences on other aspects of the economy. For example, a higher minimum wage also means less business income, which leads to higher prices of goods and services. They also believe that a lot of jobs would be lost because of this measure. They are not necessarily against the idea of workers earning more money, but they typically do not support a nationwide mandate. However, since the democrats now hold a slight majority in the Senate, there is a chance the Raise the Wage act might actually pass this time.

There has been a similar minimum wage movement in The Netherlands called “Voor 14” or “For 14” with similar goals to the American Fight For 15 movement. They say the working productivity has increased in the past years, while the purchasing power of the workers has decreased. They believe wealth has to be shared in a more fair way, and that everyone has the right to live instead of survive. While this is still a smaller movement, it has the potential to grow and make some real changes in the Dutch minimum wage in the coming years.

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